Trout streamer fishing is a tried and true method. While fishing dry flies remains the most exciting method of fly fishing, fall and winter fishing in the Rocky Mountains is usually limited to nymphs and streamers. While both of these other methods are productive given the situation and water type, fishing with streamers is usually more enjoyable than nymph fishing. There is real excitement when you cast your streamer in a great looking spot, strip your bug through it and…Wham! Feeling a trout hit your streamer and then bringing him in is a real rush. We will go over some trout streamer basics.
Unfortunately for most fly fisherman streamer fishing is “the last resort”.
Many fishermen only employ streamers when nothing else seems to be working and they are throwing in the towel. Many more fishermen also believe that the pattern or color of the streamer is of no real consequence. “Any black or yellow streamer will do.” What other time when you are fishing does the fly pattern not really matter as long as it is a certain color? None, and it does not apply to streamers either. Sure you may be able to catch a few on any streamer, however, finding the killer one is the key. We all know how picky trout can be. At times it seems they are truly smarter than we are. Finding the correct streamer for any given day or river will bring you success. Just throwing any streamer on as long as it is black will not. You should work just as hard to find the best streamer the trout want to eat as you would in matching a hatch when trying to catch trout on dry flies. There will be times when fishing to rising trout you will try a dozen different patterns trying to match one or two bugs the trout are keyed into. You will have to do the same trial and error with streamers. Really experiment and find one that the trout can’t live without. You will know once you have found the one the trout want.
Streamer fly fishing shouldn’t be intimidating.
They can be difficult to cast and you can’t see the fly in the water. With dry flies you get to see the action at the surface and nothing can beat the visual excitement. With nymphs you are watching an indicator, or bobber. So called sophisticated people cringe calling an indicator a bobber, but that is what they are, bobbers. Streamer fishing is all about feel. You will feel the trout hit the streamer. Sometimes you will even see him hit the streamer if the light is right. Occasionally the trout will take your streamer the second it hits the water right at the surface. Feeling the trout hit your streamer is a close second to seeing the trout strike a dry, and is far more fun than watching a bobber. Choosing the correct pattern just takes practice. There are some guidelines to help you narrow the search, however. When fishing in off-color water you are better off using a dark fly. Some rivers in the west have large stonefly nymphs that begin moving to shore in the spring. Using a dark fly in either black or browns is a good bet. As you experiment and learn you will develop a method for picking your best flies.
Finding the best trout streamer water takes practice.
There are specific things to look for. Feeding trout are a great target. Yes, rising trout. In the colder months you will often still see rising trout. Usually they are feeding on midges. You could take the time to switch over to a dry or you can keep using the streamer. Most rising trout have no problem taking a streamer. Put the right streamer in front of them while they are feeding and they rarely turn it down. Water that is best suited to streamer fishing in the winter months is different water that you will normally find trout in the summer. This water is the soft edges or insides of bends of the river. The slower water if preferred by the trout. This water will normally be shallower as well. Trout love shelves and drop-offs. Key in on these types of water. Many midges will congregate these areas too. Trout will pod up in larger groups in the winter months. When you find a trout, keep fishing that area until you feel you have caught, or scared, all the trout in that spot.
When using trout streamers from a drift boat there are certain things to consider.
The person rowing the boat must keep the boat going slower than the current. If they can’t keep the boat going slow, you will be wasting your time with a streamer. You have to be going slower than the river. This is important because the streamer has to be pulled through the current, not floating with it. This is true even if you are dead drifting the streamer. If the boat is going slow, the streamer will still pull through the current when dead drifting. I can’t stress enough the importance of drifting slow. Angle your cast at about 45 degrees or an even steeper downstream angle from the boat. There are situations where this is not critical, however it holds true for most. One such instance is if you are fishing a very slow backwater or still water, there is no real current to cross at 45 degrees. Slow strips in lengths of 10 inches give the best speed and look to your fly. Dead drift is also a very effective presentation. You must adjust your stripping speed to the water speed and your boat speed. If the boat is going fast or the water is very fast you will have to strip faster to keep up. Fishing water that may be only inches deep may require you to strip fast, however if you are constantly fishing very shallow water it is best to adjust the weight of your fly to compensate for the water depth. This will allow you to trout the streamer at a slower speed. While all sizes of trout will take a streamer, you have a better chance of catching a large trout using streamers than other methods. Large trout are aggressive toward perceived threats and invaders to their territory. They also eat more small trout and sculpin, where small trout mostly feed on insects exclusively. Another benefit to fishing streamers over nymphs is whitefish almost never take streamers. A big plus. When you plan your next outing keep in mind and prepare for the opportunity to fish with streamers. They will challenge you at first You may feel like you should give it up if you don’t have success right away. Stick with it and try many different patterns. You will be rewarded for your efforts.