Dick Magill Chronicles: Streamer Fishing for Nice One
Streamer fishing is definitely the most versatile form of fly fishing when targeting predatory fish
Not just trout but all predatory fish. When fishing a streamer you have the ability to imitate any number of prey opportunities. From the obvious like small bait fish and leeches, to the not so obvious like crayfish and mice. Hell, you could even make a streamer to look like a shrimp or squid. The possibilities are endless. The only real goal is to imitate a large prey item. Very fun!
When tying streamers my goal is to create something that will elicit some kind of strike
That can mean a few different things. For example, you could design a streamer to look and move exactly like a small bait fish. Predatory fish will see it and probably/hopefully try to eat it because it looks and moves like their prey. You could also go the complete opposite route and tie something with loud colors that looks and swims like a newly hatched sea monster. Streamers tied in this fashion are trying to elicit what is called a reactionary strike. This is basically where you startle or anger a fish and it simply attacks your fly. A great tactic for finicky fish!
…swims like a newly hatched sea monster
Understand your tying/fishing goals
Before you sit down at the vice or shell out top dollar for some rad streamers you should take a moment to analyze the possible prey species on the body of water you will be fishing. Since I spend close to 90% of my fishing days on the Missouri I try and come up with patterns that imitate the food swimming in the Mo. There are the obvious options like baby trout, Whitefish, Sculpins, Leeches and Crayfish. Then there are a couple species of juvenile fish that are often overlooked. These include but are not limited to juvenile Sucker fish, Walleye, Perch, Pike, and Burbot. If you have never heard of or seen a Burbot, they are the only Gadiform fresh water fish. Pretty gnarly creatures, and big trout love to eat the little ones.
Observation is a key component of catching
This past weekend marked the first time I was able to observe little baby sucker fish on the Missouri and the experience has me rethinking a couple different streamer patterns for the heart of this winter. I encountered the little suckers when I was walking across a small frozen bay and my foot went through the soft ice. To my surprise several small fish washed up onto the ice.
…nothing but baby sucker fish patterns
After scooping a few into a fly cup to check them out I was able to see their little sucker faces. I’m not sure of the exact species as I am not an ichthyologist, but I was able to get a great look at their coloration and patterning. Basically they were brown with black blotches and a lighter almost tan colored belly. Before this experience I never really fished streamers that are flavored brown and black. Nor do I typically strip streamers that small. Well, I can assure you this next weekend I will be throwing nothing but baby sucker fish patterns to see how effective it might be.
You kinda gotta have a plan
There are endless approaches to how a person may select and cycle through streamers. Cycling through your box until you find what the fish want can be the difference between a few chases and a ten fish streamer day. If a fish does chase your streamer and doesn’t fully commit then you are close to patterning the fish, but something is off. It could be the cadence of your retrieve, the color of your streamer or even the size of your streamer.
…just change the size of your streamer…
Since it’s the quickest thing to change, try a new cadence and speed. If you are still only getting chases or if action stops completely then the problem was probably size or color of your streamer. It can be tedious but try the same color fly in a couple different sizes. If the fish still aren’t fully committing then it’s definitely time to change the color of your streamer.
Fly Lines make a difference
Like everything else in the fly fishing world, there are more opinions on streamer lines than actual line models exist. From floating to full sinking and everything in between. I personally am a big fan of Scientific Anglers Sonar series of lines. The I/S3/S5 is probably my favorite out of the series. It’s fairly aggressive and gets your flies deep quick. I even fish it in the summer months as it allows me to fish my streamers at break-neck speeds and still keep them in the strike zone. If I can avoid it, I really try to not fish streamers on a floating line. To each their own, but in my humble opinion a full sinking line simply imparts far more action to your streamer.
Rods matter too
You can absolutely go streamer fishing with a 5wt. A good shot can also drop a bull Elk with a .22 caliber rifle. Just because it can be done does not always make it the best option. Now, I’m not telling you to go out and buy a brand new rod so that you may experience the thrills of streamer fishing. But you sure can at HH of Craig! You probably already have a good option in your quiver. Most trout anglers own a 6wt. Perfect. If you have an 8wt, that’s great too. Once you get really into streamer fishing you may want to dabble with a 7wt. All three options are good as they will allow you to not only throw aggressive full sinking lines but also allow you to cast all of the large super fun streamers that elicit savage eats from big fish.
Winter and Summer!
If you truly want to unlock your fly fishing potential and discover the pleasures of tricking large predatory fish, streamer fishing is the way to go. See how many species you can trick this winter and summer. You won’t regret it. I am continually thinking about add’l ways and methods to trick those big boys. Having the willingness to change, in any discipline of fly fishing, can be directly correlated to your catch rate! Think about your game, encourage yourself to try new flies and techniques, find the correct tool, and execute this year!