Dead Drifting Streamers and Buggers
This week our head guide, Jim Kukorlo, gives us some pointers on dead drifting streamers. I know, you always strip and retrieve your streamers. Well, Jim has some new ways for you to fish your streamers.
The majority of fly fishermen associate fishing streamers with casting across or down stream and retrieving the fly by stripping line and changing the speed of the retrieve to entice the trout to eat the fly. This is probably the most common method of fishing a streamer not only for trout but other species of fish and it's a very productive way to catch fish on streamers!
I will be the first to admit that fishing streamers is one of my weaker forms of fly fishing. Knowing this, I will sometimes dedicate a day on the water to fish streamers exclusively regardless of whether I'm catching fish or not. On this day I like to try out new patterns and techniques to improve and gain confidence in my streamer fishing.
One day, many years ago I was fishing a streamer and one of my sons was having an issue with his fly line, so I let the streamer drift along the bottom of the stream while I helped my son and a trout picked the fly off the bottom. Some days it is better to be lucky than good….. or so I thought at the moment.
After landing the trout I continued casting and retrieving the streamer with no success. My son yelled over to me “Dad, why don't you just let it drift to the bottom, it worked before,” so I cast upstream allowing the streamer to dead drift down through the hole and I caught another trout.
I was surprised by catching a trout dead drifting a streamer. It was to become a technique that I often use when fishing a brown or black wooly bugger.
Next time you are on the water take a close look along the side of the stream at all of the minnows, bait fish and crayfish you see dead or dying in the water. Dying or wounded bait fish makes an easy meal for a hungry trout.
Fishing Technique – The streamers I use for dead drifting are light weight and streamline so they drift naturally along the bottom of the stream. If I need any weight to keep it on the bottom I add split shot 18 to 24 inches above the fly so it can move with the current showing signs of a struggling dying fish.
Cast the fly upstream and fish it like you would dead drifting a nymph pattern. On occasion I will use a strike indicator to keep the fly in direct contact with the fly line and to increase hooking ability. Twitching the fly as it drifts downstream can add life to the fly and be sure to do a slow strip retrieve at the end of each drift.
Streamer Patterns – Marabou streamers, white wooly buggers and white and natural rabbit fur zonkers are my favorite streamers patterns tied on size 10 and 12 streamer hooks.
Dead Drifting Wooly Buggers and Cathy's Super Buggers – For me a wooly bugger-type fly is a totally different animal than a streamer fly. I always think of bugger flies as a crawfish, hellgrammite or large stone fly imitation. I know most fly fishermen will fish a wooly bugger fly by stripping and retrieving it like a streamer. I hardly ever do, I prefer to dead drift and jig the fly off the bottom of the stream as it moves downstream through the pool or riffle. Keep slack out of the line by using the three finger retrieve and lift the rod tip to jig the fly off the bottom of the stream. At the end of the drift I will do a stripping retrieve to see if any trout were following the fly. Fishing buggers and super buggers is great way to cover water and search for trout.
I tie my buggers several different ways for use in different water conditions throughout the season. In shallow riffles and quiet pools I use a brass bead head and add a few wraps of lead behind the bead head. If you don't tie your own flies you can add a split shot to your leader and slide the split shot down to the knot above the fly. This is a technique that we used in the early 70's way before bead heads were available to put on the hook. With the split shot down on the knot the fly now becomes a jiggy bugger.
Tungsten beads on a jig hook work well in faster and deeper water conditions. For those really high and fast water days, I will add extra wraps of lead wire behind the tungsten bead along with a sinking tip line to get the fly down in the trout zone.
Cathy's Super Bugger with the dumb bell eyes is the perfect design for a jiggy bugger. The thicker body and rubber legs move water as the fly is being retrieved or jigged along the bottom and everything about the fly makes it life like. Black, brown and olive are my favorite colors and is the most successful bugger pattern I have in my fly box.
Another twist to dead drifting a bugger fly is to add two feet of 3x tippet to the bend of the hook and trail a smaller fly behind the bugger. The bigger fly can get a trout’s attention and he will almost always opt to take the smaller fly. The trailing fly can be anything from nymphs, eggs, worms, and even a smaller bugger or streamer.
This technique works well in deep swirly pools with current moving in several different directions making it difficult to add enough weight to get a nymph to the bottom.
Fly Rod, Reel and Line – I always have a 9ft 6wt fly rod with a fighting butt rigged in my SUV ready to go. I carry two reels, one has a RIO Streamer tip line and the other has a RIO 24ft 250 grain sinking tip for high and fast moving water. When using the 250 grain line I switch over to a 7 wt fly rod to handle the heavier sinking tip line.
As a complete fly fisherman, you want to fish and tie flies that imitate what fish eat. If you have fished during a spinner fall you can relate to fishing dying insects. It's the end cycle of the mayfly and an easy meal for the trout feeding on dead mayflies lying spent on the water.
A crippled or dying minnow or crayfish is an easy meal for a hungry trout. Dead drifting a streamer or wooly bugger is another technique for the fly fisherman to present his or her fly to the trout. Dead drifting streamers and wooly buggers could be just the thing to make or break a day on the water. I find it exciting and fun to try new techniques and to think outside of the box.
If you have questions or comments please feel free to contact me through the Comments section below if you’re reading from a browser. If you’re reading from email, go to the top of the blog and choose to view online.
1 Room at Turneffe Flats
We have one room for 2 anglers or 1 angler and 1 non-angler at Turneffe Flats Lodge, April 25-May 2, 2020. Turneffe offers not only great flats fishing for all the species – bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook, etc., but also a variety of superb accommodations and non-angling activities. Our group is a nice mix of singles, couples, and non anglers. Check out the details and then call Frontiers (800-245-1950) to grab the last room!
February Fly Special
Our February Fly Special includes a dozen bead head Hare's Ear Nymphs and a dozen bead head Pheasant Tail Nymphs, each selection boxed, with a RIO Powerflex Plus 3X leader (a $45 value). Get your boxes ready for spring and save money too! $37.00
American Angler Magazine
We knew it was coming but what a surprise when we opened our current issue of American Angler and saw the profile on us! Thank you Tom Keer and American Angler.