The Kreelex Changer – Silver & Gold.
Two of the most popular streamers of the past couple years are Blane Chocklett’s Game Changer and Chuck Kraft’s Kreelex. The die-hard fans of both patterns swear that these are “must have” streamers for chasing trophies! Although I’m far from being a streamer connoisseur, like so many of the young-buck fly guys these days, I have been tying and fishing streamers for over 20 years, and I have to admit that the Game Changer and Kreelex definitely have become my 2 favorite freshwater streamers. So, in an effort to get a little more creative than usual. I decided to blend the 2 patterns into a fly I call the Kreelex Changer.
Chuck Kraft’s Kreelex, Blane Chocklett’s Game Changer, and my Kreelex Changer.
One thing Blane and Chuck have in common is their southern roots, and there’s a big difference between the south and the north when it comes to the different traditions of fly fishing and tying. To generalize – accurately of course, the north is steeped in a close-minded, elitist tradition of trout fishing while the south is associated with good ole boys chucking big baits for big bass.
Since the preferred species in the north is trout, and trout eat insects, most flies are tied with trout in mind using fur and feathers to imitate delicate bugs. Traditionally, the same materials have been used to tie streamers. The many famous but delicate feather-wing streamers of the northeast reflect this tradition. Essentially, fly fishing in New England was a sport for the distinguished upper class who used delicately crafted flies made from exotic, expensive feathers in order to pursue stately salmonoids – Atlantic salmon and trout. Bass and other warm water species were considered rough fish and did not deserve the attention of a gentlemanly fly angler. And, anything associated with catching rough fish was considered crude and unrefined. Basically, fly fishing in New England meant gentlemen in tweed, catching gentle fish with gentle flies while turning their noses up at any other method. Any flies or methods resembling spin fishing were ostracized, and still are by many “purists.”
Down south is a totally different story. I have no doubt that the snobbery surrounding fly fishing took a small foothold in the south, but the general attitude is much more open minded and practical. Not known for it’s cold water streams, the southern states have never offered much in terms of trout – at least not compared to the north. Trout require cold clean water, and except for the small sections of the Appalachian Mountains shared by portions of Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia there is not much natural trout habitat down south, so there’s not much of a trout tradition and not much of an attachment and adherence to using feathers, fur and traditional materials like there is up in New England.
The south does have a strong bass fishing tradition! With countless warm water lakes, rivers, and streams, sunfish and bass dominate. And, unlike the gentle trout up north that sip small insects, bruiser bass smash big bait. Countless dollars and hours have been spent researching and developing bass lures that will trigger strikes and win tournaments, so it didn’t take long for fly fishermen in the south to tie flies that mimic these effective bass lures. Smart southern boys like Blane Chocklett and Chuck Kraft weren’t about to sit there with delicate feather streamers originally designed for trout while their buddies slay smallmouths with big flashy spinners and soft plastics scientifically proven to catch fish.
So basically, instead of admonishing and rejecting bass tactics like the fly fishermen up north, the southern fly guys like Kraft and Chocklett have embraced their southern culture of bass fishing and the effectiveness of proven lures and have designed flies unencumbered by the trout tradition. These guys just want to catch more bigger fish, and they’re not afraid or too elitist to borrow from the spin fishing crowd and the many proven lures for catching aggressive fish.
Known by many as the fly version of a Mepps in-line spinner, Chuck Kraft’s Kreelex streamer has been catching fish for years. Like most of Kraft’s flies, the Kreelex is easy to tie. Instead of focusing on new, complicated tying procedures, Kraft’s genius is in the materials, the dimensions, and the simplicity of his flies. He developed the Kreelex from a flashy material called Kreinik, and designed a streamer that takes full advantage of the material’s properties. He found that tying the fly just like a Clouser Minnow was effective, but he wanted to get more out of this flashy stuff, so he designed a fly that borrows from and is similar to a Clouser minnow but with shorter wings and with a tail. And most importantly, the material must be cut to the right length and cut square, not tapered, in order to achieve the best movement and best light reflection possible.
I first started fishing and tying the Kreelex almost 25 years ago when I was living in the Blue Ridge Mountains northwest of Charlottesville, VA. This was my go-to streamer for trout. After wading upstream drifting dry flies and nymphs, I would work my way downstream back to the car by casting and stripping a Kreelex. This fly is super flashy and has a big presence in the water for such a little streamer. Instead of having to switch to a beefier rod in order to cast a big heavy streamer, I can cast the Kreelex with a 4 wt, and I get the effect of a bigger fly due to the flash and movement of the material.
Trends come and go, even in fly fishing, and Kraft’s Kreelex is trendy right now, at least in the mid-Atlantic. Streamers in general are trendy, and as anglers visit older streamer patterns, they inevitably stumble upon the Kreelex. After tying some Kreelex streamers and taking them to the river, anglers are discovering that the tales of the Kreelex are true – the fly draws strikes and is making a comeback for sure!
As effective and popular as Kraft’s Kreelex is, probably the trendiest fly of the last few years has been Blane Chocklett’s Game Changer. Blane has been using a variety of synthetic materials over the past couple decades to design flies that look oddly similar to certain lures and soft plastics and, more importantly, that catch fish! Perhaps his first fly that made huge waves was his Gummy Minnow. This streamer uses a shiny, stretchy, gummy foam material in order to create a minnow imitation that looks and feels like a soft plastic bait. Traditional fly anglers who prescribe to the northern tradition of fur & feathers hated this fly, and they hated the fact that it worked so well!
But, Blane is always designing and improving, and he refuses to limit himself to any materials or traditions that might get in his way of designing the perfect streamer and catching bigger fish. Obsessed with designing a streamer that matches the profile and movement of real baitfish, Blane was on a mission to create a fly that would suspend in the water column and flex, twitch, and dart like a real baitfish. Sounds a lot like a suspending Rapala or super fluke, doesn’t it? Although this fly tying maniac is always working on a different, better pattern, Blane Chocklett’s Game Changer is about as close as anyone will ever get to creating a fly that mimics the movement of a baitfish so perfectly.
I don’t know why it took me so long to think that it might be a good idea to tie a streamer that uses the action and flash of Chuck Krafts lethal Kreelex combined with the game changing qualities of Blane Chocklett’s Game Changer. But I did, and I call it the Kreelex Changer!