Streamer fishing is an incredibly effective and versatile way to fish for brown trout, bass, pike, and musky. If you’re not having any luck on the water with your dry flies or nymphs, switching to streamers should turn the day around for you!
Here’s our Fly Fisher Pro complete guide to streamer fishing, from the gear you need to the best presentation tactics and our top tips and tricks to get started! Read on to find out more.
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What is Streamer Fishing?
Streamer fly fishing is an exciting, fun, and productive way to fish, especially if you want to catch some BIG fish! If you’re looking for a way to get your adrenaline pumping, try streamer fishing: The eat is often explosive and highly visible, making it an amazing experience.
It all comes down to using streamers, or flies that resemble smaller baitfish, as well as other common prey like leeches and crayfish. These flies work like a dream because brown trout and other gamefish just love to eat smaller fish.
You can use both smaller and larger streamers with a lot of success depending on the water conditions and size of the fish you’re aiming to catch.
Some anglers criticize streamer fishing, but the truth is that if nothing else is working, casting out a streamer probably will! It’s ideal if you’re fishing murky or stained water and the fish just aren’t going for your flies.
The Best Gear for Streamer Fishing
You’ll need at least a 6 or 7 weight fly rod for streamer fishing to give you the power to get your flies out there. But if you’re planning on fishing some of the larger streamer patterns, we’d recommend you go for a fast action 8 weight rod.
Find a great fly rod for streamer fishing here.
You can use a 4/5 weight rod if you’re only fishing smaller flies. However, anything below an 8 wt rod will struggle to chuck out those big, heavy patterns that work so well for catching trophy size fish.
When it comes to choosing the best fly line for streamers fly fishing, consider where you’ll be fishing. Floating lines perform best on smaller rivers and streamers. But if you’re going to be fishing on fast-flowing, deep water, go for a sinking tip line instead so you can fish more of the water.
Ideally, you also want to go for a thicker tippet in 3X or even 2X so that you can turn over the streamer you’re casting.
The Best Streamer Flies
When it comes to selecting streamers, you don’t need to be too picky. It’s less of a science than choosing your nymph or dry fly pattern.
Having said that, there are some killer patterns around, both classics and some great modern streamers too. You can buy the most popular streamer patterns in all fly fishing shops, or even have a go at fly tying and make some of your own.
If you fancy giving fly tying a bash, check out some of the fly tying tutorials and videos online. You’ll find them for almost every pattern imaginable.
Some of the best streamer patterns include the classic Wooly Bugger, the Muddler Minnow, Lynch’s Double D, and of course the Freshwater Clouser. There are many, many more great flies, however, so feel free to try them out and see what you like best.
How To Fish Streamers
So you’re excited about giving streamer fishing a go, but now you’re wondering how to fish streamers. Here are our top tips on how to fish streamers successfully!
You’ll be pleased to hear that it’s not too tricky to get started with streamer fishing. In fact, it’s simpler and more straightforward to master than dry fly or nymph fly fishing. There are no complicated presentation techniques to get your head around.
But you will need to learn a whole new range of methods, strategies, and techniques when you first start streamer fishing.
You can fish with streamers from a boat or from the bank. By fishing from a boat, you can cover more water, but both methods work well. Either way, your first cast is crucial. You need to get your presentation and accuracy perfect right from the first time – try to get your fly within 6 inches of the bank if possible.
Most streamers are fished with an active retrieve, but don’t be afraid to vary things a little. Try out different retrieve styles, such as a strip and pause or a steady, slow retrieve.
Casting upstream will allow you to get your fly into deeper strike zones in the water, and it will also imitate a minnow’s natural swimming pattern.
Different techniques work best in different locations, so be versatile and adapt to the conditions and how the fish are behaving.
How To Fish Streamers in a Lake
When fly fishing streamers in a lake, try an active retrieve with erratic pauses. You can create a natural and convincing imitation of a baitfish moving through the water column with this technique, and you’ll be sure to hook some fish. Another useful tactic to try is dead drifting your fly.
Make sure you get your streamer into the strike zone by using weighted streamers or a sinking tip line. You’ll find sink tip lines available in a range of sink rates, depending on how deep and how quickly you want to get your fly down in the water.
How To Fish a Streamer from the Bank
When you’re fishing a streamer from the bank, one of the best tactics is to cast to the other shore, less than 6 inches from the bank. You want to imitate a small baitfish that has been spooked from its hiding place.
Follow this by mending downstream and start stripping short, quick lengths to draw the attention of any nearby fish. Hopefully, they will mistake your fly for a distressed or injured baitfish that would make a tasty bite to eat.
Now, allow your fly to drift naturally across the river towards you. Trout and other fish go crazy for it, so keep a keen eye out to detect any strikes!
How to Fish Streamers in Small Streams
The best way to fish streamers in small streams is to cast to pools, drop offs, and slower water, especially where there is overhanging vegetation. For little streams, use your smaller flies for the best success.
One of the best techniques is the classic roll cast and mend for streamers on small creeks and streams. Experiment with both swinging your fly through the water or using a dead drift tactic – both work well. When dead drifting, cast your fly upstream and maintain a tight line on the retrieve so that you don’t miss any strikes.
Another great tip is to use irregular strips with a short pause in between, as this creates a natural, realistic action and a flowing movement. You’ll be sure to get the fish chasing your streamer this way!
The Best Time to Fish Streamers
The best time to fish streamers is at dawn and dusk, when the fish are active, hungry, and looking for something nutritious to eat!
Another excellent time to tie on a streamer fly is during bad weather, such as a sudden rainstorm. Heavy rainfall will boost the water levels, sweeping smaller baitfish out of their hideaways into the main water column.
The result is a feeding frenzy for the trout and other larger fish. If you want to make the most of this, don’t hesitate to throw your streamer out there and get in on the action!
Streamer Fishing: Tips & Tricks
Needs some more tips and tricks to help you get started? We’ve got you covered!
Cover the Water
Don’t waste too much time by casting out to the same spot repeatedly. If a trout hasn’t gone for your fly on the first pass, it’s unlikely to change its mind. You’ll have a better chance of catching something if you cover the water, casting to a new spot each time.
Fish the whole river, even spots that don’t initially seem promising. You’ll often be surprised by a strike in shallower areas or spots that just don’t look ‘fishy’.
Experiment With Two-Fly Rigs
Double your chances of making a catch by setting up a double streamer rig. This way, you can tie on two contrasting flies in different colors, sizes, and action. You’ll be able to work out what the fish are going for, and you’ll catch more fish.
The best way to set this up is to attach your second fly with a tag, leaving between 2 -3 feet between your flies.
Practice the Tuck and Twitch
One key technique that many fly fishers neglect is the good old tuck and twitch. When you cast, you should immediately tuck the line under your finger, and then start twitching the fly as soon as it hits the water.
By doing this, you ensure a natural, effective presentation. Work on your tuck and twitch, and it will significantly improve your streamer performance.
Streamer Fishing FAQ
Here’s our quickfire FAQ section of the top questions anglers have about streamer fishing:
What do streamers imitate?
Streamers mainly imitate baitfish, but they can also mimic leeches, crayfish, hellgrammites, and other aquatic insects.
When can I fish streamers?
Streamers work best on overcast or rainy days, especially after a sudden heavy rainstorm. Another great time to fish streamers is when there’s no hatch on and the fishing is slow.
On brighter days, you might struggle with large streamer patterns. When the sun is shining, go for slower, smaller flies to boost your chances of making a catch.
Where should I fish streamers?
You can fish streamers on almost any water successfully, from rivers and lakes to streams, creeks, and reservoirs. Using streamers pays off in shallow water, but it’s particularly suited to deeper pools where you’ll find hidden underwater structures.
What color streamer should I fish?
When choosing what color fly to fish, you don’t need to be too picky. It ranges from area to area, so your best bet is to get recommendations from a local fisherman.
However, the old adage tends to be true: ‘Bright day, bright fly. Dark day, dark fly’. If the sun is shining, tie on a white fly. When it’s overcast, go for a brown or black fly instead.
The Wrap Up
Every fly fishing enthusiast should give streamer fishing a try at least once. Some people look down on it, but don’t let them put you off. It’s an exciting, addictive experience when a brown trout explodes at your fly!
If you’ve found this fly fishing streamer guide useful, why not share it with your friends over on Facebook or Twitter? Don’t forget to check out some of our other fly fishing guides on the blog too!
Hey, I’m Ben, a fly fisherman for over 20 years and also an aspiring blogger. I’ve been into fly fishing since my graduation from spin fishing when I was 12 years old. I started flyfisherpro.com to help introduce as many people into this amazing sport. Tight lines everyone!
You can read more on our about page here.
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