Fly Fishing: 3 Great Times to Fish Streamers

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When conditions are right, streamers can be your best bet. Photo Louis Cahill

By Kent Klewein

I fell in love with streamer fishing the very first time I cast one.

All it took was me bringing one trout to the net on a size 6 white Zonker, and I was hooked. I’ll never forget that beautiful 15″ wild rainbow trout, that I caught and released on a ten foot wide Southern Appalachian blue liner up in North Georgia back in the 90s. I remember the tiny stream being too overgrown and tight for me to make traditional fly casts so I crawled down on a flat boulder, stripped out some fly line and dead drifted the streamer downstream into a pool. Nothing happened at first but I didn’t give up. Instead of retrieving the fly all the way in, like most anglers regularly do, I instead made a few strips in and then let the streamer drift back down into the pool. On my third attempt, that gorgeous wild rainbow trout hammered my streamer and I brought it into my net. I still use that downstream stripping and drift back technique quite a bit when it’s called for. It works equally well with nymphs and dries.

The thing about streamer fishing that anglers need to understand is there’s always going to be hot days and cold days fishing with them. When the streamer bite is hot, they can out fish every other type of fly rig on the water. When it’s cold, it can be a whole lot of work with very little reward. Then again, you’ll never find out what the streamer reward is going to be if you don’t take a few minutes to fish one. Over the years, I’ve found three situations where streamers tend to fish really well for trout.

1. Overcast Days

Cloudy days seem to improve streamer fishing significantly for trout and many other species of fish. If I had a choice, I’d much rather spend my time fishing streamers over fishing them during blue sky days. If you find the fishing slow on a cloudy day, tie on a streamer and fish it for a while, because you might find yourself with a big increase in hookups. Cloudy days have provided my clients some of my best days of fly fishing over the years.

2. High Water

When the water is high, it makes trout feel more comfortable. You can smack a heavy streamer on the water and it won’t faze most trout in the water you’re fly fishing. The bigger profile fly of a streamer works in the anglers favor because it does a good job of catching the eyes and attention of the trout. The high water is also perfect conditions for trout to ambush and catch the prey of trout off guard. When you’ve got high flows, I highly recommend you giving streamers some fishing time.

3. Low Light

This past week, I was fortunate enough to spend some time streamer fishing some gorgeous trout rivers in Wyoming and Idaho. Louis and I found that the first couple hours of the day during low light to provide exceptional streamer fishing. We caught our biggest trout of the trip with them. Streamers works exceptionally well in locations where the air and water temperatures are cold and the dry fly bite takes a while to warm up. Spending the first couple miles of river fishing streamers can pay big dividends.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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12 thoughts on “Fly Fishing: 3 Great Times to Fish Streamers

  1. 1 great time to fish streamers; ALL THE TIME. In all seriousness, I was once told that most fly fishing outside of trout fishing is done with streamers of some sort. If you’re ever interested in chasing different species or fishing in different location, you’ve got to know how to fish streamers and the techniques associated.

  2. It would be great to see an article or articles about stillwater fly fishing of which streamers play a big part.
    Some would be help. I have to fish from shore & help is needed there as well.
    Thank you,

    • I do a lot of stillwater fly fishing for bass and other species. Simply put, your most versatile and useful line is an intermediate line. Then change sink rate with unweighted and weighted flies. Think about forage in the lake, what is available, perch? shad? gobies? cray? You want to be able to present at multiple levels. On top, in middle and on bottom. Three different flies or weight variations.

  3. Where are some resources to learn about streamer fishing for trout? I live about 8+ away from decent trout streams, so I taken to reading books, websites and great blogs like yours to shorten up the learning curve as much as possible so I don’t waste a whole lot of time with foolish trial and error attempts.

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