Pro Tips: Phil’s Top 5 Streamers for Fall on the East Coast

Eric Rickstad took this healthy Battenkill brown trout on a black Beldar Rubberlegs.
Photo by Phil Monahan

Here in Northern New England, bug activity starts to slow in autumn, so you don’t run into as many rising trout—especially on the Battenkill near my home. Couple that with the fact that big browns are on the move and fattening up for winter, and you’ll understand why so many anglers are chucking streamers this time of year. It’s a great way to cover a lot of water and to attract some of the biggest trout of the season.

Many of my colleagues are into casting seriously big streamers, articulated monstrosities that move a lot of water, but I prefer standard-size patterns—smaller than a size 2. Partly, it’s the bursitis in my casting shoulder, but I also feel like I have more control with smaller streamers, and it gives me an opportunity to fish a tandem rig. (Trust me, though: the guys with the big flies do catch big fish.) Here are my favorite patterns for the end of the season:

1. Hawkins Triple Double (Size 4)

The rabbit strips and rubber legs give this fly a lot of motion in the water, and the dumbbell eyes ensure that the fly gets down to where the fish are. Click here for Chuck Hawkins’s tying directions.

2. DDH Leech (Sizes 4-8)

This is my favorite fly to use as a trailer in a double-streamer rig, and I’ll also use two of these in tandem. According to the fly’s inventor, Stu Thompson, the pattern has caught more than 80 different species of fish. Click the fly name for a tying video.

3. Beldar Rubberlegs (Sizes 2-8)

My friend Eric Rickstad and I discovered this pattern at a Montana fly shop about fifteen years ago, and it has produced big browns every year since. Click here for tying instructions.

4. George Daniel’s Sculpin Snack (Size 8)

This little guy covers a lot of fish foods: bottom-hugging sculpins, a variety of minnows, crayfish, and even golden stonefly nymphs. Fish this on the swing, stripped, or even on the dead-drift. Fish will eat it one of these ways.

5. Hairwings (Sizes 6-12)

Maybe it’s because I grew up in New England, but I have a soft spot for traditional flies. I use hairwings, such as the Black Nose Dace (top) and Mickey Finn, in skinny water or any time I think the fish are pressured. These also make great trailer patterns in a tandem, rig.

5 thoughts on “Pro Tips: Phil’s Top 5 Streamers for Fall on the East Coast”

  1. I am one of the divas and I want to thank Orvis for making this wonderful weekend possible. The volunteers were amazing and as Christine said, we wanted for nothing. I was the high maitenance fisher woman with back brace and Walker and at first I was kind of embarrassed at all the effort that went into getting me from Point A to Point B and keeping me from falling but finally I believed it when they told me it was their pleasure to help me. The women I met were there were unforgettable.

  2. I take issue with your very first sentence…Here in the Northeast, there’s not much bug activity in October, so you rarely run into rising trout…
    When I had the good fortune to live in CT, October was a time of daily dependable hatches and rising fish, one of the best months of the year for it. Every afternoon, tiny blue wing olives for several hours. If I wanted a break from them, I could put on an Isonychia for some impressive rises. They continued to hatch, not terribly noticeably, well into the month. There were invariably the endless midges which would provide rising fish and micro caddis. If I justy wanted to pound something up, an EH Caddis or Stimulator would do the trick. Had you said Vermont, that might be a different story.

  3. Trout are definitely on the move …. be mindful of where you step at this time of year – browns typically spawn at the tail outs of pools or the heads of riffles so be aware of this when you are wading.

    Brookies look for springs coming up from the stream bed as well as riffles.

    I’ve seen very large browns set up below brookies that are spawning to take in loose eggs … I even once watched a big brown bump a pretty nice brookie hen then drop below her quickly in the expectation that eggs had been loosened.

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