Beautiful Rainbow Trout Caught on a Mickey Finn Bucktail Streamer

Complete Guide to Fly Fishing with the Bucktail Streamers (Setup, Fish, and Tie)

No matter what the season, water condition, or time of day, Bucktail streamers will always have a place in most fly fishers’ fly boxes.

These beautiful-looking patterns give as much joy in tying them as they do in fishing them, and the best bonus of all is that they catch fish!

A beautiful mountain stream rainbow trout caught on a bucktail streamer
A beautiful mountain stream rainbow trout caught on a bucktail streamer

I’m not sure what I enjoy more, to be honest. Tying them or fishing them. I suppose I go through my preferred stages. The subtle soft movement of the hair in the water is a massive trigger for fish. I mean, this is, after all, our biggest challenge as fly anglers and tiers, to get that fly moving as naturally as possible. I feel the bucktail does this, amongst other things as well. But more on this later.

There have been some massive names in the fly-fishing world over the years that have put this material to good use and really changed the way we use and fish with bucktails. Sure, there are more modern materials, life SF fiber, and Sculpting fiber, but nothing pushes water quite like bucktail. It is for this reason that they make such great streamer baitfish patterns.

Whether you are a classic salmon bucktail fashionist or a Clouser type of angler, they all deserve their place in the box and will catch fish.

Why the Bucktail Streamers is Great

In my mind, one of the main reasons for the effectiveness of the bucktail streamer is it can be fished throughout the year. Its natural profile and the way it swims in the water imitates an injured baitfish, and no trout, or any other fish species for that matter, will pass up an opportunity like that.

The pattern itself is uncomplicated, but there are a few key elements to the fly and its effectiveness. Namely, the bucktail needs to be tied on top of the hook shank and tapered backward, giving the profile that natural look. The hook also needs to be centered below the bucktail allowing the pattern to keel properly and not swim skew or lopsided.

Bucktail Steamers are fast to tie and easy to change colors
Bucktail Steamers are fast to tie and easy to change colors

A Little History of the Bucktail Streamers

When it comes to fly patterns and their history, not many patterns have such a rich past as the bucktail streamer does.

These patterns were first tied up in the early 1800s and have been catching fish ever since. Sure, there are more modern patterns and patterns that look a lot more natural, etc. etc, but if you research these patterns, then you will learn that they probably stemmed from an old bucktail streamer somewhere along the line.

It is said that one William Scripture was one of the first fishers to introduce the bucktail streamer to the fly-fishing scene way back then. There are a few disputes as to who first designed and tied the pattern, but these types of arguments will never get solved.

Let’s focus on what we know, and that is the bucktail streamer catches fish!

What Fish Does a Bucktail Streamers Catch?

The bucktail streamer was originally tied for trout. Back in those days, only the elite would target trout, and all other species were considered inferior or a waste of time to target. How has this all changed over the decades?

The bucktail streamer can catch just about any species of fish now. You just need the right color and size, and you are good to go.

Everything from Bass to barbel or yellowfish to char, this pattern will get fish to eat.

Brook Trout Colors
Learn to use streamers, dries and nymphs to catch brook trout with this article 👉 How to Fly Fish for Brook Trout

How to Setup a Bucktail Streamer

Given that the bucktail streamer is a bait fish imitation and a searching pattern, you generally fish it as such. Casting towards structure and undergrowth, stripping it past anywhere you think a lurking predator may be.

Long accurate casts are needed, so a medium to fast action rod will be required. 9-10 feet will suffice in a 5-8wt range and will have everything covered. The weight of the rod will depend on the species you are targeting.

Reels and lines again depend on what and where you are fishing. The reel is standard, match it to the weight rod, and you are good to go. With the fly line, you can fish a floating, intermediate, or sinking. It all depends on where you are fishing. The Bucktail streamer will fish well at any depth.

My thoughts are, the fish has to see the fly or at least pick up on some of the vibrations. So, if the water temperature is cold, get down deep, and if warm, fish above, within reason, of course.

For leaders and tippets, I will use a 9–10-foot leader and tippet size that I’m comfortable fishing with for the targeted species. Lake trout 4X, Bass and other larger species 3X possibly.

GUIDE PRO TIP– I like to use the Rapala Knot for my bucktail streamers and any baitfish patterns. The extra movement is a great trigger.

What Do the Bucktail Streamers Represent

Baitfish are the focus when it comes to bucktail streamers and what they imitate.

The bucktail is either tied on top or around the shank to give that baitfish profile. In the later years, a few hackle feathers were added to the flanks of the pattern to give more movement, but this pattern has subsequently been called the ‘streamer’ now.  As I mentioned earlier, they are all hybrids of the original Bucktail Streamer.

Bucktail Streamers Favorite Size and Color

There are wide varieties of this pattern that you have to just stick to what works for you on your local waters.

Bushwacker Fly Pattern
Bushwacker Fly Pattern
Space Invaders Fly Pattern
Space Invaders Fly Pattern
Clouser Minnow Fly Pattern
Clouser Minnow Fly Pattern

Below are my top three patterns for trout on my local rivers and still waters.

  1. Bushwacker– this is one of my favorite patterns that I started off using for Bass in the spring spawn and have started using in smaller sizes for trout. This is a great pattern to fish near structures with short, fast strips with a rest on the drop. The fly flutters down between strips and imitates an injured bait fish. Large sizes for bass 1/0 and smaller sizes #2 -#4 for trout.
  2. Space Invaders– This is a great example of what I mentioned earlier, with the Bucktail Streamer having the additional hackle feather added for extra movement. These are great flies to fish over the shallows and close to a bank or inlet. Stripped quickly, enticing any lurking trout to eat.
  3. Clouser Minnow– I wanted to add this pattern. It was originally designed as a saltwater pattern by Bob Clouser and has accounted for many different fish species. This is a deadly pattern for freshwater species as well and, as such, shouldn’t be left out of any streamer box. Fished in smaller sizes, of course.

Where to Buy Bucktail Streamers

Where you buy your flies from is completely up to you. I like to tie my own, and if you do as well, then whip up a few for your next trip.

If you need to buy flies online, then checkout Umpqua, they have a great selection, and all their flies are tied on competition-grade hooks. Alternatively, go support your local fly shop if you have one in the area. Chat with them about the bucktail streamer and let them guide you through the choices.

How to Tie Bucktail Streamers


  • Hook- 2-1/0 barbless, Mouche 8444, Arhex PR320
  • Thread- Texteme, 80- 100 denier, or any other flat thread.
  • Body- Crystal Chenille, fish underbody colors
  • Bucktail- darker color bucktail, longer hair strands if possible.
  • Eyes- optional

Download the FREE PDF with Materials and High Definition Picture 👉 Bucktail Streamer Materials


  • Secure hook in the vice.
  • Lay down a solid thread foundation.
  • Tie in the chenille from the back near the bend and wrap forward, leaving 3mm space to tie in the bucktail.
  • Tie in the bucktail on top of the shank. TIP- apply two loose wraps on the bucktail and pinch the hair and hold it on top of the shank and tighten the thread. Add two more wraps in front of the hair stubs to prevent them from spinning.
  • Lock down the hair and whip the finish off.
  • If you choose to add eyes, at this point, you build a sizable thread head to glue the eye too.

One Last Cast with the Bucktail Streamers

Old-school or not. The bucktail streamer catches fish and has been doing so for the past few decades. Yes, the originals may be used less and less, but they are still relevant in the modern world of fly fishing.

If you don’t have a few in your fly box, get some! Who knows, they could be the game changer on a slow day.

Tight Lines!

Looking to Learn the Tips and Techniques for the Fish You Love to Chase? I’ve Got You Hooked Up Below

Kyle Knight writer Guide Recommended

Kyle Knight

Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.

Sources and References

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