When prospecting for large fish, my first choice of fly selection would often be large streamer patterns. This eliminates numbers of fish, but focuses on the dominant fish in that piece of water. Your first consideration when selecting streamer patterns is to know the forage fish for that piece of water. For example in Vermont our spring smelt migration becomes a dominant streamer fly selection for several Vermont rivers. Other deceiver patterns to consider would be river muddlers to imitate scuplin, zonkers and wooly buggers that imitate leeches or giant, ugly, colorful flies that represent attractor patterns to trigger a fish’s curiosity. Terminal tackle recommendations would be sink-tip leaders, tippet material as opposed to leader material, split shot, lead or non-toxic (depending on local regulations) and a 9-10 foot 5-7wt fly rod. When using sink tip leaders on a floating line system, my river choice is to use sink tip leaders at 3’ 5’ and 7’ lengths. Tippet material ranges from 8-12lb test to allow for hard, heavy hitting takes. Tippet material is usually attached to sink tip leader in 3-5 foot lengths. My knot choice for attaching the fly is a loop knot to allow the fly to have a more natural movement in various current situations in the river.
Fishing Tactics: When prospecting for large fish I use a method I like to refer to as shot gunning for covering the water. When using a shot gunning approach to covering water I always use my sink tip system and cast from the across stream to the across and down stream position, by starting close to my rod and adjusting both my angle and distance it will allow my fly to swing at variable depths and variable speeds. Working the fly across the river to the most comfortable casting distance will allow you to cover the water in a very systematic approach. Then, walking down stream approx 2/3 the distance from the furthest swing point down stream and begin the process over again. This allows the fly to cover the most potential holding water and be seen by the most fish; hopefully enticing the dominant fish from the hole to strike. In potentially heavy holding place I will repeat this process 2-3 times changing speed and depth each time. Early in the season, this is often one of the best approaches to catching fish. You want to work the water thoroughly yet you still want to cover lots of water in hopes of find that lunker. The brown above, was caught by John Conrad last year on the opening day of trout season here in Vermont using these tactis. I’d say John was successful in finding one of the dominant fish in the stream!