The Creative Streamers of Gunnar Brammer

Learn what it takes to design new patterns, from one of our craft’s hottest young tiers.

[by Ryan Sparks]

IN THE LAST 30 YEARS, there have been major innovations in the streamer fly tying world. New materials and techniques have transformed the way many tiers think about streamers. From Blane Chocklett’s use of articulated shanks and body tubing in his Game Changer and T-Bone flies, to Tommy Lynch’s imitation of a crankbait he calls the Drunk and Disorderly, modern streamers are pushing the limits of what we once thought was possible with flies.

Situated in the northern fly fishing mecca of Duluth, Minnesota, another talented tier is emerging as a major influence on streamer design. At age 26, Gunnar Brammer is relatively new to the craft, but he has already established himself as a formidable tier. Now designing and tying streamers full-time, he calls his business Brammer’s Custom Flies.

Skinny Dipper

Rear hook: Ahrex Trout Predator TP610, size 2.
Tail: Bucktail with two strands of Hedron Micro Lateral Line Flash.
Body: EP Foxy Brush.
Articulated joint: Nylon-coated stainless steel wire and a 3-D bead.
Front hook: Ahrex Trout Predator TP610, size 1.
Body: EP Foxy Brush and EP Sparkle Brush.
Wing: Arctic fox tail hair.
Collar: Deer hair.
Throat: FrankenFly Monster Dub.
Head: Stacked deer hair.
Eyes: 4-millimeter adhesive eyes.

Brammer designs streamers for catching established species like trout, bass, pike, and muskie, but he also creates patterns for enticing catfish and walleyes. No matter the species, his patterns have one purpose—to elicit predatory reactions from fish.

He meticulously focuses on detail, and uses his unique conceptualization of fly design to create streamers with distinctive actions and profiles. Every material he uses has a purpose, and the results are patterns that simply catch fish. Brammer willingly shares his knowledge with anyone who will listen; just watch one of his YouTube videos, which can stretch on for 40 minutes or longer. Brammer doesn’t babble about nothing; he talks about every feature of the fly, explaining what it accomplishes and the theory behind the design. I recently spoke with him about his approach to tying, streamer design, and his thoughts about the future of streamers.

Unlikely Beginnings

Strangely enough, Brammer’s love for fly fishing began while targeting walleyes with conventional tackle in Canada. Hearing tales of savage pike attacks, he was determined to catch a pike, but struggled with the walleye lures he and his father were using.

“One night we were sitting around the table playing euchre, and I overheard a guy say he used to catch pike on deer-hair frog flies. I got it in my head that if I wanted to catch a pike, I needed to learn how to fly fish. It’s an absurd way to get into the sport, but it’s the reason I’m so tuned in to streamers. I’ve been after predators since the very beginning.”

Mic Drop

Rear hook: Ahrex Light Stinger NS122, size 4.
Tail: Ripple Ice Fiber and marabou.
Wing: Marbou.
Shank: Flymen Fishing Company Fish-Spine and a Marc Petitjean Magic Head.
Shank: Flymen Fishing Company Articulated Shank.
Rear body: Ice Dub, UV Polar Chenille, and saddle hackle or schlappen.
Connection: Nylon-coated stainless steel wire and a 3-D bead.
Front hook: Ahrex Trout Predator TP610, size 1/0.
Weight: Tungsten cone head.
Body: Ripple Ice Fiber and an EP Foxy Brush.
Wing: Arctic fox tail hair.
Pectoral fins: Hen grizzly saddle hackles.
Head: Laser Dub.
Eyes: Hedron Flashabou Mirage Dome Eyes.

As you can probably guess, Brammer caught his pike. Not long after that, he got a tying kit for Christmas. The first fly he tied was a Zoo Cougar. Since then, he has immersed himself in all things streamer. When I asked how he advanced so quickly, he credited his time working for Kelly Galloup at Montana’s famous Slide Inn fly shop on the Madison River.

“It was life changing,” explained Brammer. “I think most people are weekend warriors, and even if you have a flexible job, you get out maybe once a week at best. Living on the river and working at a fly shop, I fished seven days a week for four months straight. When you count that much time on the water, it’s like six or seven years of fishing for most people, and you figure things out quickly.”

 

Cat Nip

Hook: Ahrex Predator Trailing Hook PR 383, size 1.
Shank: Flymen Fishing Company, 25 millimeters long.
Wire: Senyo’s Intruder Trailer Hook Wire or 30- pound-test nylon-coated stainless steel wire.
Wiggle tail: Palo Pacchiarini, holographic black, tied on a 10-millimeter-long Flymen Fishing Company Fish-Spine.
Body: EP Foxy Brush and EP Sparkle Brush.
Rubber legs: Senyo’s Fusion Foil Legs.
Head: Ice Dub in a dubbing loop.
Eyes: Painted lead eyes.

Brammer’s time under Galloup’s tutelage shows. His nononsense approach to streamers is scientific and methodical. “I absorbed a lot of information from Kelly. At first, I would just regurgitate his ideas, but then I would put it into practice. A few days later, I would have my own perspective on Kelly’s knowledge. It was a cool way to learn. You learn something, you put it into action, you have your own results, and then you share it. It was a complete immersion into fly fishing.”

Guides at the Slide Inn started purchasing Brammer’s flies when Galloup’s Pearl Necklace was in such high demand, they couldn’t keep it in stock.

“It was so cool to get paid to tie flies, but it was totally unethical because the Pearl Necklace is Kelly’s intellectual property. At the time, I was too young to comprehend that.” Eventually, Brammer finished his stint at the Slide Inn and he moved to Michigan, working as a wildlife technician for a summer before moving to Duluth and starting his business.

“I didn’t want to take a path that kept me in academia my entire life. It was my dream to tie for a living, and I went for it.”

That was two years ago, and Brammer now works 60 hours a week, keeping up with orders, maintaining his website, teaching streamer fly tying classes across the country, and creating educational content for his YouTube channel. His Tie Like a Pro series is some of the best instructional streamer tying I’ve seen. Even if you’ve been tying for decades, there is plenty to learn. Brammer’s instruction goes beyond the technical mechanics of tying; it’s also a course in streamer concepts and design.

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