“The tug is the drug.” “Streamer addict.” “Streamer junkie.” “Strip it and rip it.”
Sounding more like lines spoken by pro fishermen on the bass circuit, the list of catchy euphemisms streamer anglers use is lengthy.
Fortunately, late fall is when streamer anglers are less trivial and more mainstream. And this fall they should bear the fruits of their addiction because with abundant low water conditions across most of the US West, this streamer season looks to be one of the best in years. But before you commit fully to fishing the big stuff, here are a few tips.
Get the terminology correct
“Fishing streamers” means to fish large flies by casting and retrieving them back, dead-drifting them, or dragging them in the current. The roots of the term come from Atlantic salmon angling because the patterns used were called streamers. However in most trout fishing circles, streamers refer to baitfish or crayfish patterns, including Wooly Buggers, sculpins, crayfish, minnows, and anything large that swims in a river or lake.
Change your mindset
If you’re going to be a committed streamer angler, and one day hope to be a self-proclaimed “streamer junkie,” you need to accept quality over quantity. This means fishing all day and catching only one fish – but it might be a trophy. Or you sacrifice catching anything at all for the excitement of seeing a trout ambush your 4-inch-long fly, only to miss the hook and leave your heart racing from another near-catch. If you don’t believe missing fish is as fun as catching them, streamer fishing may not be for you.
Learn to double haul
This advanced cast is crucial to success in the streamer game. It adds distance and line speed to your cast, which makes fishing heavyweight flies easier. A casting “haul” is when you pull on the fly line with your line hand, doubling your ability to load the rod. Being able to air it out 50 or 60 feet can be effective by covering a lot of water. Learning it takes discipline and practice – like a short game in golf. Book a casting lesson, read Lefty Kreh’s “Modern Fly-Casting Methods,” or YouTube your way to success.
Adjust your gear arsenal
Longer, heavier rods make casting big flies easier. A streamer fiend will typically use 6- and 7-weight rods in lengths of 9 feet 6 inches and 10 feet. The heavy artillery is ideal for large rivers such as the Yellowstone and Colorado. For smaller rivers and creeks, 5-weight rods will suffice but consider 9-foot and 9 foot-6-inch rods. For lakes and large rivers a sinking or sink-tip fly line can also prove successful as the fly gets in front of the fish that much faster.
Weight for it …
When fishing streamers the fly must be at the right depth and get there quickly. A weighted streamer enables you to effectively cover more water because you’re not waiting for the fly to sink. Many anglers use flies with plenty of weight tied into the body of the fly and have each pattern in several different weights. Generally, three weight combinations will do: minimal and medium weight, as well as cannonball style.
Whether you sink or swim in the streamer game depends on your dedication. Junkies don’t become junkies overnight – it’s a slow, gradual process and you don’t typically know you’re there until you fish all day and catch one fish; but it’s a big one, and that’s when a new recruit is ordained.