Dennis Collier Fly Illustration - Copyright Dennis Collier 2015Articles

DC's "T.B.T.F" (Too Big To Fail) Streamer Pattern

Click here for the DC's "T.B.T.F" (Too Big To Fail) Streamer Pattern recipe and tying sequences.
By Dennis P. Collier

I was recently perusing another fly fishing related web site and couldn't help but notice the numerous "grip and grin" photos of mongo brown trout with huge flies hanging from their dripping jaws. My kind of fishing as well - since I happen to be addicted to arm-jarring strikes by bruiser fish that can't resist a mouthful of meat and potatoes fly, savagely attacked on the swing.

I have been working for many years developing and fishing big streamer patterns (see my DC's Deuces Wild in the fly pattern archives for another recent entry), most of which were originally designed to entice those bragging sized trout which reside in many Colorado and Wyoming reservoirs, where I've spent the majority of my angling time for the past four decades.

Pounding the banks while driftboat fishing big rivers with big streamers for really big fish, is another of my angling vices. Seven-X tippets and size twenty-four flies just aren't my fly fishing bag - no offense to those who find this side of fly flinging entertaining - but I'm getting old and hard of seeing so I tend to shy away from pursuits where I have to spend as much time trying to get the tippet tied to the fly as I do fishing!

Lately I've been incorporating a lot more of those lithe natural materials into my streamers, which literally come alive in the water when given a little action-inducing strip tease. Arctic fox and Finnish Raccoon underfur are some of the softest and most undulating natural materials ever invented for fly tying, and this fly uses both to the max. Adding marabou and rabbit fur to the mix further enhances the desired pulsating action that makes this pattern alluring to big fish.

As an aside: I would encourage you check out the Owner SSW Cutting Point hooks and the wonderful, high quality arctic fox tails (and a lot of other neat materials as well) found on the web site of Waters West Fly Fishing Outfitters in Port Angeles, Washington - These folks offer top quality materials and impressive service as an integral part of their operation, and I never recommend a supplier unless I've first been duly impressed - not something easy to do with this old dog. The Owner SSW Cutting Point hooks are arguably the sharpest hooks I've ever seen; not cheap, but certainly worth the price.

Okay, so now I had this latest pattern design pretty well nailed down but an appropriate moniker remained elusive. Then, while watching the news one evening, I was becoming increasingly agitated while hearing the ad nauseam drone about some big financial institutions and the like, deemed by someone as being "too big to fail." Sad but true, but if I were to pull the same illegal shenanigans these crooks do, they'd be pumping sunshine into my cell for a long time to come. - but that's another story. However, it suddenly occurred to me that this fly fit the category of also being "too big to fail" and hence the T.B.T.F was born.

The tying recipe and sample fly represented here is tied in olive hues since I intend to use the model on some of those double-digit cuttbows that prowl the moss beds in our secret Wyoming lake (see accompanying photos). These fish, for reasons known only to them, seem to have a preference for olive colored leech patterns. Whatever wiggles their fins, works for me. I also tie this same pattern in a variety of color combinations such as: black, white, gray over white, blonde, rust-brown, and purple - in the event I'm ever blessed to chase chromer's on some remote BC river - and in bright yellow/black; red/black; white/red combos, etc, for northern pike.

I tie this pattern "in the round" without eyes or other accessories that necessitate a certain orientation in the water to make it believable - a trick I learned long ago from the late Charles Brooks. I offer the ubiquitous Wollybugger as further testimony to the validity of this concept. I believe it's the action of the fly that attracts the fish, and since it can effectively represent leeches, small baitfish, salamanders, and a host of other things that various species of predatory fish might wish to eat, the profile is generic in nature. The T.B.T.F is also a natural for those who like tube flies, and I consider myself to be among that group. I don't overload it with a lot of flash either, but feel free to add the bling if that's what works for you and your intended prey.

To digress a moment: I once had the opportunity to view a video of the smallmouth bass that resides in the Umpqua Feather Merchants huge fish tank, when it was fed a live salamander. The fish slowly swam up to the creature, which was roughly half the size of the fish, eyeballed it for a moment, then sucked that sucker into its maw so fast it was unbelievable. That big salamander was literally there one second and gone the next! They have to insure that fish is well fed before they test new fly patterns in the fish tank, for obvious reasons!

When fishing this fly in stillwater environs, I do not add any additional weight to the fly. Instead I use full sinking fly lines with intermediate to fast-sinking sink rates, and allow the line to carry the fly to the desired depth. The small amount of lead wire behind the eye of the front hook encourages the fly to dance with every twitch when attached to the leader with an open-loop knot. Notice I didn't say "tippet" in that last sentence, given the fact that we usually tie these beasts to no less than 1X, and more often than not, to 0X fluorocarbon leader material. In most river venues, I normally fish with weighted flies and floating fly lines. On many other patterns I add a tungsten cone or bead to the head of the fly to get it down in a hurry. However, I'm of the opinion that the T.B.T.F. will perform better if you use some tungsten or brass beads attached to the tippet and secured above the knot of the loop - see step #10 in the tying instructions - and let the fly swim around in a more natural fashion.

When attaching the trailing hook to the leading hook, test measure the length of the loop first to insure that you can remove the hook from the loop, and subsequently reattach a fresh hook - the sharper the hook the easier it is to blunt the point by snagging it on the stream bottom - or one with a varying color scheme. The trailing hook, with tail, can also be removed and the fly fished in a smaller profile if you so desire. This modular approach makes the fly much more versatile than one which has all the materials built onto a single hook. This same concept is what also makes tube flies so wonderfully practical.

Some visitors to my web site will probably gag when they see this latest installment, but for those who live the streamer fisherman's creed, it just might put a smile on their faces, and a bigger than big trout in the next grip and grin photo. Bring it on!

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