Of Browns and 'Bows

Leaders & Flies
Gorp.com
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The Brown Trout
A Discriminating European: The Brown Trout

Leaders used with dry flies for browns and rainbows are often quite long.

They might also be quite fine with a tippet section that looks and feels more like a spider web than a piece of monofilament. This is because rainbows and browns in particular can become extremely line shy.

This tendency gave birth to the phrase "I lined him," which refers to the trout being scared away by a line hitting the surface or a line simply being seen by a spooky trout.

Tom Rosenbauer, in his foundational book, The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide, describes building a standard trout leader to use for casting average-sized flies (sizes 12-16) on typical mid-season water.

Building a Leader
He starts with a bit more than a 36-inch butt, .021 in diameter, and ties a 16-inch piece of .019 to that. This is followed by a 12-inch piece of .017, to complete the butt section. The midsection of the leader consists of four 6-inch pieces of .015, .013, .011, and finally .009. The tippet is 20 inches of 4X (.007), which rates to just over 3 pounds tensile strength.

To tie all these mono sections together, use a surgeon's knot (my first recommendation) or a barrel knot.

Leaders really aren't difficult to build, and once you are truly addicted to catching paranoid trout you probably will want to always use your own leaders.

But for store-bought leaders, Jennifer and Lars Olsson, who guide on Montana rivers like the Yellowstone, Gallatin, and Madison, recommend a 9-foot, 3X-7X for dry flies, wets, and nymphs, unless it is a windless, bright sunny day and you have a flat surface, which calls for a 12-foot leader.

If you are using a weighted nymph, split shot, and a strike indicator, or are deep nymphing, they suggest a 2X-5X, 7 1/2-foot leader. (They prefer Climax leaders for their 25 percent stiff butt and 25 percent soft tip with a middle section that continues the turnover well.) When using full-sinks or sink-tips, the guides say to use a leader between 3 and 5 feet long.

Flying Right
Flies for rainbows and browns are perhaps the most diverse of all types of fly-fishing. Dries, wets, nymphs, terrestrials, and streamers are all effective if properly presented under the right conditions. So what do you do?

Head for your local fly shop and buy half a dozen of every fly in every size? No.

You learn about the water you will be on and the conditions you will be fishing under before you arrive at streamside (or lakeside), and have what you need when you get there by either buying or tying at home or buying at the local fly shop.

I'm going to go out on a limb here—not a good place to be because wise guy fly-fishers, who actually do know everything there is to know about fly-fishing and take great pleasure in pointing it out at inopportune moments, like to saw the branch off—and list a very general selection of flies for browns and rainbows.

Bear in mind, however, that a certain fly (or size of a certain fly) on one water may be useless at any given time on another. These flies vary in size, too.

Dries: Adams, Green Drake, Brown Drake, Light and Dark Hendricksons, Royal Wulff, assorted spinners (spinners are sexually mature mayflies), assorted Comparaduns, Light Cahill, Blue Quill, Royal Coachman, March Brown, Blue Dun, Humpy (red, white, green, and yellow), Quill Gordon, Mosquito, and assorted Tricos.

Wets: March Brown, Quill Gordon, Adams, Hornberg, Light Cahill, Parmacheene Belle, and Royal Coachman.

Nymphs (weighted and not): Brassie, Gold-ribbed Hare's Ear, Prince, Zug Bug, Scud (assorted colors), Montana Stone, Bead Head Caddis, Golden Stone, Disco Midge, Hendrickson, Pheasant Tail, and Telico.

Terrestrials: Whitlock's Hopper, Dave's Hopper, Joe's Hopper, assorted ant patterns, assorted beetle patterns, and Dave's Inchworm.

Streamers: All the Ghosts (Black, Gray, Green, and Red), Kennebago Smelt, assorted Muddlers (a new take on that design appears approximately every two seconds), Woolly Buggers (black and olive), Black-nose Dace, Mickey Finn, and the Nine-Three.

Finally, in streams and rivers where salmon spawn, egg patterns are a must.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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