Spring (especially in this window before run-off) is one of the most productive times of the year to throw streamers. The big fish (and the small fish they like to eat) are starting to become more active as everyone tries to pack on some weight after a lean winter.
Flows, especially on freestones, can be a bit of a wildcard this time of year. Warmer valley temperatures will melt low-elevation snow which ends up in your favorite river as a plug of colder, off-color water. With these variable flows and hungry fish, it's hard to beat the effectiveness of a streamer when it comes to putting bigger, aggressive fish in the net. So, we went back into the Trouts Journal archives and dug this piece about improving your spring streamer game! Enjoy!
I love streamer fishing. There’s no two ways about it. Any day filled with some trouty grabs, flashes and/or violent takes truly makes this angler happy. With the weather warming up and the Fifth Season upon us, we are entering a very productive time to throw streamers here in the Rocky Mountains. Spring, pre-runoff, streamer fishing can be some of the best streamer fishing you can encounter all year. Here are five tactics to boost your spring streamer game.
(1) Do What You Want: Start your day on the water fishing streamers the way that you like to fish streamers. This might seem like an odd piece of advice, but hear me out. I prefer to throw streamers upstream and strip them back downstream. This presentation can be utilized on big or small water and tends to be more effective when fish are more active, elevated, or in shallower, faster water, in the late spring, throughout summer and into early fall. This is how I prefer to catch fish on streamers. It’s visual, fast paced, and you can cover a lot of water. If I can catch fish on streamers this way, I will take that over all other presentations. So, when I get out on the water this spring, that’s how I’ll start my day. There’s nothing better (in my humble opinion) than catching fish the way you want to catch fish. With streamers, multiple presentation types could catch the same fish, so why not do it how you want to do it. Now, if I’m an hour into my day and I’ve fished water that I know should hold fish in the spring (AKA softer, slower water and long, deep runs) and I haven’t gotten a bump, chase or swipe, I’ll start to change my presentation and utilize some of the following tactics.
(2) Be Methodical: It’s never a bad thing to be methodical, but this is especially important in the spring. While fish are getting more active, they aren’t all riled up like they can be when water temps are higher. In early spring, fish generally won’t chase a streamer for any prolonged distance. So, make sure that you are fishing all the “fishy water” well and presenting the fly to every potential holding spot. Many times, fish will be stacked in certain parts of a run, especially in spring. So, if you find one streamer eater, throw that same cast and presentation again and see if you can find five more.
(3) Use a heavier rod: Normally, I'll fish a 6 weight (often with floating line like the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Anadro) when I'm fishing streamers in the summer or fall. In the spring, I'll use a 7 or 8 weight (I'd recommend the NRX+ S or Orvis Helios H3D.) In spring, with the lower water temperatures, I will fish a sinking line (like the Scientific Anglers Sonar Int/Sink 3/Sink 5). A heavier rod like a 7 or 8 weight allow you to throw a heavy sink that allows your streamer to get into the zone quicker and more efficiently.
(4) Soak It and Swing It: This technique is great for fishing a long, deep run. Cast your streamer quartering upstream and immediately mend upstream. High-stick your rod and allow your streamer to sink through the water column. LET IT SOAK! Lower your rod as the streamer and line start to swing downstream. When you’ve reached your desired depth, begin to twitch and strip your streamer through the run. Add a little shake your rod tip as your fly swings through the run.
(5) Dead Drift: This technique can also be very effective in a long, deep run. I like to dead drift my streamer without an indicator. Again, cast your streamer quartering upstream and high-stick your rod. Only strip line in to keep your line tight. This technique can result in some impressive takes, but it takes a little more patience. BONUS TIP: Getting your fly down in the water column is easier with Fluorocarbon because it's denser than water. Fish no less than 2X.