Fishing with streamers is one of the most exciting and productive ways to catch large trout, and fall is one of the best times of year to do so. Whether you are casting them tight to the banks from a driftboat or stripping them through fast pockets and riffles on foot, streamers can draw chases and eats from some of the largest ambush predators in the river. The art of the streamer is not an easy one to master, but if you have the right gear and remember a few simple tips, you can catch big fish almost anywhere. Here is a quick list of things to keep in mind for this year’s fall streamer season.
Rod, Line, Leader, and Tippet
The right gear is essential for streamer success. These big flies are usually too heavy to cast effectively with the average 5 weight fly rod, especially in the wind, so it is important to use a fast action 6 or 7 weight rod to make long, accurate casts. My streamer rod is a 9 foot, 6 weight Sage One with a fighting butt, and I have it paired up with a Hatch Finatic 5 Plus reel and Scientific Anglers Sharkwave GPX floating fly line. This setup allows me to deliver even my heaviest streamers to the exact spots I want all day long without getting tired.
The next important piece of gear is your leader and tippet. Usually, the aggressive trout that we are targeting with streamers are not leader shy, so I like to use strong, fluorocarbon tippet. I use a blood knot to connect a two foot long section of 16 lb Rio Fluoroflex Saltwater tippet to the thick part of a used tapered leader. This strong and relatively stiff leader and tippet combo turns over the big bugs with ease on both long and short casts, and helps me wear out big fish quickly. Every part of streamer fishing is easier with the right setup, so make sure not to skimp on your streamer gear.
Casting / Roll Casting
Even with the right equipment in hand, I see a lot of good fly casters struggle to cast heavy streamers. The most common problem I deal with while teaching streamer fishing is the collapsed loop on the forward part of the cast, which leads to the heavy fly hitting the rod on its way to the water. This happens in part because the rod was never loaded properly in the first place, and the best way to fix it is to add more energy to the backcast, and a longer pause at the top of the casting stroke. Also, I like to open up my casting stroke a little while throwing streamers (think 9:30 to 2:30 rather than 10 and 2).
The roll cast can be a valuable tool while streamer fishing on foot. To get the big flies to turn over properly, you have to really pay attention to the timing of your cast. Wait too long to launch forward, and you will never get the bug out of the water, don’t wait long enough, and the cast will hiccup and fall short. When you are practicing roll casting streamers, start with small casts and gradually work your way up to longer ones.
Where to Look / Where to Stand
The wonderful thing about streamer fishing is that you can search for fish in almost every square inch of water in the river. Big, predatory fish can live in all depths and speeds of water so it is important to leave no stone unturned when presenting streamers. I am constantly surprised by the size and quality of fish that chase streamers out of shallow riffles – even on bright, sunny days in September and October. It is easier to cover a lot of water while fishing streamers from a boat, but I think you can be more thorough on foot.
When I approach a long run on foot, I start at the top and fish the fast water first. I cast in the small, turbulent pockets behind rocks and strip the fly either across the current or straight downstream. Two or three casts in each spot is usually enough to find out if the resident will eat it or not. For shallow riffles, I cast across the river and try to strip the fly back to me at a 90 degree angle to the current. After I have exhausted the fast, upper portion of the run, I begin to make my way downstream, casting across the river and stripping the fly back slowly across the current below me.
Along with a strong strip set, these simple tips will help you catch more (and bigger) trout with streamers this fall. As always, the best way to learn more about new fishing techniques is to hire a professional guide for a day of one-on-one instruction on foot or in the boat.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer