Autumn in #troutcountry can mean two things for the guides at Vail Valley Anglers, first, big game hunting, and the second, streamer fishing. For those who are not familiar with streamer fishing. It is a technique of fly fishing where fly patterns imitating baitfish are cast and retrieved with the intention of getting the attention of an aggressive trout that is on the hunt for a quick meal. The thrill behind streamer fishing lies in the aggressive and often visual takes or eats, the larger average sized fish, and the creativity in the stripping retrieves.
The Fall in the Rockies is primetime for streamer fishing with September, October, and November being some of the most productive months out of the year. Below you will find 6 streamer fishing hacks that don’t directly relate to technique but instead focus on increasing your odds of catching more fish before tossing that fly into the cutback. To touch up on your streamer fishing techniques and gear be sure to check out the previous blog here: Step up your Streamer Fishing Game: Rigging and Retrieving.
Hack #1 Use a 9’ 6” or 10-foot Fast-Action/Stiff Fly Rod:
By having a dedicated streamer fly rod, you can completely commit to streamer fishing. But, once you do go down this path know that it may be a long road back to other fly fishing techniques like dry fly fishing and nymph fishing. Like anything proper gear, can make the world of difference. While your normal 9 foot 5 weight or 6 weight rod can get the job done. A 9” 6’ or 10” fly rod will be a world of a difference when tossing larger flies like streamers.
The extra length not only helps with casting power but can also help mending. It can also help improve the action of the fly when retrieving by have a little extra rod to flex. As well as a longer fly rod, your streamer fishing fly rod should be a fast action or stiff fly rod. The stiffness in the rod will help cast with a heavier streamer fly pattern with more ease. A stiff rod will make the world of difference from an accuracy and distance standpoint.
Recommend Streamer Fly Fishing Rod:
Hack #2 Utilize a Sinking or Intermediate Fly Line:
Fly lines are the crux of an angler’s setup. Just like skiing or snowboarding, when you have bad ski or snowboard boots, you’re going to probably have a bad time. The same goes for fly lines, having the proper fly lines will go a long way to the performance of your fly fishing setup. Lucky for streamer anglers, fly line manufacturers have developed specialty sinking and intermediate fly lines. These fly lines are ideal for streamer fishing as the line will instantly sink when casted into the water, resulting in faster presentations to fish and more fish caught.
Fly line companies have also started to make fly lines that have different sections with different sink rates. This makes the fly line sink in more of a parallel manner, giving a more natural presentation. It also means it can be easier to cast.
So what line should you get for the local rivers like the Eagle River, Colorado River, and Roaring Fork River? For these freestone high radiant rivers where fish may be targeted in the shallow riffles and deeper pools, an intermediate line is sufficient or an intermediate to a sink 3 or sink 6 will work great.
Recommended Fly Line:
For bigger rivers like the North Platte River or Green River, a full sinking line will be better as the depths of some of those pools exceed 10 feet. A full sink line with a sinking leader will get down to where the fish are.
Recommended Fly Line:
Hack #3 Properly Manage Your Slack Line:
Streamer fishing involves peeling off line from the reel, casting out the line, retrieving it, and then casting it again. The process of streamer fishing exposes your slack line with each cast. Whether your slack line can get wrapped around your foot, the boat, a rock, and whatever else that seems to all a sudden get in the way. It can be frustrating when you make a perfect cast only for it to fall short because your slack line was caught on something. So to avoid this, when you are retrieving your streamers, strip and place your line in an area that you know is clear. Have intention about where you are putting your slack line. You can also loop your fingers with some of the slack line to organize it. Or you can utilize a stripping basket when wading or if you are in a boat or own a boat you could purchase a stripping basket. These baskets are extremely helpful when streamer fishing.
The bottom line is to be aware of your surroundings and make a plan of where you will strip your line prior to streamer fishing, it will result in more distance casting and more efficient retrieves. It can also mean no snags when the big fish starts pulling out line. Check out the video below to learn about how to make your own stripping basket.
Hack #4 Use a Tippet Ring and Snap Swivel:
Some fly anglers may scoff at tippet rings and snap swivels as they might too closely resemble spin or traditional fishing. But with advancements in gear technology, tippet rings and snap swivels are being produced much smaller and are able to properly match with fly fishing gear. Tippet rings are a great tool to use when rigging up your streamer setup. Tie on a sinking leader and then on the end of the sinking leader tie on a tippet ring. From here you can tie on tippet and interchange much faster and easier. The tippet ring also prevents you from having to cut into the sinking leader. Which extends the life of your sinking leader. The tippet ring is so small that you won’t even notice a difference when casting either.
Rio products came out with snap swivels for big game species a couple years ago and this product works great for streamer fishing. You tie the snap onto the front of your tippet where you can unsnap and snap on your fly. There is no need for a Fishermans knot as you just slide the eye of hook onto the snap. This allows for very quick fly changes on the water. It can come in handy when your are struggling to find a pattern or color that the fish are keying in on. A quick snap and you can have a fly on without even tying a knot. Some anglers even say that the connection adds more action to their fly, as the fly wobbles around a little but when stripping back.
Hack #5 Tandem Streamers, Toss on an Additional Streamer:
This might be my number one hack to catch more fish when streamer fishing. Fly fishing with tandem streamers can be a highly effective way to streamer fish. It may seem a little bit unconventional at first as fishing two streamers is a lot of fly. But this technique increases your odds of finding fish exponentially. Think of it similarly as to nymphing where you may tie on your lead fly and it may be an attractor pattern. A brighter bigger fly pattern. Same goes for fishing tandem streamers. Typically you will want to toss on a larger brighter pattern as your first fly. Then take about 2-3 feet of tippet and tie it on the bend of the hook on the first fly and then tie on the second fly.
This rig can be a little daunting to cast at first. It can be challenging to get the flies to where you want them tight on the bank. But, once you get used to casting and controlling your flies it can be very effective. When stripping this rig back the second fly naturally will get a little deeper than the first fly. This allows you’re flies to fish at two different depths. Which can be the difference of finding fish. Sometimes finding the right depth when streamer fishing can be all that it takes to a successful day.
More often than not the fish will take your back fly but at times fish will key in on the front pattern. It can also be more entertaining to fish a brighter flashy fly up front as you can watch your fly as you retrieve it.
Hack #6 Sharpen Your Hooks:
The last hack of this blog is quite simple to make sure to sharpen your hooks. Streamer fly patterns can take a beating when your fish them. The flies rocket across the river landing on boulders as they drop into buckets. Tt times they can hit snags like sticks or rocks. All of this inevitably ends up dulling the hook of these flies.
A dull hook might result in lost fish. When trout eat a trout, they are usually reacting or ambushing. At times trout don’t have the best accuracy when feeding. By having a sharp hook you are assured that that hook securely set into the trout’s mouth.
Dull hooks can result in frustration as visual missed hooklets will upset the most patient of anglers. Another point to mention about hooks is to look for flies with a larger gap streamer style hook. This large gap can be easier to get a solid hook set with. Not to mention a larger fish will be securely hooked. So when you are buying streamer flies or hooks look for wider gap strong hooks.
Streamer fishing techniques can vary from angler to angler and river to river but these 6 hacks can be applied to every river. Hopefully, they result in more fish caught but importantantly a fun day on the water. To book a streamer fishing focused guided float fishing trip, contact the shop or visit us online here. We offer full day float trips that are a perfect way to learn and enjoy streamer fishing from the boat.
Patrick Perry Former Guide and Content Contributor @patperry.
Photos from VVA Ambassador Jason Paez @finsandtwins.