Is there really anything better than watching a big brown trout roll off a bank to plow a 6-inch streamer? Or maybe you’d rather see a 40-inch northern pike T-bone a 12-inch fly over a weed bed. It doesn’t really matter. These are the things true streamer junkies live for, and for them, sore shoulders are just part of the game. If you’re one of those anglers that prefers stripping bugs over sipping bugs, here’s the latest and greatest gear that will help you bring your meat fly program up a level.
St. Croix’s catalog is chock full of rods tailored to specific tactics and targets, so it was no surprise they eventually got around to a trout-specific line of fly rods. What is surprising is the price range. Featuring 11 models, the modest cost of this series does not reflect a lack of R&D. Each rod features Kigan Master Hand 3D stripping guides with aluminum oxide frames, as well as a machined aluminum reel seat. Like all St. Croix fly rods, the 7-weight we tested cast like a dream, delivering sink-tip lines and meaty flies with excellent accuracy during some fall trout missions in Northeast Pennsylvania, both on foot and in drift boats.
Designed by legendary fly tier and hair spinner Pat Cohen, the Manbearpig is made to make a ruckus, whether you’re trying to catch the attention of mammoth brown trout or monster pike. The spun head pushes a ton of water, while built-in rattles in this articulated pattern ramp the sound. Strip it hard and pause; the Manbearpig hovers and jackknifes like the most expense suspending jerkbait on the market. Just don’t ever look away or you could miss that massive boom.
Perhaps you were already a fan of Mike Schmidt’s original Viking Midge. I know I was. The Schlappen feather and marabou combination breathed beautifully, and has called some heavy browns off the bank for me over the years. Thing is, if you streamer fish long enough, you know there are days when bigger is not always better. That’s why Orvis is now offering the Mini Viking Midge, which is a downsized carbon copy of Schmidt’s original killer. Brighter color options also make the Mini more at home in your smallmouth or inshore saltwater box.
If you’re looking for a reel that can beat anything from trout to tuna without spending upwards of $500, the Grande is for you. To create it, Redington meshed some of the best attributes of their already popular Behemoth reels with some fresh technology and a construction upgrade to machined aluminum. An oversized palming rim gives you better control of hard-running fish, the spool design increases backing capacity, and the sealed Super-Torque drag slows down even the speediest players. Grandes are available from 5-weight to a massive 14-plus, which we’ve already used to stop some Louisiana blackfins dead in their tracks.
Are you a serious “hunter” of big fish on fly? Are you into a vintage look with modern performance? While this reel certainly doesn’t fit everyone’s budget, it’s definitely a head-turner and arguably the last fly reel you’d ever have to buy. This collaboration between Abel and outfitter Ball and Buck has both on-the-water and collectible appeal, because the construction, smoothness, and drag capabilities have given Abel a reputation for being one of the finest reels on the market, and each one of these special edition reels is hand painted to order. We tested a 5/6-weight this summer and dropped the hammer on some big browns. Just make sure you don’t drop this reel in the brush, because you may never find it again.
From muskie patterns to trout leeches, this line is specially designed to turn them over like butter. The special front-loaded distribution creates the “punch” to send the meatiest meat flies flying straight and true, while Rio’s Multi-Density Control system helps you quickly get your streamer to whichever level of the water column you want and keep it there. That’s thanks to the incorporation of 4 different segments of line within the spool, which are available in combinations like Float/Hover/Intermediate/Sink3 and Float/Intermediate/Sink3/Sink5. No matter what you’re targeting, there is a line under the Big Nasty umbrella that’s perfect for the task at hand. This stuff is next-level sinking line.
Whether you’re into swinging tube flies or chucking jointed Sex Dungeons, the Pack Max is your fly box. It’s capable of holding 40 articulated streamers or tube flies securely without those trailing hooks flopping all over the place, or worse, ending up in your hand when you’re switching bugs. The keys are the rows of hooks that loop through the eye of your flies, securing them to the interior perimeter of the box while the slotted foam keeps the hook points in place. Bottom line: Once your tubes or articulated streamers are locked into the Pack Max, they’re not coming out unless you take them out.
Need a little extra traction? Rock Treads are a smart solution and have major advantages over straight felt and traditional studs. These aluminum disks easily screw into the bottom of your boots, allowing you to create any pattern you’d like, or use as few or as many disks as you need. Specific kits are available for felt soles, rubber soles, and even new-age boots with interchangeable soles. The disks provide more surface area than tiny studs or star cleats, and as aluminum is softer than rock, they grip and don’t let go. Best of all, you can hop in and out of rafts or drift boats without worrying about scratching up the flooring or popping your vessel in the middle of a float.