Author: Will Rice
This brown trout ate a Sculpzilla
Fall fishing is here and the streamer fishing is picking up in Colorado. Big fish are starting to bulk up for the winter and chasing down big meals... aggressively. We decided it was a good idea to talk a little about streamer fishing.
I used to think the world fell into two groups: one tribe that loved it – and another the other hated it. I’ve recently come to understand that there is another group of anglers out there – those who really don’t get streamer fishing or have an opinion one way or the other. For the lovers and the haters, I’m probably not going to sway any opinions with this blog post. But for the latter group, folks who have heard about streamer fishing but don’t know much about it… read on to get your head around some basics.
What is a streamer anyway? A streamer is a large fly that imitates river creatures like minnows, baitfish, crawfish, smaller fish, and leeches. Streamers are typically cast cross-river and slightly downstream and then actively stripped back to the angler with an active retrieve. Here are a few examples of effective streamer patterns.
Streamer fishing is all about aggravating fish and moving them out of their day-to-day routine. When a big brown sees a streamer move into their zone they are reacting in a predatory manner – they want to kill what you have casted. They are not killing this out of hunger necessarily, they are trying to crush and destroy the streamer for the sheer fact that they can – and they are pissed.
You need to take all of this with a grain of salt – like the parts where I psychoanalyze brown trout - because the guy who is writing this is a self diagnosed streamer junkie. Read on at your own discretion.
In this piece, I’ll talk primarily about wading and streamer fishing. If you want to read a great article about streamer fishing from a boat, check out this post from Deniki Outdoors.
I’ve run into folks who believe that streamer fishing is a dull headed way to catch fish. I argue the complete opposite. If you do it correctly, streamer fishing can be as dynamic and imaginative as you want to make it. First off, you need to be the streamer. This might sound kind of hokey but it really helps to swim your fly and to know where it is in the water column. You also need to understand the speed of the fly and how it moves through the water. A lot of times I will throw a short cast out just to see how a bug moves in the water before I really start fishing. Does your fly sink fast? Or, does it ride high in the water?
Streamer fishing is an active pursuit of fish. This should not be mindless swinging, stripping and blind casting. If it feels that way, you are doing something wrong. Look for structure – cut banks, boulders, deep pools, and confluences of current, tail outs. Think like a trout. Anticipate where they will be and then put that streamer in the center of their world.
Change up your game as well. Try fast strips, slow strips, dead drift, steady retrieve and try something erratic. See what works.
If you get a bump but don't set the hook... keep stripping. Keep moving that bug. An aggressive fish will often hit your fly again. A lot of fish will hook themselves as the take is typically aggressive. Most times, I will use a strip set, similar to salt water fishing. Try to avoid a typical trout set where you risk yanking the fly right out of their mouth.
Also change up your size and color – and weight.
I’m a big fan of big, big streamers with weight as you can get these types of flies deeper in the water column. But I’ll also switch it up and throw lighter, smaller flies if I’m not getting results.
You might have a streamer problem if your fly box looks like this - photo Will Rice
One strategy and technique I use in the fall is to walk a river upstream throwing a dry or a dry dropper. I’ll then pound the same water with a streamer as I move back downstream. When I streamer fish, I like to think about covering water as methodically as I possibly can.
Another great tip I received when I was fishing in Chile came from guide Joe Delling. He told me to always try to keep visual contact with my fly when possible. If you can keep eye contact and the water is not too deep or off color, you will start seeing fish charge your fly. Even if you are not hooking fish, it is super fun watching a monster brown move 30 feet across a river like a bear charge. These visual experiences can be a day maker – or a season maker.
OK, so there are a few thoughts on streamer fishing as we move into prime time. If you have questions, don't hesitate to stop in the shop or to call - we're here to help.
So What do you think about streamer fishing? Love it? Hate it? One thing is for sure: don’t knock it ‘till you try it.