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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3 thoughts on “4 Ways To Up Your Streamer Game This Fall

  1. Thanks for the Tips!!! and definately a BIG +1 on pinching the barbs on your streamers. I hadn’t thought about it much, but had a guide a while back talk to me about the increased penetration resistance of the barbs on the larger streamer hooks. In his (and the shop’s) findings, pinching the barbs on their streamers actually resulted in slightly higher hook up percentages since the barb isn’t providing resistance to the hook penetration. Especially when people are fishing with a 5wt or 6wt.

    Plus, How many instagram pictures have you seen on someone wearing their streamer… I’ve hit myself with flies or split shot more times than I care to count. So far I’ve been lucky, and haven’t buried any large hooks in myself, but pinching the barbs on larger hooks seems wise from a personal safety standpoint.

  2. Great tips. Here’s another one that worked for me on a structured bank of the West Fork. It wasn’t possible to cross to the other side to make a classic across & down presentation to the structure. Instead, I cast the streamer [Little Brown Trout] straight down, as close to the rocks as I could. I then threw a downstream mend into the faster current mid-stream. The loop pulled the now-sunken streamer out from the bank towards mid-stream. About two feet out, a 14′ Brown chased and nailed it. I took several more about the same size with the same technique. Because the fly and the predator are moving downstream, the strike shortens the distance and the fish hooks itself [with help from a zipstrip and raised rod-tip, of course]. I plan to use the same technique with those larger streamers this weekend. Tight lines!

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