This fly is a streamer that was developed by Steve Leavitt of Newburgh, ME. Steve and his brother Jim Leavitt fish EagleLake on the Allagash Waterway every year. The Patriot streamer has become a trolling favorite in their small circle of fishing friends over the years and I have permission to unveil it so you can have it ready in time for ice out. I spoke with Steve about the fly and he told me it was an adaptation of another streamer. That’s a key point; you can change a fly any time you want. There are purists who discourage that, you should ignore them. I like traditional flies and I respect the original patterns, but I’ve been known to change a fly from time to time.
When I asked Steve why his pattern was so long, he told me that it matched the length of the baitfish. Smart man-if you are trying to imitate a three-inch smelt then you should tie a three-inch streamer. Steve and I also agreed that most short strikes come from small fish. Large fish either take it all the way or take it from the front. Now I will caution you that short strike discussions can be contentious. For my part I can tell you that I spent an evening on the Penobscot River watching Smallmouth bass attack a Gartside Soft Hackled Deceiver I was drifting beside my boat. The tail on that fly extends well past the hook bend. Every large bass hit the fly from the front or inhaled the whole thing from behind. The only short strikes I saw were from small bass. If you’re concerned about short strikes you can attach a trailing stinger hook or tie the fly as a tandem.
I like this fly for a number of other reasons. It’s easy to tie; bucktail is a staple on any bench and it’s cheap to boot. This fly is tied sparse. Pay attention to that; fishermen like bushy streamers but fish like sparse ones. Troll this fly right after ice out, just below the surface.
Recipe for the Patriot Streamer
Thread – Black
Hook –size 4-8 streamer hook
Body – Red flash
Belly – White bucktail, long and sparse
Wing – dark blue bucktail topped by olive green bucktail, both long and sparse
Eyes – optional
For a hook I use either a traditional Mustad 8X streamer or an economy hook that I’ve started buying at around half the price. They are both imports and the cheaper hooks are a small sacrifice in quality but I’m comfortable with that and I like the extra money going back in my pocket. For the body you can use red Mylar, red holographic tinsel, red wire or red floss. Red and shiny is the idea; it imitates a bleeding baitfish. Cut your bucktail from the tip of the tail and not the base. The hair at the tip is less likely to flare when you tie it in. Even tip hair will flare and not lay down properly if you don’t trim it right. Since you’re going to be trying to get the longest hair you can, you are going to be tempted to use the entire hair.
Here’s what you should do: first select about a dozen hairs from the tip of the tail. Cut them off close to their base. You can stack the hairs if you want but I don’t do that on this fly. Before you tie them in, trim back the base of the hairs by at least a quarter inch, more if you can. It’s the base of the tip hairs that is hollow and will cause the hairs to flare wildly and ruin the trim silhouette you’re trying to present. The belly and the blue wing can be about the same length, the olive topping should be a bit shorter. Eyes are optional but I like them because I think they work. White with a black pupil is all you need. If you want to substitute colors, try yellow or orange for the belly. Remember to keep it sparse, you don’t want a lot of bulk on this fly.
That’s it. This is a simple and inexpensive bucktail streamer that is developing a quiet reputation among some fishermen who fish ice out waters for trophy trout. It is also so easy to tie you could teach a child to tie it. Now there’s an idea.