The Home Invader
January 30, 2016
Big fish eat streamers for mostly two reasons: hunger or territoriality, and many times both.
In the past, I've read about how territorial trout behaved toward smaller members of their own species, but never gave it too much thought until I saw it happen. On a spring creek full of well-educated fish, I watched a large rainbow stop sipping tiny drys, and turn on a dime to chase a 6-inch trout the distance of the pool. The speed and savagery of this display—the predator nearly beached itself in the process—was mind-blowing, and helped reshape my whole thought process for fooling big fish.
I developed the Home Invader about 15 years ago for fishing smallmouth on the Delaware River, and for brown trout on a southeastern Pennsylvania spring creek. In Pennsylvania, you can't use the words "streamer" and "smallmouth" without mentioning Bob Clouser and his Deep Minnow, which is perhaps the best and most versatile streamer for salt or fresh water ever invented.
During the Home Invader's incubation phase, I began experimenting with different materials, dumbbell eyes, and the inverted Clouser design. I later combined marabou and fox fur with a few other ingredients to form a realistic baitfish or small-trout imitation in size, shape, and action.
At first glance, a fluffy, full-bodied Home Invader hardly resembles a streamlined baitfish silhouette. Add water, however, and it forms a perfect baitfish shape, with a finely tapered rear half and a soft, chubby front.
The Home Invader comes alive in the water, and fish react accordingly. Marabou, fox tail, flash, and rooster hackles heighten this effect, and you can fish this fly with an aggressive strip, a dead-drift, and everything in between. As soon as the Home Invader hits the water, it's moving, even if you're not imparting any additional action on the fly.
While the Home Invader is a proven trout and smallmouth producer, it also works on other species willing to eat smaller fish, such as musky, pike, striped bass, and bluefish.
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Fox fur. I've tested numerous furs and hairs for the body of the Home Invader. Sheep fleece, rabbit,
Australian possum, and craft fur all work, but fox tail fur is my favorite. It's soft enough to move and breathe in the water, yet stiff enough to hold its shape when wet. Fox tail fur averages anywhere from 2 to 5 inches long, making it ideal for tying a variety of fly sizes.
Marabou. Marabou blood plumes are the main ingredients in the Home Invader, and I'm selective when choosing them. The best plumes have finely tapered tips, and maximum fluffiness close to the stem. The best blood plumes also have thin stems, allowing the marabou body to move and swim.
Neck hackle. Rooster neck hackle is the best material for the wings of this streamer. Look for wide, webby hackle with thick stems. Indian and Chinese necks are good places to start. These inexpensive rooster necks come in several natural colors, including badger and furnace. These capes also have black centers, which imitate the lateral line of many prey species.
Genetic streamer capes, such as Whiting Farms' American and coq de León rooster necks (good badger colors), and Metz's Magnum rooster capes, are superb for this pattern they'll tie the smallest to the biggest Home Invaders. Both Metz Magnum and Whiting American capes are also available in dyed grizzly. Grizzly hackle with its black barring gives a mottled look, which is apparent in many prey species, including the parr markings of juvenile trout.
5 Deadly Color Combos
Yellow/grizzly. When yellow is working, it really works! Fish this pattern in stained water. On Western rivers—early spring to the end of runoff—yellow receives maximum attention from big browns.
Brown/olive/grizzly. My secret weapon for spring creeks, this color scheme imitates small trout and sculpins. Are you sight-fishing to big, smart fish? Try this killer color combination.
Black/purple/grizzly. Another member of the dark family, nothing says "I'm sick, hurt, and an easy meal" quite like black and purple. A great choice for off-color,
Chartreuse/white. No selection of streamers would be complete without chartreuse and white; at times all predators find this color combination irresistible. Tied with a grizzly wing, this color scheme imitates a salmon smolt exceptionally well, and it's also a favorite in salt water.
Brown/black/Burnt orange. This color combination fishes best in clear, low water and in low light.
Doug McKnight lives in Livingston, Montana, where he manages the Yellowstone Angler. He is a contract tier for Umpqua Feather Merchants.