I live in the Northwest. I absolutely fell in love with dry fly fishing. There’s nothing like seeing a hungry cutty rising to your fly in clear water. Time slows down, you see the take, set the hook, and it's fish on!
Unfortunately, the window for dry fly fishing is limited. While I have caught many a respectable trout dry fly fishing, there’s no other technique that consistently produces large fish than streamer fishing. The biggest mistake folks make (and trust me, I've made it!) is that they approach streamer fishing similar to other kinds of fishing.....looking for seams, good drifts and likely spots.
Changing your mindset.
To be a good streamer fisherman, you need to change your mindset. Streamer fishing is closer to hunting, stalking, and imitating a swimming baitfish, than it is finding the perfect drift. In this way, it is far more interactive than other methods. Your goal is to stalk the fish, predict the “swim” of the streamer, and imitate a struggling baitfish.
Most anglers view streamer fishing with a “cover a lot of water perspective.” While this is true, targeting fish is also important. A dry fly fisherman will target a rising trout, read the water, and try to determine the appropriate drift.
In streamer fishing, you want to target likely underwater holding lies and present in likely strike areas. If you’re confident that you have identified water that likely holds fish, it can only help to present your fly to that position in the stream from a multitude of angles using a variety of tactics.
Don’t follow the leader.
Use a short leader, you’ll have better control over your streamer. Unless you are steamer fishing with floating line, a long leader will do you more harm than good. Leader shyness is not important in streamer fishing. Four feet of fluorocarbon on the end of your sink tip or weighted line is more than enough.
The stripped retrieve and the down and across swing are the most commonly employed streamer fishing methods. Why? Well, let’s start with the fact that they produce results. However, that’s not the only way a fish swims.
Baitfish, which you are trying to imitate, swim upstream, downstream, dart to escape a predator, can swim erratically when injured, swim to shallow water, and swim to deep water. The point here is not to be a one-trick-pony. Try different methods of retrieval and presentation. You’ll be glad you did.
One overlooked technique is the dead drift. That’s right, the dead drift. If you’ve got a fast run, dead drifting your streamer will help get the fly down…so give plenty of line. But guess what, a stunned baitfish is going to dead drift for a bit…..think that’s an easy meal for a hungry trout? You betcha. The point here is to mix it up a bit.
Streamer fishing can be very rewarding. A fish’s diet is 90% below the water’s surface, so the odds are in your favor. Stalking big fish, targeting a strike zone, and then feeling that bump during a retrieve can be very exhilarating.
Tight Lines and Screaming Drags