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

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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5 thoughts on “Fly Fishing: 3 Great Times to Fish Streamers

  1. Couldn’t agree more Kent. I have been “hooked” on streamer fishing for longer than I care to admit. Unless conditions dictate otherwise, I prefer to use streamers. I use them for steelhead, for trout, for walleye, and yes even for bass when I winter in TX. In my opinion, if you have attained the skills to consistently catch fish on streamers you are becoming a good fisherman in the true sense of the word.

  2. I agree with your statements. Recently fished the Little Juniata here in PA. water was up, muddy and sky was cloudy, 5 of us were out for a day of fishing celebrating our buddies impending marriage and everyone caught fish. Streamers were the ticket. Got to love them. On Fishing creek a trophy trout section has some deep pools and streamers pull some lunkers off the bottom.

    • I find the best days to use a streamer, either size 10 and bigger, are by far overcast, windy and muddy water days. High profile, dead drift is the ticket to fish on those days. Slap that water as much as you like, get close for good dead drifts, you wont scare them. Down stream dead drift can be deadly. I like the mini bead leech patterns red and black with some fluff. Also, any thing with a rabbit paddle tail will surely create commotion and flutter around nicely. I found this one small stream in my home town I am having trouble getting a streamer bite on though. I will not give up!

  3. I recently had a similar experience with streamers. My first time using a woolly bugger for trout (olive #4), I caught three 16′ wild browns in 10 minutes. Consider me hooked.

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