Trouts Journal

Streamer School: Part 1

Ivan Orsic / Oct 8, 2015

Streamers. Streamers. Streamers. You gotta love ‘em. If I’m not fishing dry flies, I want to be fishing with a Streamer.

We’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about fishing Streamers, how to fish them, which one to fish, rigging, so on and so forth. With that in mind, we will address Streamer fishing in a 3 part series over the next 3 weeks. Part one, which you’re about to read, will address the first (and sometimes most confusing) part of this whole process- Choosing The Right Streamer To Fish.

Next week’s installment will cover rigging, fly rods, fly lines, and leader and tippet selection. Part three will include retrieval methods, presentation, casting, and making on-stream fly adjustments.

But back to todays topic- Choosing the right streamer. Streamer fishing has without a doubt been growing in popularity over the past 10 years. It would only make sense then that this growth in popularity has led to an unbelievable amount of new Streamer patterns available for anglers. The continual development of new tying materials being utilized in these flies, along with the introduction of articulation (jointed flies), has created some truly incredible patterns. And while all this is good, great and grand… can also be a little confusing, especially for the fly angler looking to “throw some meat” for the first time.

When it comes to choosing a Streamer to fish, there are two main factors to consider- Color & Size. Oftentimes when streamer fishing, just like with nymphing or dry fly fishing, you will find that a certain combination of color and size will produce the best results. Sure there will be some days when the fish are aggressive and one angler will catch a bunch of fish on a big black streamer, while his buddy tears them up on a small tan streamer, but these days are unfortunately few and far between. Applying the following logic when choosing a streamer will cut down on the confusion significantly. My general rule for initial streamer selection is to match the prevailing conditions. I break prevailing conditions down into three categories, listed in order of importance- Water Clarity, Weather, Fish Size.

We’ll start with water clarity. This is the easiest to figure out. If the river you’re fishing is dirty or off color, your focus should be on darker colored Streamers. Darker Streamer patterns will put off the best silhouette against a dirty water background. A fish can’t eat your streamer if they can’t see it, so that needs to be rule number one. I also generally err on the largest size I think I can get away with in dirty water as well. The thought process behind this again goes back to giving the fish something they will be able to see the best.

But let’s say the river is clear, like you will find the majority of the time. You’re goal now should be to match the weather. You could also call this “light conditions”. If it’s a dark and gloomy day, fish a darker colored pattern. Conversely, if it’s a bright, sunny day, start with a lighter colored streamer such as tan, natural, light grey or even white. Olive is a good middle of the road color and can be effective in a variety of situations.

Finally, the third prevailing condition is fish size. You’re goal in Streamer fishing is to catch a large fish. With a little research, you should be able to get a grasp on what a large fish is for the water you’re fishing. A quick Google Image search of the river you’ll be on will almost always get you this answer. As most of you are aware, people are not shy to post they're hero shots with big fish. I almost always start large with my streamers and work towards smaller sizes if I’m not getting results (which we’ll discuss in Part 3 of this series). A good rule of thumb for what a “large” streamer would be for a body of water is 25% of what a “large” fish would be. I.e- If a 20”-22” fish would be considered large, I wouldn’t hesitate at all to start with a 5” long streamer. Most of the popular articulated streamers these days, such as the ones made popular by Kelly Galloup, fall into this 5” size class. Streamer fishing is not typically a numbers game (although it can be, and those rare days are AWESOME) so I’m fine sacrificing the 12”-14” trout I’m sure could picked up were I to start with a 2” or 3” offering. The old saying, “big flies equals big fish” can definitely apply here.

If you’re interested in putting together a Streamer selection for the first time, use the following guidelines to simplify the process: Get 2 Black, Olive, and Natural colored patterns in both large (4”-6”) and small (2”-3”) sizes. The reason I suggest two of each pattern is because you don’t want to be on the river, get a size/color combination working for you, and then not have a backup should you lose your fly. If Streamer fishing becomes something you regularly incorporate into your arsenal, you will likely end up with more Streamers than you know what to do with. If you tie flies, this will be especially true. However in the interest of cost, along with keeping things simple, having the above recommended selection of 12 streamers in various sizes and colors will get you by in almost any situation.

Choosing the proper Streamer to fish shouldn’t be hard. Hopefully this quick 3 step process will help make your life easier and your time on the water more productive!

Stay tuned for next week’s post where we will discuss rigging, fly rods, fly lines, leaders and tippet!

From the Trouts Archives. Original post date: October 9, 2014. Author: Kyle Wilkinson

Ready for Part 2 - Click Here

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