Fall is in full effect in the Colorado high country, as leafs continue to change colors so do fishing conditions. Last week I covered tactics to improve your small creek and river fork streamer game. This week in Part 2 we will move onto the bigger Rivers. While there are going to be some similarities in tactics, consider last week’s blog the foundation for streamer fishing that I will build on in this piece. There is a growing rumor in the fly fishing world that, “Big flies catch big fish.” As we move into our Fall season, streamer fishing our bigger rivers presents a great way to chase larger fish. With that said it is a great time to break down successful ways to streamer fish these larger bodies of water. Similar to last week’s post I will focus on, the set up, water types and retrieves as well as matching streamer colors with weather conditions.
The Setup- Moving from small creeks to big rivers there is going to some major differences in the rig. Being equipped with the correct setup from fly rod to fly line and even leader is going to be a key factor in your productivity. Covering water is going to be a big part of success on the bigger rivers, so keep that in mind when selecting a fly rod. You’re going to need a rod that you are able to cast long distances as well as control in tight quarters. For these waters 6-8 weight fly rods are ideal, length is going to be a personal preference based on your comfort level. My personal choice here is the Sage X 10’0” 7 Weight. When it comes to reel selection a Large Arbor is a must, this will allow you to pick line up as well as get it off the reel faster when covering so much water. Some great reel examples are the Hatch Finatic 7 Plus and the Sage 3200 Series. When choosing a fly line for streamer fishing these big rivers there are a ton of options. In Part 1, a floating line with Fluorocarbon tippet dropped of the end was the ideal setup. While that is still an option for bigger rivers I prefer two other ways. One is going to be a line with a built in sink tip, a great example is Rio Intouch Streamer Tip. Another way is going to be using a floating line and attaching a sink tip leader. A great combo here will be Scientific Angler MPX with Rio Sink tip leader in a length of 7 or 10 feet. I prefer a sink tip in these bodies of water because it will keep the streamer down when working through deeper runs and faster riffles of Rivers. I also generally throw one weight bigger fly line than my fly rod, so when I am using my Sage 7 Wt. I will have an 8 wt line on my reel. The heavier line helps me load and shoot more line while fishing a lighter weight fly rod. Finally the leader, a 4-6 foot piece of fluorocarbon tippet in size 1x-3x is perfect length to drop off of your sink tip.
Water/Retrieve- Now to the fun part, when fishing these larger rivers with streamers the name of the game is going to be covering water. What I mean by this is keep moving and fish everything. A common mistake people make when streamer fishing is falling in love with one run. While finding a few runs and working them thoroughly with nymphs can be an effective way to fish, streamer fishing is more of a hit or nothing type of bite. You will know if a streamer is going to work within the first five casts through a run. Breaking this down into a little more detail of how to cover water I’m going to dissect how I would approach a stretch of water. When I get to the bank of the river I am going to first cover the water closest to me, working a few casts up stream with a dead drift or quick retrieve. From there I am going to move further out into the water, casting up river into the current and stripping my streamer back to me. My retrieve here will vary from a slow to fast retrieve depending on what is generating follows or strikes. After I have done that I will then cast as far up and across the river as I can and allow my streamer to dead drift and swing out below me. This will allow your streamer to profile across the river as it swings, as the streamer gets fully below you strip it back to you until you are ready to make your next cast. By following these steps you are going to cover water and also fish three different ways in the process. This will allow you to find the method that is most successful that given day. If you work 4-5 runs and one method is producing while the others aren’t you can dial in on one retrieval or swing.
Weather Conditions and Streamer size/color- Going back to part 1, the theories of trying to match streamer color to weather conditions are endless. I am going to add water clarity as a weather condition. For weather conditions the general rule is the brighter the sky the brighter my streamer. On bluebird days when the river is running clear I will fish White or Yellow streamers. These flashier streamers will generate the fishes interest bringing them out of their hiding places. For cloudy weather conditions and water conditions I am going to always start with a black streamer and fish other dark colors based on the success of black. Olive and Brown streamers are also very effective in these conditions. As for size I have one general rule I follow, Go Big until you have to go small. Start with an articulated streamer until they don’t produce, my go to patterns are the, Peanut Envy, Circus Peanut and Galloup’s Sex Dungeon. I like articulated streamers because they profile well and have great action on dead drifts and when swinging a drift out. If larger streamers are moving fish but not getting them to fully commit size down until the follows turn into strikes. If these tactics aren’t producing right away stick with it. Remember when you are fishing streamers it isn’t to catch every fish in the river but, rather that one fish you never see rising or feeding in a lane. Commit and stay confident while working streamers because on any given cast you could find exactly what you are looking for.