Part 1: Streamer Fishing the Small Stuff
Breaking down some helpful tips when fishing streamers on Colorado's smaller creeks and river forks.
Fly fishing for years has predominantly been a nymph and dry fly game. As the popularity for the sport continues to blossom, people are constantly searching for new ideas, tactics or tips that will help them be successful. While not new, streamers are quickly replacing the dry fly as the ideal way for an angler to catch the trout of lifetime. As streamer popularity continues to grow it has generated a ton of material for anglers to read about from, what Size, Color, Water type and Retrieve will be the most successful. While there is no question all the information is helpful, it can be overwhelming to take it all in. In Colorado we don’t have a ton of classic Western rivers that a great majority of streamer articles focus on. With such diversity in water types in Colorado I am going to break down streamer tactics in a two piece blog. First, focusing on smaller bodies of water covering Creeks and Forks, followed by a blog next week focusing on Rivers.
Streamers are often associated with a 7 wt or bigger fly rod with some type of sink tip line. However, in Colorado that isn’t always the case. Similar to many of you, I am a fan of fishing many of our smaller waters. Below I will cover all the bases from Rod selection to color and size of streamers that will help you be successful when streamer fishing Creeks or Forks.
The Setup- When streamer fishing these smaller bodies of water, how you set up your rig from fly rod to leader can have a huge impact. When choosing your rod the biggest thing to consider is going to be the accessibility of the water, many of these smaller creeks have banks covered in willows and trees. For these waters an 8’6” 4wt is a great option, my go to for this situation is a Scott Radian. A rod in this size will give you plenty of action as well as the control you are looking for when fitting streamers into tight quarters. While many of our smaller Creeks and Forks are heavily covered there are just as many small meandering meadow streams across the state. As we all know wind can be a factor in the places. In these situations go a little bigger, a 9’0” 5 wt is an ideal rod for this setting. The Orvis Recon 9’0” 5wt is a great example, this size rod will fight through the wind while still giving you the feel most anglers desire when fishing these bodies of water. When it comes to reel selection large arbor reels are a must. This will allow you to pick line off the water faster, giving you better line control while working the streamer. Unlike most streamer settings I would use a floating line, Rio Grand or Rio Gold are my favorite small creek streamer lines. Floating line will keep your streamer from dragging bottom in these smaller waters. The last thing on the rig setup will be your leader. A 4-6 foot piece of 2x-3x Fluorocarbon tippet tied directly to the end of your line is really all you need. I recommend Fluorocarbon here because it sinks faster than standard Monofilament tippet. This will act enough like a sink tip to carry your streamers through feeding lanes in smaller creeks or forks.
Water/Retrieve- Now we will begin to dissect the water and retrievals that will generate success streamer fishing small creeks and river forks. Most of these bodies of water run skinny and clear. With that said the first and most important thing when streamer fishing these waters is to fish upstream. The fish in these places tend to be less picky than our typical Colorado tailwaters but, at the same time can be very spooky. It is imperative that fish see your streamer before they see or feel your presence. As you work up the creek focus on three areas of water: structure, head riffles that drop into runs and undercut banks. These areas are generally going to hold the larger fish as well as fish looking to feed in an opportunistic way. Your retrieve here is another big factor in your success. Start with your first cast being a dead drift through the water. This will imitate a very natural presentation, similar to a crawfish or smaller trout tumbling through a run. If dead drifts are producing try quick sporadic strips through the water. This is a great way to trigger a trout's natural instinct to chase or eat anything that comes through their feeding lane.
Weather Conditions and Streamer size/color- There are so many theories about weather conditions and streamer selection it can almost drive an angler crazy when staring at a fly box trying to choose the right one. For these small bodies or water I’m going to try and keep it as simple as possible based on my personal success and failure on the water. Cloudy rainy days are a streamer fisherman's ideal conditions. These conditions give fish a sense of protection creating more aggressive feeding habits. In these situations use a darker colored streamer in colors black and olive. Zonkers and a red cone Wooly Bugger in olive and black are great for these conditions. Start big and if you see fish chasing the streamer and not committing size down until the chases turn into strikes. These tactics also apply when the water is high or has a tint of color to it. Sunny clear day conditions are going to create a different set of challenges for streamer fishing. This generally means the water temps will be higher and fish will be out feeding but, at the same time will make them more wary. For these conditions use a bright colored streamer, White and Yellow are two great colors. These flashier streamers will entice aggressive takes in clear conditions. Again start a big as you’d like and size down accordingly until you see fish committing. If all else fails get a little crazy with it, most of us have streamers in all kinds of colors. If the colors above aren’t producing, choose one of these off the wall streamers and give it a shot.