Ah...the streamer fly, without a doubt my favorite type of fishing - I love everything about them. A quick peruse through my website and the predominance of the flies shown on it will quickly tell you where my allegiances lie.
Their form and appearance, ability to take fish (and usually very nice ones at that) at most any time, and to me the most exhilarating part - the solid strikes and vicious killing hits that stop my streamer dead in its tracks and jolt my stripping hand and rod. Sometimes the takes are soft, but not usually. You pretty much know when the fish has approved of your presentation, there's generally not a lot of gray involved.
I'm not going to get into a long dissertation about fishing techniques with this post as quite frankly there's too many styles and variables and I really don't think any one way is supremely better than any other. I'll pretty much try everything in the book until I find something that works. Usually I start with a slow, jerky, erratic retrieve and work from there. Sometimes it's slow and steady that wins the race, sometimes it's warp speed.
I do find that when fishing rivers and moving water, landlocked salmon tend to favor a dead drift and the swing at the end of the drift. Especially when I have a marabou streamer on the end of the line or when I'm fishing below a dam which possibly replicates a stunned smelt that just went through the turbine/sluice.
So what are my thoughts about what gets tied on the end of the line for Maine waters?
My arsenal is broken down into categories and I have definite preferences I try to keep stocked up on. I break my selections down into the following categories and always make sure I have some representation from each:
Baitfish and Attractors
Which are then broken down into subcategories of:
Feather wings, Marabous, and Bucktails/Hair wings.
The baitfish streamers I carry are pretty much patterns with drab natural colors like brown, olive/green, black, or gray with an emphasis on a lateral line displayed in the fly, either by a dark middle layer in a bucktail or using badger/furnace hackle for a feather wing pattern. Copper is a good flash color here. Patterns like the Allagash Al, Black Nosed Dace, Grand Laker, Queen Bee, Kennebago Smelt, Trout Rock #1, Golden and Silver Darters, and Ghost Shiner are solid choices.
Attractors I break down into three main color schemes - white, yellow, and orange.
Finally, whatever has recently caught my fancy or I think looks promising, cool, or fun to fish fills out the rest of my boxes. I am a BIG believer in showing fish something they haven't seen 1000 of before.
Whenever someone is asking me what they should start out with for a basic streamer selection in Maine I'll tell them to stock the following:
Black Nosed Dace Bucktail
Black Ghost (Marabou preferred) or other White winged streamer like a Ballou Special or Red & White
Some form of Gray smelt pattern like a Gray Ghost, Earl's Grey Smelt, Pink Floyd, Mitchell Creek Marabou, etc.
Woolly Bugger - Olive and Black (It absolutely galls me to include these as streamers but I guess they do in fact fit the bill and do definitely work, I like an Olive body with a Black tail & hackle best)
Plus one Yellow and one Orange colored streamer, take your pick.
To me the color/shade is more important than anything else as the silhouette of a typical streamer is fairly similar, find something you like the look of and then fish it with confidence, you'll do fine. You might consider a Mickey Finn, Shufelt Special, Pink Lady, Col. Bates, Barnes Special, Montreal Whore, Woods Special, Edson Light Tiger, whatever you like (throw me down for a Woods Special and Col. Bates in this stripped down selection with the Montreal Whore and Shufelt Special close seconds). You just want a couple of bright attractor options to get a reaction sometimes from sluggish or aggressive territorial fish. Although they're not discussed I almost always have other options in Pink and Blue shades as well.
Without question I would fish marabou for a wing style if I had to put food on the table, it is that big of a key trigger element in my humble opinion. Hence the undeniable effectiveness of the Woolly Bugger. Fish just cannot resist that sinuous and life-like movement when it's laid out in front of them.
I also find brook trout seem to like hair wing streamers like bucktail or squirrel tail a bit more than other fish species. I'm quick to go to that style when targeting brook trout only ponds or streams. Streamers like the Black Nosed Dace, Trout Rock #1, Edson Light Tiger, Red & White, Mansfield, or Llama.
For smelt patterns, I gravitate towards streamers consisting of gray marabou wings with pearl or silver bodies and purple/lavender highlights. There are lots of great ones out there to choose from like the Mitchell Creek Marabou, Marabou Gray Ghost, Pink Floyd, Magog Smelt, Governor Aiken, or Earl's Gray Smelt.
And finally I will add that I generally always fish my streamers on a sinking line unless I'm in skinny water. Even the type II sink rates I think make a difference getting the fly into the strike zone.
So if you don't fish streamers I only have four words to say to you:
GO. FISH. THEM. NOW! (They're a Hell of a lot of fun!)