In my last post, I featured a classic trout pattern called the Hornberg Special that I have adapted for warm water fishing. One of the most effective ways to fish the Hornberg Special is to use it subsurface as a wet fly or streamer. While you can do this with a standard Hornberg Special once it becomes waterlogged false casts can dry it off and your streamer pattern ends up floating again. Some years back I started tying a modified version that I fished solely as a streamer pattern. In this form, the fly is weighted and tied a larger, longer hook, and the dry fly hackle is replaced with soft webby hen hackle.
The streamer version of the Hornberg Special is deadly on bass and crappie especially in a size six or larger. It is also an excellent fly for trout and is one of my go-to streamer patterns for landlocked salmon on Maine’s Grand Lake Stream. Although it looks very similar to the traditional Hornberg Special, the Hornberg Streamer performs differently. The fly is weighted and uses materials that absorb water so it sinks quickly unlike the traditional Hornberg Special which can be fished as a dry fly.
To weight this fly, I use flat lead tape to provide weight without bulk since the body of the fly is usually shrouded by the mallard flank feathers you can probably get away with round lead wire as well. In place of the traditional silver or gold mylar tinsel body, I substitute a silver or gold flat braid, which does a better job covering up the lead underbody and leaves a smooth appearance. I take the extra step of coating the braid material with a tack-free resin like Solarez Bone Dry. This procedure will eliminate the possibility of the braid getting nicked by the tooth of a fish and unraveling. A definite possibility anytime your fishing in water with pike or pickerel since they seem to have an affinity for this fly.
Large, select mallard feathers are big enough to tie quite a large streamer. I stick with the yellow calf tail for the wing, when tying up to a size four fly, if I go larger I use yellow marabou. I have even experimented with yellow bucktail and have had good results. For the collar, I use a brown grizzly hen hackle. This soft, webby feather provides fantastic action in the water and resists floating once wet. Another subtle variation that works very well is substituting the mallard flank feathers for those of wood duck. It gives the pattern an overall golden hue, which the fish seem to prefer at times.
Since putting up a post about the Hornberg Special I have had a lot of conversations with folks about the use of the jungle cock eyes on these patterns. Many felt it was a waste of an expensive material. To be honest I can't argue that fact, especially since I don't know how much they add to the fly in the warm water environment. I like the way they look and have an adequate supply of grade two and three grade necks so I will continue you to use them. I promise to reserve the number one grade neck for more sophisticated tying. However, I may have found a compromise. I was setting up a tying kit for my nine-year-old son who has taken a strong interest in fly tying lately. While rooting through some totes of old fly tying material I came across a bag of plastic jungle cock eyes. I tied a couple flies with them and they look good, I doubt the fish will feel slighted by the substitution. Whether your fishing for trout, salmon, bass or panfish the Hornberg Streamer a versatile pattern which is sure to become a staple in both your warm and cold water fly boxes!
Hook: 4x-6x long streamer hook
Thread: Brown or black 6/0 Uni thread
Underbody: Flat lead wire or .020 round lead wire
Body: Gold or silver flat braid or tinsel
Wing: Yellow calf tail or marabou
Flank: Mallard or wood duck flank feathers
Eyes: Jungle cock
Collar: Brown/grizzly (or color of choice) hen feather