Most of you seasoned vets out there are likely already familiar with this tried and tested west-coast classic. With many modern variations available today, the underlying principles remain the same. This article is intended for the beginner crowd to provide a brief overview of intruders, their origin and uses. If you already know what an intruder is, stick around. We'll go over some interesting history as well that you may not be familiar with!
An Intruder is a streamer tied on a plain straight hook-less shank. Trailing wire or mono-filament line is then tied onto the shank, and a trailing hook is added. The construction results in a streamer with the hook directly at the end of the streamer body. Tying the fly in this manner allows for a larger sized streamer while keeping a relatively small hook size. Keeping the hook close to the rear of the streamer is beneficial when swinging flies for Steelhead, as often, the fish will be chasing your fly from behind as it swings across the current. If you are fly fishing; or more specifically Spey casting for Salmon, Steelhead or any other anadromous fish, you'll definitely want to have an assortment of Intruders at your disposal.
The intruder originates out of Alaska, USA. It was created in the early 1990s by Skagit casting legend Ed Ward for targeting King Salmon and Steelhead. Ed is one of the true pioneers in Skagit style Spey casting, in fact, he is one of its founding fathers. Check out his series called 'Skagit Masters'. His goal was to create a large streamer with a robust profile underwater, that was still relatively easy to cast. He also wanted to use a relatively small sized hook to reduce damage to the Salmon and Steelhead's mouths. Typically with larger sized streamers, come big gnarly hooks that can do serious damage while catch and release fishing. Thanks to Ed's innovation this is no longer the case.
The first few designs were tied using natural colors, mainly Olive. The profile of the fly ended up resembling a small baitfish, such as a Sculpin. After further testing and development, the pattern progressed into being tied with bright, vibrant colors like pink, purple, orange and blue. The addition of stiff, Arctic Fox fur collars aided in keeping the large, rambunctious profile intact in the swift river currents. Soon, the profile moved away from being a pure bait-fish imitation, into more of an attractor like pattern with increased fluidity, more so resembling a squid. This adaptation came from the revelations that a large part of a Steelhead's diet is squid while in the ocean. As they move into the rivers, seeing these squid likes profiles will still trigger their feeding responses.
Today there are a seemingly endless amount of variations to the original intruder pattern, but the basic underlying construction typically remains the same. A straight hook-less shank, typically with heavy barbell eyes, with the entirety of the streamer built into the shank. A trailing wire 2-3 cm long holds the hook off the rear of the shank.
Benefits, Uses, and Tips
An Intruders main purpose is one thing; to grab the attention of nearby Salmon, Steelhead or other anadromous fish. This is easily achieved with their large presenting profile and bright vibrant colors. Being a large attractor-like pattern, intruders are extremely versatile and can imitate a variety of species such as squid, prawn and bait fish. A Steelhead will take an intruder for a variety of reasons, whether it be for a quick meal, or as a territorial defense measure. Fished in both coastal and inland rivers, intruders are one of our favorites for Steelhead fishing.
Thanks to their large profiles and vibrant colors, intruders are excellent flies for fishing in high and dirty waters. Many anglers shy away from these conditions. I can't count the times I have heard someone cancel a trip due to the river being high or brown. You've all heard it, "the rivers blown out, let's pack it in". Oh well, their loss. We have actually found that fishing in these conditions can yield some of the most aggressive strikes. It's our belief that when the waters are high and dark, the large fish feel more comfortable and move around more freely, feeding on larger baitfish presentations.
During the warmer months, we find it best to stick with natural, subdued colors, more true to the original palette created by Ed. Colors such as brown, tan, olive, black and white are some examples that work well. When it comes to size, smaller patterns such as micro intruders seem to work better this time of year. When colder weather rolls in, a wide range of vibrant colors seems to do the trick such and pink, purple and blue. We also find ourselves pulling out the larger flies during these times of the year. Below is an intruder we find works very well during the winter months when swinging for Steelhead:
When it comes to rigging up your intruder flies, stay away from knots such as the clinch or improved clinch. These knots work great for attaching nymphs and smaller flies, but when fishing streamers such as intruders, you'll want to use a knot that allows for more movement. Knots such as the loop knot or the non-slip loop work exceptionally well for attaching streamers and intruder flies to the leader. Knots are an entirely different discussion in themselves, but if you search for some loop style fishing knots on google you should yield some good results.
Intruders are designed to be fished under line tension. This adds to the excitement of being able to feel the fish take your streamer! Though you may find success in stripping intruders like other streamers, they are designed to be swung across the current. Swinging intruders across the flow is one of the most effective methods for catching big Steelhead. We'll save casting techniques for another discussion, but essentially what you are doing is casting your fly across the river into a section you believe to be holding fish. You then allow the current to 'swing' your fly across the river, pulling it from the opposite bank closer to the middle. Line management is key here as you'll want to keep the fly under tension, while still allowing the fly to sweep freely across the current. This technique often lures large Steelhead out of hiding undercuts and logs and sends them chasing after your fly. Being that they often attack the fly from the rear, this is why having a trailing hook is so beneficial.
Whether you are fishing coastal or inland rivers, summer or winter chrome, intruders are effective flies that will continually put fish on the bank for you. Thanks to the work of Ed Ward, we now have an abundant variety of intruder patterns available to us, all originating from his first designs. This is just a small overview discussing intruders themselves and some basic uses and principles. We hope to release some more posts soon discussing spey and skagit casting methods in depth.
Thanks for reading!
Sources and Links:
1. Rinaldi, Nils: How to tie the original Ed Ward Intruder. http://www.anadromousflyfishing.com/ed-ward-intruder/