All trout streams and lakes have bottom-dwelling baitfish. The authors designed this pattern to match European bullheads, but you can use it to tie imitations of many of the baitfish living in your local waters.

[By Nadica and Igor Stancev]

Fly tiers are always looking for new materials. In many instances, we use existing ingredients in new ways. Over the past couple of decades, there has been an enormous increase in the use of synthetic fiber materials. These materials are produced in dozens of colors using a wide variety of fibers. Today, these ingredients play a big role in tying streamer imitations.

We make imitations of many species of baitfish. Bullheads, which live in most of our local waters, are especially important. Bullheads (Cottus gobio) are small fish that live in cold, fast rivers and along the shorelines of cold, stone-bottomed lakes. They feed mainly on the insect nymphs and larvae living on the bottom. The females lay pink or yellowish egg clusters on the bottom sides of bigger stones and rocks. It was once believed that bullheads harmed other fish, but recent research shows that they do not negatively impact other species.

Bullheads can reach seven inches in length, but the most common size is about four inches. We adjust the size of our gobio imitation to match the size of the real baitfish living in the waters we are visiting. With appropriate weight, it can sink down to the bottom, which is important for fishing the faster parts of a river.

Although we live Macedonia and are thinking of European bullheads, we know similar baitfish probably live in your local waters. We are confident that our Bullhead pattern will catch trout wherever you fish; use our fly as a foundation for tying appropriate imitations.

A Combination of Materials

Using a combination of synthetic and natural ingredients gives us great opportunities for creating new patterns. For our Bullhead, we use pheasant feathers for the tail and pectoral fins, and synthetic fibers form the body and head. Using two or more shades of fibers creates the stripes in the body. Silicone eyes, glued on the sides of the head, are a small but important detail. But using realistic colors and good proportions are only part of the success of this fly.

Bullheads remain on the bottom of the lake or river most of the time; they leave their shelters among the stones only to feed, usually in low-light conditions at dawn and dusk. Imitate this swimming movement by stripping and releasing your line. When the fly reaches a higher level, allow it to sink back toward the bottom; this same action in deeper water lures in the biggest predators, and not only trout. Fishing this streamer is especially successful in the spring when there are fewer insects, and when the water is discolored and the level is higher.

Casting heavy streamers is not as pleasant as using dry flies, but the strikes can be powerful. Using big streamer hooks is risky, so de-bard the points, and you might wish to wear some form of safety glasses. And if you think you might catch large fish, be sure to carry a landing net so you can quickly land and release your quarry unharmed.

Nadica and Igor Stancev are two of Europe’s leading pattern designers. Although they live in Macedonia, we are pleased to count them among our regular contributors. To see more photos of their flies or to contact them, go to their website,