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Monday, 5 December 2016

STREAMER FISHING lets go to the Strip Club

Tiger Trout caught on the Double Bugger

Streamers, kind of a taboo word when it comes to fly fishing. They are getting more and more popular but still, I have been asked if I am just going to use streamers why not use gear instead of a fly rod. After all fly fishing should be done with flies (bugs) right? For some people definitely, “Dry or die!” for me though I will “Stream until I scream!”

 There are a lot of different things when fishing streamers to consider. It is a lot more than, if nothing is hatching tying on the old faithful wooly bugger and swinging it across the river. Trout are predators. I know casting a big marabou chenille rabbit fur concoction all tied on not one but two large hooks with an odd name like “the incredible trout pounder” sounds horrible and potentially painful, but I like to catch trout that can eat your trout.
Isn’t the top trout cute?
Just like with the bug side of fly fishing, for streamers you have to know what is going on in the water and be as realistic with your presentation as you can be with whatever you are trying to imitate. You don’t just blindly pick out something big and gaudy and throw it in the water, then strip like a girl trying to pay for college back to you. You have to understand type of prey these river monsters are going to try to destroy. Mostly this is any fish smaller than what you are trying to catch. Other times it could be crayfish, lizards, snakes or even a mouse. Fun Fact: Trout can and will eat fish that are half their size.

Some things to consider while on the water, how do the smaller fish act in the water you are fishing? Where can they be found at certain times of the day? As you’re wading or walking the river try to see where you can find concentrations of bait fish. What colors and sizes are they? What kind of structure is nearby? I am always looking for the spot where a larger fish can retreat after eating or, where food will be delivered to them. Deeper water with some current nearby, cut banks, boulders, log jams etc. Any place that looks like I wouldn’t want to be there if I were a small fish late at night. Brown town has a high crime rate.

While streamer fishing you have to remember you are not fishing for a lot of fish you are fishing for big fish. It almost becomes more like a trophy hunt.  There is a lot of movement involved, if you are going to do it well. Take your time and look over the river. Think about how you’re going to get your fly into the spot you want to fish before casting. If you’re not getting any interest try to figure out why. Is it presentation? Depth? Or are the fish just being assholes. I still have not figured out how to catch fish on those days.

Most of the time though it is something small you are doing, especially in some of the blue ribbon waters in Utah. Last year I was fishing the Green river walking upstream from Little Hole and I could see fish everywhere but could not seem to be able to get anything to commit. It was so bad, had I walked into a fish market to buy a fish I would have been laughed at. After taking a break I noticed that the fish were all so close to the bank that the difference between myself and the people catching fish in the drift boats that kept cruising by was, even though we were fishing virtually the same water the fish were far enough away from the drift boats that they couldn’t see the anglers. I changed my approach and got ninja stealthy hiding behind boulders and bushes. The casting was ugly, but the fish were now getting an unexpected lip piercing.
Green River, slow stripped a streamer from shallow water into a deep pool while hiding behind a bush. Ninja Stealthy

Usually a fish will show interest within the first few casts when tossing meat. I usually will take a small section of river and make a mental grid, start at one end and work my way through each part of the grid. I try to work in a few casts with different depths and strip speeds to make sure I am covering most of the water.  I always start with the most likely area to hold a larger fish and work through the rest from there.  If you can’t find any players it is time to move on.  No matter how fishy the spot may look. It is hard but you have to do it. I personally will covers miles of river when I fish. There are definitely spots where I get stubborn and cast, and cast, scratch my head look around and say I know there is a fish there and cast again. It almost never works out. If I gambled like I fished on those days I would be homeless, it hardly ever pays off.

 For retrieves I will usually always start with a cast getting as close to the opposite bank as I and begin a fast erratic retrieve utilizing the Kelly Galloup jerk strip. I do this because I want my streamer to look like a panicking bait fish that has gotten flushed out of shallow water into the dangerous deep.  If there is a fish that is ready to feed, or even in the area my streamer will usually get crushed. If this isn’t working I will slow it down some or even dead drift through some of the water. Twitching the streamer as I am drifting it trying to make it appear like a wounded or dying fish. When out there vary your retrieve. The same thing will not always work, sometimes long fast strips will get it done but other times you will need to slow things down. Another trick I like to use is just before I get to the last 25% of my retrieve I will throw a mend in the line if I am using floating line and change the direction the streamer is moving. This can at times be what makes a fish that has been following commit. At some log jams and cut banks I will even let my streamer swing to just in front of it and leave it basically knocking at the door for up to a minute twitching the streamer every 5 to 10 seconds to make it look like a small fish that is feeding in the current. It is exciting to watch a huge shadow seem to materialize from under the bank or out of the log jam and make the streamer disappear. There is no perfect way to retrieve a streamer, on the other side there is no wrong way to do it either. Experimentation and time on the water is the name of the game. You will start to develop a game plan that works for you the longer you stick with it.

The best times to fish streamers by far are, early morning, before dark and on cloudy days. As the day gets brighter and the fish get harder to entice into a feeding bite, I will change tactics and try to get a bite out of aggression or territorial response. To do this I will use a larger streamer aggressively cast and strip through areas likely to hold fish. I will also use this technique in winter when the fish are less likely to move after a streamer.
Small Brown Trout that took a shot at a Circus Peanut, likely defending its territory

The general rule when going through the streamer box and picking one out to use is dark day dark color, bright day bright color. This is also true for water clarity. The darker streamers will show a clearer silhouette in dark weather or cloudy water. I get excited for the cloudy dark days even a slight drizzle.
Brown trout caught on a cold cloudy day.

When the river is blown out a dark streamer that is a little bulky is the ticket. The fish should be pushed up near the banks and the bulk of the streamer will help them locate it with their lateral line by picking up the water displaced by the streamer during your retrieve, when they get close enough they will see the dark silhouette, and whamo! You have now caught something on a day most people walk away from the river in disgust at high water and poor visibility.
The last thing I am going to touch base on is, what size rod to use. Leave your little 3wt at home your tossing meat. I use a 6wt mostly a 5wt for some of the smaller streamers is good also. Some people will go as high and an 8wt if they are throwing really big streamers.

 Floating line or sinking line depends on the water you are fishing. People each have their own preferences. I usually make my decision when I get to the water and will carry a spool of sinking line with me. I also carry a variety of sinking leaders to put on my floating line just in case I don’t want to commit to the fun of a full sink line. I am not a minimalist by any means I would rather have it, than want it. My personal combo is a Loop Evotec 6 wt medium fast action with a Shadow fly fishing reel.

There is so much to get into on streamer fishing, this article has barely scratched the surface but I hope it helps. I am constantly learning and the game is evolving so quickly not too long ago a 3 inch wooly bugger was considered huge! Guys are now throwing 12 inch streamers to chase after 30 inch brown trout with all sorts of strange names for the flies. A couple books that are great resources and will go in depth a lot more are Kelly Galloups  “Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout” and George Daniels “ Strip Set”
A list of flies that I like to use:
Barely legal 
Sex dungeon
Old fashioned wooly bugger
Bunny leech
Double bugger

James (Utah US)

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