Written by: George Daniel, Livin On The Fly
Designing streamer patterns to perform a specific function is what makes fly tying and streamer fishing enjoyable. Some streamers will swim. Some patterns will jig. And some baitfish imitations will kick off to one side to mimic a dying or wounded baitfish. The right design and construction are only half the equation; the other half is your ability to manipulate the pattern to generate the intended action.
“Jackknifing” is a term for when a tractor trailer suddenly puts on the breaks, causing the cab to come to a quick stop and the trailer section to kick hard off to one side. The same concept applies to streamer patterns. While there are countless ways to “jackknife” a streamer, one possible approach is to use a hard/fast (almost violent) acceleration with the line or rod tip followed by a sudden stop. Think about the tractor trailer: the greatest kick occurs while the machine is travelling at max speed and comes to a sudden stop. The hard stop kicks the lighter back end off to the side. Streamers designed to “jackknife” possess the same physical properties–a heavier front section (often tapered) with a light back end.
Getting that beautiful kick off the side often requires a hard, fast, and violent acceleration to put the streamer in a quick motion. But I feel one key is to pull hard to a quick stop with the line hand. The sudden stop freezes the streamer’s front end in the water column (like slamming on the breaks) and forces the light back end to come around to the side. It’s the same basic principal when fly casting, where accelerating to a sudden stop unloads the rod. In this case, the front end of the fly is pulling the lighter backend.
The more aggressive speed-up-and-stop creates that awesome kick out action. A softer and less violent pull of the line hand creates a more linear path of the fly. Rip hard to kick hard!
George Daniel operates Livin On The Fly, a guide service in State College, Pennsylvania. He is also the author of Strip-Set: Fly-Fishing Techniques, Tactics, & Patterns for Streamers, as well as Dynamic Nymphing.