Streamer Fishing: Float Your Lane

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Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

When you are fishing streamers from a boat, how close should you be to the bank?

Ask a dozen anglers and you may get a dozen answers. The distance that works for me, might not work for you, but I’m going to share some thoughts that might help you decide for yourself where your lane is.

I’m just home from a great week of dorado fishing in Argentina. Dorado fishing is streamer fishing at it’s highest level and it’s incredibly challenging, both physically and mentally. It involves taking lots of long accurate casts. Well, that’s the conventional wisdom. I have my own thoughts about it and the group had some lively conversation on the topic. It really helped me focus in on what I think works. Not just for dorado, but for any streamer fishing.

The key to success is making good, accurate presentations to as many likely holding spots as possible.

The more good presentations you make, the more likely you are to find that trophy fish who’s ready to eat. It’s a numbers game but with some qualifiers. They have to be good presentations and they have to be in the right spots. Most, but not all, of those spots are along the bank.

In general, when fishing streamers, you do not need to strip the fly all the way back to the boat. In fact, doing so is detrimental to your cause. There are of course some exceptions, but in those cases it’s worth asking if you are really fishing the bank. The structure of most trout rivers is such that the strike zone is in the first fifteen feet or so next to the bank. Once your fly is moving out of the holding water, it’s time to cast again.

What you want is to work that strike zone as efficiently as possible, hitting as many likely pockets as you can. That means dropping the fly against the bank, making six to ten strips, and hitting the next pocket. For every angler there is an ideal distance from which to do that.

In it’s most basic form, strong casters will be able to fish farther from the bank while weaker casters will need to be closer, but there is a point of diminishing returns on each end of the spectrum. 

If you are too close to the bank you may have a couple of problems. The worst being that you don’t have enough room to seal the deal. If a fish follows the fly but doesn’t eat right away, he may run into the boat and spook. You may also be floating over water you should be fishing. You might also find that part of your casting problem is not having enough line out to load the rod for an effective cast. I’ve fished with guys who wanted to be thirty feet off the bank. It’s not the most productive method.

If you are too far from the bank there is another set of issues, even if you are a very strong caster. No matter how good your cast is, there’s only so much line you can pickup off the water. Especially with a weighted streamer in play. If you are eighty feet from the bank, you are wasting a lot of time stripping in line before you can recast. that means you are making fewer casts and missing pockets. It’s a good idea to know how much line you can pick up and mark your line, if it doesn’t have a color change from the factory.

It’s also worth noting that making superman casts all day gets pretty tiring. When an angler becomes fatigued, their casting suffers. You may find yourself making poor presentations at the end of the day, when the fishing is often best. 

For me the sweet spot is about fifty feet. I’m good a little ways on either side of that number and I’m always happy to fish from a spot that works for everyone on the boat. At that distance I can put the fly on target consistently, work in and under overhanging brush, and I have plenty of room to tease in a reluctant fish. I can make my six to ten strips, pick up the line and hit the next spot, usually with no false casting. That’s efficient streamer fishing and it pays off in more fish and bigger fish.

With a little practice you should have no trouble finding the lane that works for you. then just have a quick discussion with the oarsman, whether it’s a guide or a buddy, and get on the same page. I hope this helps you land the fish of a lifetime.

Interested in fishing for huge golden dorado? Shoot me an email to for details on our next trip.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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3 thoughts on “Streamer Fishing: Float Your Lane

  1. Thanks for the good info, I float tube alot in lakes with similar situations,

    Fish on streamers

  2. Pingback: Fishing Streamers From a Boat | MidCurrent

  3. Pingback: Fishing Streamers From a Boat - Lifestylebin

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