Streamer Fishing For Trophy Browns: Is Your Streamer Big Enough?

9 comments / Posted on / by


Make no mistake, browns like this one, regularly eat fish not bugs.

By Keny Klewein

The other day I was talking with a friend about streamer fishing for trophy class trout.

Specifically we were debating what’s the best size streamer for catching trophy browns. My buddy confidently proclaimed the biggest of trout will eat a three inch streamer just as fast as they’ll eat a five or six inch fly. There’s no doubt that plenty of gargantuan trout have been caught on smaller streamers by fly anglers all over the world, so I didn’t argue with my buddy even though I didn’t agree 100% with him. That being said, I do think location and food source availability does have a lot to do with what size fly pattern you should be fishing if you’re after the biggest browns in your home waters when it comes to streamers.

Where I live and guide in North Georgia, big wild brown trout are few and far between. Of the thousands of miles of designated trout water in my area, only a handful of streams and rivers support the caliber of wild brown trout that truly turn heads. The large majority of big browns that are caught each year, usually don’t end up being wild brown trout, but instead hold overs that have been previously stocked by our DNR. Lucking up and landing a twenty plus inch wild brown trout here, is a rare feat that’s not easily accomplished, regardless of how high the skill level happens to be by the angler wetting a line. Our streams arent’ that fertile so biggest of trout are more times than not, forced to eat juvenile trout to maintain their size.

I’ve always told my clients that brown trout seem to carry an overwhelming wiseness to them, when you compare them to other species of trout. They seem to always hangout in places where it’s extremely difficult to present a fly, and they’re the first fish to go running for cover when they sense the slightest bit of danger around them. The other day guiding and enjoying my time on the water mentoring one of my favorite clients (Gary Rogers), we came as close as we could possibly get to landing a giant wild brown trout. We had chosen the right location, a small wild trout stream that’s known for holding good numbers of wild brown trout. A year prior, almost to the very day, Gary had landed a huge 26″ brown. We’ve never stopped talking about that rare catch, and both of us yearned to witness a catch like that again together. As we waded up to S-bend in the stream that held a perfect undercut bank, we focused as a team the best we could on the task at hand. Both of us knew without speaking out loud, that if there was going to be a big brown anywhere in this stream, it was going to be found right here in that bend. Gary waded into position and presented his nymph rig off the back of the shoal leading towards the S-bend, and a few seconds later, he set the hook on a trout. It was approximately a 12-inch wild rainbow, and as the rainbow tried vigorously to shake the hook loose at the end of Gary’s line, I saw a big brown jolt out from the undercut bank and take a swipe at his rainbow. It was easily 24 inches or better, and as quickly as that trophy brown showed itself, it disappeared out of sight.

Seeing this, I immediately snipped off his nymph rig and tied on a streamer pattern. Problem was, I didn’t have any of my big streamers with me, and that brown declined our three-inch offer, almost as though it was telling us, “Hey guys, this tiny streamer isn’t worth my time.” We eventually moved on after we struck out, but at the end of the day, I walked back to the truck in search of a streamer I might have on hand that would adequately represent a juvenile rainbow trout. Tucked away in one of my unused boxes I found a big baitfish streamer that I had previously used for bass and striper. With time running out, we hurried back to that S-Bend as fast as we could. I attached the six-inch streamer to some 1X tippet and told Gary to work it down the undercut bank. I told him, “I don’t give two craps if you lose this fly, just promise me to swim it tight to the bank.” Gary agreed and made the perfect cast, landing that six-inch streamer exactly where I wanted him to. A few strips later, the giant brown came out from the undercut bank and the streamer disappeared in its mouth. Problem was, the glare on the water and some slack in the fly line, kept Gary from seeing or feeling the eat. The hook barely stuck the fish and the streamer pulled loose. We didn’t land that giant brown trout, but it was so freaking cool to come back at the end of the day, after seeing that big brown, and then get it to eat our grossly big streamer on the first cast. Reeling in our lines and stowing our gear at the truck, Gary said, “I always wanted to know what big browns eat, and now I know Kent.” I chuckled and said, “Yep and now we know how to catch that brown. It’s only a matter of time my friend.”

The point of this post is to hopefully open your eyes to the feeding behavior of big brown trout and how important it can be to fish the correct size fly and pattern. If we know that big browns regularly eat other fish, it only makes sense that if we want to maximize our chances at catching them, our flies should clearly imitate what they’re eating. I don’t know about you, but from now on, I’m always going to be carrying an overly large streamer in my box that will imitate a juvenile trout. Hell, I may even start regularly fishing them on my small trout streams where I know big wild browns live. Yeah, I’m going to give up a lot of numbers and probably even get skunked on more than one occasion, but at least I do have confirmation that an overly big streamer could be the best tactic for targeting world-class browns, if that’s what I’m after. Give it a try if you’ve been searching for big browns on the East Coast and haven’t had any success.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

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

Follow Gink & Gasoline on Facebook:

9 thoughts on “Streamer Fishing For Trophy Browns: Is Your Streamer Big Enough?

  1. Large streamers are irresponsible. I’ve been seeing this large streamer fad more and more lately and I have to admit it’s kind of concerning. Sure, fish will eat them, or try to, but you have a better chance of hooking a smaller fish in the gill plate or eye ball than this trophy size brown you put your sport on. I’ve come across more wild fish with missing mandibles and severely scared mouths than I’ve ever seen before. You don’t need a 6″ streamer to catch a large brown trout and you just plain shouldn’t use one.

    • Have to defend streamers here

      Do people fish rapalas on your water? because that is way more likely the culprit than 6″ barbless streamers if that is the case. If you’ve ever fished heavily pressured bass water you’ve definitely seen what a double dose of treble hooks have done to fish. Even if your water is “fly only” I would bet my bonus that there are local bubbas that are out there all the time ripping crank baits.

      All harm and no good (this is to the fella below)? Come on man, really? You do realize that we are fishing heavier rods and tippets, which means that we end the fight faster, which is better for any fish that builds lactic acid fighting. I basically use a bonefish rig when fishing streamers. It gives me confidence in 3 things: 1.) He’s not getting back in that cover he rocketed from and getting hung up 2.) if he bolts I can put a stop to that real fast, and 3.) 95% of the time the fish is in the net in under 30 seconds.

      On average, in 10 fly only types, how many do you think are ripping big streamers consistently? 1 or 2 maybe? Do you really think that 10 or 20 percent of fly fishermen are mauling all the wild fish? when you step up your fly size, your hit rate actually decreases pretty significantly. Most fish 12ish and under don’t even go for a kill, they take a territorial run at it then back off and return to their holding water.

      I just don’t buy your theory that the small percentage of dedicated streamer people are trashing your fishery.

      • Hey Chris,

        I love streamers, fish them all the time. I just don’t fish 6″ streamers, because I found on fish 12-20″ through experience, that when the trout t-bone the streamer the trailing hook on flys over 4″ hook them everywhere but inside the mouth. To complicate things and exasperate the issue trout try to eat large prey head first (sculpins too) hence the success found dead drifting seams. This is why you feel the side smash, then feel them mouth it for a split second why they adjust it head first. They usually hook themselves on the smash. Large streamers hook smaller fish in the side of the face, or catch the outside of the bony corner of the mouth. If you catch this mandible thing from the outside and the trout head shakes, you rip its face off. Who knows how many fish you lost this way. I know I have because I reeled up and once and had the corner of trout mouth on my 1/0. That is why I stopped using them . I realized and now knew I was causing harm, so I stopped, pretty simple.
        The stream were I’ve seen an uptick in recent years is Penns Creek in Pennsylvania. Fly only, remote, dudes with rapalas would be drowned before a CO was called type of place.

  2. Could not agree more, last year my buddy and I were on the upper BF and there was this one tailout section that emptied out into very deep & narrow pool with fairly good sized boulders on one side of the bank. I had seen this area on a previous float and had just always stuck out in my mind as a possible ambush point for larger creatures looking to pick off smaller/wounded fish. That day however I was not playing the streamer game. Next time we did that float I pulled out one of my roosterfish flies, probably a 8″ mullet type pattern with some blue and orange with a dark back…i thought ‘it looks raindow/cutty’ like. When I tied that one my buddy(who is a local guide) looked at me like I had blown the fish whistle a little to hard that day. I also made the change in line selection to a full sink so I could swing that fly as deep as possible going though that deep pool after the tail out. As we passed through nothing on the first run, I asked him if he could anchor so I could give a few more runs through that juicy pool. One about the 4th swing through I’d estimate close to a 27″ brownie emerged just as I was picking my line up to run it through there for the last time. If I had been prepared for the last minute attack like that, this story would be ending a little different….with that being said. I agree 100% that if you want to target trophy trout, the you need to throw big junk. And remember – always, always watch that fly until it’s at the boat.

  3. Kent – as a relative newbie to the big fly game, I have two questions: 1) What does your presentation look like? I would be really interested in a follow-up post with a diagram showing how to swing/present a big fly into position in this type of situation. I am assuming you cast from the undercut bank side and swing the fly into position then strip it back up the bank. 2) I live in Kansas City, so generally if I am fishing for BIG trout it is in a tailwater in the Ozarks. Everyone knows and has seen the huge browns that come out of the White River system in Arkansas…but I have seen some pretty impressive bows in that system as well. Do you think this same big fly philosophy applies to big bows too?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...