Freshwater Deceivers

By Will Taylor & Robb Nicewonger

Petti's Morning Glory Deceiver

Freshwater Deceivers
Robb Nicewonger & Will Taylor

A recent article in Fly Tyer magazine* about deceivers sparked quite a debate on the streamer list about the use of this popular and effective saltwater fly in fresh water. The debate found the authors "defending" the fresh water deceiver and prompted us to write a small feature on some of our own deceiver patterns.

The deceiver was first tied by Lefty Kreh in the 50's for striped bass in the Chesapeke Bay. The fly was extremely successful and soon spread to all saltwater environments and even into the freshwater world. The original fly has been changed and modified numerous times; however, there are two telltale signs that you're looking at a deceiver. First is the wing placement--the saddle hackle wing is positioned near the bend of the hook. Second is the hair collar which surrounds the wing and prevents it from fouling. As with most saltwater patterns, flash is usually added somewhere in the pattern. Whether you scale down saltwater versions of this fly, adapt other traditional streamer patterns, or create new patterns, you should experiment with this fly in fresh water--its a good one.

*(Fly Tyer, vol. 5, no. 1, Spring '99)

"Traditional New England" Deceivers - Will Taylor

One can legitimately question the need for any "new" fly for landlocked salmon or trout fishing. In the smelt-filled rivers & lakes of Maine, a handful of traditional New England streamer patterns provide perfectly credible forage fish immitations in the waters and water conditions encountered. Pattens in blue dunn, blue, pink, yellow, white or purple, with some peacock herl & golden pheasant crest for flash, will keep one in business all season; I would feel very well-equipped with a casting-streamer selection of Gray Ghosts, Ripogenus Smelts, Pink Ladys, Barnes Specials, Black Ghosts and Magog Smelts. So why introduce Deceivers to the streamer wallet?

Why not?

Rainbow smelts are very long, slender fish, very active swimmers, with incredible multichromatic flash. If one were to start ground-up to design an immitation, you could hardly do better than to begin with Lefty's Deceiver for a body-plan. This is a pattern that has proven itself many times over as an imitation or general slender-minnow attractor for a wide varity of saltwater gamefish. With deserved respect for the color combinations that have proven themselves over time on landlocked salmon, I've designed the following Deceivers, each named for the classical streamer pattern that inspired it.

Deceivers have several unique features to recommend them to fishing and to the tying bench:

  • They tie up a lot quicker & easier than a traditional feather-wing streamer
  • They're a good way to use up some of those saddle hackles not suitable for traditional streamers
  • They very optimally marry the properties of feather-wing and hair-wing streamers
  • They allow the use of modern flash materials that would look gaudy and out of place when merely added to traditional patterns
  • They're very tough, and stand up well to abuse in casting & catching fish
  • They have a very narrow, fishy profile, particularly well-suited as a smelt immitation
  • Varying the dressing density and hook weight can produce flies that fish near the surface or sink quickly for deeper pools
  • They cast like a dream & the wings never foul around the hook

Deceivers will never displace the classical New England streamers in my streamer wallet; I enjoy tying and fishing those traditional patterns far too much for that to be a temptation. But they are earning a place alongside their long-hooked siblings.

magog deceiver
Will's "Traditional New England" Deceivers

"Untraditional Deceiver Patterns" - Robb Nicewonger

For the creative tyer (or one who can't follow a pattern) the nicest thing about the deceiver is the flexibility of the pattern. One can take advantage of this and tie not only imitation of smelts, but also other forage fish, leeches, small snakes, and attractor patterns as well. Materials for the tail can be the traditional saddle hackle, marabou, hen body feathers, rabbit strips, rubber legs, etc. The collar can consist of any type of natural or synthetic hair. While the heads can be nice and small or built up very large with prismatic stick-on eyes. Virtually any hook type can be used--regular shank length hooks for small, fat flies or long shank for thin, slender ones. I've included a few patterns that I developed primarily when I was living in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Although I've only been in New England for about a year, I'm sure these will translate well. Some of you more traditional streamer flingers will probably cringe at some of these patterns, but give 'em a chance. Tie a few up and I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Robb's "Untraditional Deceiver" Patterns

To The "Traditional New England" Deceivers Index
To The "Untraditional" Deceivers Index
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