Swinging Streamers on Big Water

5 comments / Posted on / by

Streamer Caught Brown Trout on the Swing. Photo By: Louis Cahill

By Kent Klewein

Most streamer fisherman out there would agree that pounding the river banks with a streamer will catch trout just about anywhere.

If you’re willing to put in the time and hard work eventually you’ll be rewarded with a big fish. During high water flows on rivers where habitat is insufficient out in the main river, many trout will relocate to the banks where they can use the irregular banks and it’s abundant cover to shelter themselves out of the excessive current. There next move, once they’ve gotten to the banks, is to find prime ambush spots where they can easily pick off prey moving by. This is why casting to the bank and ripping streamers back to the boat is so effective. You’re repeatedly putting your streamer right in the kitchen where good numbers of fish will be feeding.

The majority of the time this scenario works great, but what do you do when you find yourself in areas where the water is super deep and the fish are sitting on the bottom? These places make it extremely difficult for anglers using the pounding the bank technique to keep their streamers down deep in the strike zone during a steady retrieve. Even with a full sinking fly line the cards are stacked against you. Don’t get me wrong, it can still work, especially if you cast upstream of your target water, and give your streamer time to sink before you begin your retrieve. Unfortunately, you won’t always have the time nor the room to pull this off, and that should have you searching for an alternative method that’s better suited for fishing your streamers in these deep water locations.

Swing Streamers through deep water hot spots

The best method I’ve found to consistently get hookups from deep water fish is to swing your streamers across their noses. This allows you to keep your streamers in the face of the deep water fish longer, which often will yield more strikes.

Step 1: When possible anchor your boat upstream and slightly across from your prime deep water. (It could be a nice drop off, a series of buckets, or just a long deep run or pool. The main point is that the water is too deep for you to use a standard strip retrieve, and anchoring up will provide you time to work the area thoroughly).

Step 2: Make a cast upstream and inline with your target water directly downstream. As your streamer passes by you heading downstream to the target water begin mending and kicking out extra fly line. This will give you sufficient slack, so your fly can sink into the strike zone.

Step 3: As your fly begins entering your prime target water you’ll want to strip in any excess slack, drop your rod tip to the water, and slowly begin moving your rod to the left or right (depending on what side your target water is located on). This will create a belly in the fly line and initiate the swing of your streamer. Your goal is to have your streamer right at the fish’s eye level as you begin your swing. This will bring it right across their noses.

Step 4: When your streamer gets to the end of the swing it’s really important to let your streamer dance in the current for several seconds. Quite often you’ll get bites at this point from the fish following your streamer up in the water column. Another method for triggering bites at the end of your swing is to pull your arm back and forth (similar to hand cranking an outboard motor) a few times at the end of your swing which will swim your fly upstream a few feet and then slowly drift back. I learned this deadly technique guiding in Alaska. Some days it works awesome, others days the fish don’t react to it.

Swinging Streamer Rig

I prefer a 7-9wt 9′ fly rod with a reel spooled with a 250-350 grain full sinking fly line. I go lighter if the flows are less and the water is shallower. I’ve found many anglers fish too long of a leader (5-6′). All you need is about a 2-3-foot section of 12-20lb. Fluorocarbon. Trout usually aren’t leader shy when their chasing after a 3-6″ streamer in high water, and the shorter leader will help keep your flies running deep where you want them. Always change fly colors to determine the hot color during the day. Be aware it can change, particularly when light levels change. Doing this, you can turn an average fishing day into an epic day.


If you get in the habit of pinpointing, then fishing good swinging water as your drifting and pounding the banks, you often will increase your success for the day. Be willing to work the water thoroughly when you’re swinging your streamers through your target water. Sometimes the sweet spots are really small that you have to work your flies through, and it can sometimes take several swings to trigger fish to eat. Understand the weather plays a big role in how active and aggressive the fish will be. Just because you have one slow day on the water, doesn’t mean you can’t have a great day on the same stretch during different weather conditions. I’ve learned certain rivers fish better in completely opposite conditions. Always remember persistence usually pays off with streamer fishing. Remember every cast made with a streamer is one closer to a hook up. The key is to streamer fish hard all the way through. Louis and I will often take turns, one rowing, one fishing. That way we can stay fresh and fish strong the whole day. It makes a big difference for success.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!

Follow Gink & Gasoline on Facebook:

5 thoughts on “Swinging Streamers on Big Water

  1. Thanks for this post.

    In step 2, you say begin mending and kick out extra line. You mean flipping the rod just to kick out the line right? And not a traditional mend for the purposes of preventing a belly? Because since it’s a sinking line, you can’t really mend it, like you would mend a floating line.

  2. I’ve found this to be the most effective way to hook up with Bull Trout when they’re hanging out in the deeper pools as well, though need to be a little longer and lighter on the leader when its clear.

  3. Great article. I really need to up my streamer game, so thanks for all the tips. I have heard that fishing streamers is best when you “cover more water”. Does anchoring up make it hard to do this? How long would you fish a big section anchored up as you describe before moving on?

    Thanks again.


  4. Pingback: 7 Easy Wet Fly Fishing Tips - A Perfect Technique for the Beginner - Wet Fly Swing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...