4 Ways To Up Your Streamer Game This Fall

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Kyle Wilkinson

While fishing streamers can certainly be a productive way to put fish in the net year round,

there is no doubt that “streamer fishing” and “fall” go together like peanut butter and jelly (or if you’re like me, chicken fried steak and Coors).  I know I’m not the only person who has recently spent a hot summer day dreaming of how good it will feel to need a few extra layers of clothing and a 6-weight in the months to come.

As many of you know, I talk to a lot of anglers, both in the shop and guiding. Whether it be a beginner/intermediate or more advanced angler, streamer fishing seems to get in a lot of people’s heads and in my opinion, causes a lot more confusion than is necessary. I tell these folks in simplest terms, it’s really not that complicated. You just have to do it. And more importantly, commit to it. This is where I think many people struggle — the ‘committing’ part. They don’t realize that a different mindset is required to become a proficient streamer angler, that you have to work your butt off, making countless casts, fully prepared to go hours without a strike.

I pride myself in my streamer fishing abilities but I’d be lying if I said there still weren’t times on the river where I find myself getting a little too worked up between the ears. There’s no way around it — some days are just a flat-out grind. On the flip side though, not every day is like that and if you fish streamers enough you’re going to find yourself on the river one day where the fish are in the mood to chase down your offering and give you explosive eat after explosive eat. If you’ve ever had one of those days then you know what I’m talking about. I’d also be willing to bet those days are some of your best on-water memories to date.

So, to get where I’m going with this, if you’ve got it in your head that this fall you’re going to improve your streamer game, here are four suggestions on how to make that happen.

Keep On Movin’– Everything listed below is built on this foundation. When streamer fishing, you HAVE to cover a lot of water. There’s no way around it. If you’re wade fishing, this means possibly logging many miles on your boots that day. You know that run you love to nymph and have found yourself spending hours in before? Be prepared to not even take five minutes to fish it with a streamer before moving on. Staying on the move is the name of the game and is your best arrow in the quiver when it comes to putting together a successful streamer day.

Mix Up The Retrieve – When many people think of streamer fishing, ripping your fly back to you as fast as possible comes to mind. Can this work? Sure. Is this the only way to fish a streamer? Definitely not. More often than not, you’re going to find the fish want your streamer presented at a different speed than Mach 10. Experimenting with your retrieve, when starting out your day, is the name of the game. Some days they’ll want it fast. Some days slow. Some days dead drifted. Some days (on what I call) the “twitchy jig.” Play around with your retrieve and take note of what gets results. Once you get this dialed in, revert back to tip #1 and you should be in business.

Start Big, Work Small – As anyone who has walked into a decent fly shop before has likely noticed, streamers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. My plan when streamer fishing is to always try and get away with the biggest pattern possible. My rule for “Big” is 25% of what a big fish in the river would be. If the river could produce a 2-foot trout then fishing a streamer of at least 6” long is not out of the question. If I find myself getting follows, short strikes, swirls, blow-ups, etc., without hooking many fish then I will start downsizing to smaller and/or slimmer patterns.

Drop It Off – This is another trick I use from time to time that has put countless fish in the net. And while I know many of you may have your opinion on this idea, I like it so I’m going to keep doing it. If you’re having a day where the fish are preferring a slower presentation, hang a big and/or flashy nymph about 24” off the back of your streamer. Flies such as a big Prince, Hare’s Ear, Lightning Bug or Copper John work great. Now I realize that doing this won’t always guarantee the fish eats the “streamer”. What I can promise you, though, from experience is that some of the strikes you’ll get on these large beadhead nymphs will be just as aggressive and exciting as when that big brown trout eats your quadruple articulated purple zwerkin.

Try these tips and see if you don’t put more fish in the net next time you fish streamers. And please crush your barbs. Large streamer hooks can be tough on trout and you’ll want to catch that big boy again.

Kyle Wilkinson
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “4 Ways To Up Your Streamer Game This Fall

  1. Good info, Kyle. I’m one of those that’s just starting to get in the streamer game, and I just turned 60 in August so I feel I’m a little behind the learning curve. But I’m confident your tips will help me out. Thank you.

  2. Great stuff, thanks!

    A good way to “practice” before fall rolls around for streamer fishing trout is wading for smallies. They’ll hit streamers year round, and you can get in a lot of casting and retrieving time…and start working on your “Keep on Movin'” strategy.

  3. One of my favorite streamer presentation for Silver Salmon in Alaska is the swing. I learned how effective this presentation can be when I was learning to fly fish and still couldn’t mend my line very well. A few times I just let the streamer swing downstream and it would trigger strikes. I continued to practice my mending but when targeting those feisty Silvers the swing was one of my favorite presentation. Be sure to “Swing a Streamer” on your next trip for Silver Salmon. It will also work on those river Smallies too.

  4. Thank you, Kyle.

    I fish streamers on a regular basis down here (New England, NSW Australia) in our lakes. The first three tips in your article reminded me that I have fallen into a rut and I can’t wait to put them into practise. Your fourth tip is something I haven’t tried…yet, but I’ll bet it works here.

    Thanks again.

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