Streamer Fishing My Way
Copyright 2015 James Marsh
July, 2015 Issue
f I can catch big trout on a dry fly or nymph, I had rather not fish a streamer. Unless your just swinging it down
and across, It takes a lot more work than casting a dry fly a few feet upstream in a run or riffle. After casting a
streamer on a six weight for a hour or two, it can begins to feel more like work than fishing. This is especially true
when you're not catching fish very often. I will mention that fifty years ago, I didn't mind it near as much as I do now.
Actually, I don't mind it at all now, as long as I can hook a big trout every few minutes; however, if the trout are large,
wild, stream-bred trout, the times and places for that happening are few and far between.
Notice the subtitle of this article is a question, "why go to the trouble?" The correct answer is, "to catch big trout".
Streamers are flies known to consistently catch large trout. This isn't to say they won't catch trout that can even get the
entire fly in their mouth. They will do that just as well.
There's an infinitesimal number of ways to fish a streamer. As mentioned above, the easiest way is to swing it down and
across the current and just hang onto the rod. I feel sure that method was invented by anglers trying to catch "the fish
of a thousand cast", or the "winter steelhead". If a steelhead angler does much of anything else, they may not
physically last long enough to catch one. I don't want to degrade the method too much, because there are times and
places it will work very well for big rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout, as well as the big rainbow trout that spend time in
the ocean or great lakes called steelhead.
Swinging a streamer down and across covers a lot of water in a short amount of time. Even so, in most cases, there are
other methods that work better, especially when your fishing for trout. Notice the title of this article is "Streamer fishing
my way". My way, can best be described as the same way I fish most bass lures. I will admit that the similarity means
very little to those of you that have done very little bass fishing using conventional casting tackle. Maybe a better way
to put it is there's a lot more to fishing a streamer than getting a dead drift. The objective is to make the streamer fly
look like the real live fish or other marine species you are attempting to imitate. Unless they are actually dead, you
don't see many baitfish in a dead drift.
The typical, traditional way of fishing a streamer is to strip it in. There are a lot of different ways to strip a fly. Of course,
there are short and long strips, and everything in between, There are twitches, jerks, vertical pumps and other types of
retrieves that can make the fly look alive. Most of this should be done with your non-fly rod hand on the fly line, but it
can be supplemented with twitches of the fly rod itself.
My number one tip is that you want the trout to see the fly, but not well enough to determine it's something it shouldn't
be eating. This often comes down to a fine line. Your certainly out of luck if the fish doesn't see the fly, but you don't
want it to see it and then turn away at the last split second. A refusal usually means the fish got too good of a look at
the fly. You want the fish to see it just well enough to be fooled into taking it for the real thing.
How you present the streamer should depend greatly on the particular baitfish, sculpin or crustacean you are imitating.
For example, you wouldn't strip a crayfish the same way you would a threadfid shad. You wouldn't strip an imitation of a
sculpin the same way you would an imitation of a black-nose dace. In other words, you cannot properly present the
streamer if you're are not familiar with the particular food you are trying to imitate.
As mentioned above, baitfish don't dead drift, unless of course, they are dead. Crustaceans like crayfish, don't dead
drift down the stream. I'm never seen a leech dead drifting down a trout stream. Unless is dead, you won't find a
Sculpin headed downstream in a dead drift. You will rarely see one very far off the bottom and if you do, it won't be
motionless. It will be swimming. That's why action, either self-imparted by the very design of the fly, or added by you,
the angler, is very important.
Most anglers think in terms of covering a lot of water when streamer fishing. That is a factor you should consider, but
you should focus more on fishing to individual fish. By that, I don't necessarily mean seeing the fish your fishing too.
That would be nice but more the exception that the rule in most situations. I mean you should be fishing to a location in
the stream where you think a fish is holding. You should try to identify the lies of the trout and present your flies in
those locations. For example, if your fishing for brown trout and the sun is out and the water is clear, you should know
they are going to be hiding up under something such as an undercut bank, or a hole up under a boulder. In those
cases, you should present the streamer as close as possible to those specific areas.
Now, only if I was thirty years younger, when I could physically strip a fly all day long.
Why Go To The Trouble?
Yours Truly with a Madison River
brown trout. There's a sculpin or two
behind about every rock in the river.
by James Marsh
Caught this rainbow on a Woolly Bugger
Chama, New Mexico