The Fly

I asked a friend, Mike O’Brien, to write something describing the Golden Retriever for this site. Mike is a guide, outdoor writer and the former co-publisher/editor of The Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide. He has been tying flies commercially for more than 50 years. Mike is a salmon fishing buddy and about the best fly fisherman I know.

Mike O’brien with a nice Brown taken last November


Since the advent of Russ Blessing’s Woolly Bugger (circa late 1960s), fly fishermen have witnessed many mutations. Heck, I’ve manufactured a few modifications myself. But the Golden Retriever is not just another Woolly Bugger! 

Your choice of materials and tying process is what makes the Golden Retriever unique and an outstanding performer. Imitator or attractor? It’s both! The marabou tail in combination with being front-weighted keeps the fly in motion, which is added to by angler manipulation or current. The extra weight allows the fly to be fished deep and provides great vertical movement. The Estaz adds translucency and flash. And the color might suggest a crayfish, sculpin, large nymph, baitfish, or worm. 

I have introduced the Golden Retriever to thousands of anglers through magazine articles and newspaper columns. The feedback has ‘all’ been positive. As a streamer-fishing junkie I have found the Golden Retriever to work under a variety of weather and water conditions. It became my ‘go-to’ streamer when guiding for trout and saved the day on many occasions. One of its strongest attributes is- You can’t fish it wrong! The fly has no deficiencies: it can be fished on the swing; by stripping; or a natural, dead-drift. All are productive ploys. I also have found success using it as a trailer fly in a two-fly streamer rig.

But the Golden Retriever is not just a trout fly. I have landed many species, including landlocked salmon, smallmouth and largemouth bass, striped bass, and a variety of panfish. Since you introduced me to this fly in 1995 it became a mainstay in my fly box. Minimal materials, quick/easy to tie, durable, and effective; what more could one ask?

I’m not certain what triggered your imagination to concoct the Golden Retriever, but I thank you. It is a champion among streamers.

Mike O’Brien

Golden Retriever articles:

Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide magazine- August, 2000

Eastern Fly Fishing, Guide Flies- Nov./Dec. 2007

Webb Weekly- Oct. 17, 2012    

Northwoods Sporting Journal – March, 2022