Last Thursday we were at the Philadelphia Angler's Club where Barry gave a presentation on Streamer Tactics for Big Fish. Our trout season opened here in northeastern Pennsylvania on Saturday and after several weeks of below average water levels, we got much needed rain and for the opener the stream was a tad high and off color. Perfect water for fishing streamers.
With Barry's talk fresh in my mind, I thought it would be a good time to talk a little about fishing streamers. Streamers represent things that swim through the water that a trout would like to eat - skulpins, minnows, crayfish, leeches and so on. Things that make a meal. Streamers can be fished unweighted or weighted using lead eyes, cone heads, lead can be wrapped on the hook before tying the fly, split shot can be added to the leader, etc. Unless the water is very shallow, we prefer a streamer with weighted eyes most of the time so we can get an effective jig-like motion when retrieving.
Most of the time we think the secret in in the retrieve and the depth at which the fly is being fished. If the water is cold and deep the fly has to be deep. If the fish are dormant on the bottom, a slower retrieve may be needed because the fish are not going to move far or move quickly. The fly has to be
in front of their nose which will require patience and perserverence to fish effectively being careful to cover every square foot of the stream where a fish may be holding. In these conditions, it's good to remember that if you're not occasionally getting stuck on the bottom or picking up leaves and bottom debris, your fly is not on the bottom. Too heavy a fly will be stuck continously, too light a fly will not be hung up at all. With experience, you will be able to feel the fly ticking the bottom as it is being slowly retrieved.
Varying the retrieve is important too until you find the one the fish like. Along with preferring a slow 12 - 14" retrieve in cold water, we almost always add a quick little twitch at the end of the retrieve to give the fly a jig-like action as it moves through the water. We've always thought that this twitch at the end of the retrieve often gets the attention of the fish and he decides to chase the fly. Other times we may find that a slow draw works and as the water warms up, we use faster retrieves. At the end of the retrieve when you're ready to pick up the cast and make a new one, always slowly twitch the fly to the surface with the rod tip if you can't see in the water. There are many times when this technique catches the fish because the he follows it all the way in but because we can't see him, we pull the fly away from him at the last second. We use this technique in saltwater too.
When fishing streamers, using a faster rod like the Sage ONE will help turn over these bigger heavier flies. A faster rod will also make it easier to roll cast. Using a roll cast, or two, to get more line out beyond the rod tip will make it easier to start the next cast. Don't hurry the cast though, power is needed to move the cast, but moving the rod through the casting stroke too quickly won't allow the rod to load and we'll have little control. Don't get power and speed confused. A shorter leader will help turn over the cast when fishing heavy streamers. If the water is off color, the fish will not usually be leader shy. Using a steelhead/salmon leader will help too because it has a heavier butt section which will help turn over the fly at the end of the cast.
Black has always been our first choice in streamer colors, especially in water that is off-color, but tan is a great skulpin color and olive works best for crayfish so, again, don't hesitate to experiment with all colors and all retrieves. Of course, our favorite streamers are Super Buggers which we tie in black, tan and olive. With weighted eyes it's easy to get the jig-like action in the water and the bulk of the fly pushes water getting the attention from the fish as it is being retrieved. It's the pefect early season streamer. Check it out in our store.
For fly tiers, you can see it tied at Tying the Super Bugger.