Everyone loves “meat” flies. I’m no exception — I love swingin’ meat to t-rex sized fish.
When I first got into streamers, I loved the idea of going after those dino sized trout you can’t get with a 22 sized BWO. But now, let’s face it, it’s an addiction. Years ago, I never thought of using hinged streamers. In fact, I was just only introduced to the streamer life about 2 years ago by a good fishing friend.
For the sake of keeping his name private, let’s call him John. John taught me the ins and outs of these beefy flies. I consider him to be a true streamer junkie. No, he didn’t live out of his van, but John is as dedicated as they come.
From what I can tell, a lot of new fly anglers have yet to try articulated streamers. Or at least they buy the streamer and it sits in the fly box as a collector’s item. Instead of me ranting on about my best streamer tactics or techniques, I figure I’d let more experienced anglers tell you theirs.
I asked these streamer enthusiasts what their top 3 tips were for fishing streamers.
Here’s the question I asked:
“If you could only pass on 3 tips for fly fishing streamers, what would they be?” I received the following responses.
1. Strip with the rod – it’s all about feel
2. Keep stripping – often times fish with half-ass it or just nip at it. If they don’t engulf it, don’t set! Keep stripping and they’ll come back to finish off their kill.
3. Strip to your feet – many fish will eat less than a couple of feet away from you, don’t stop stripping till the fly is at your feet.
1. Keep casting and keep moving. Cover a lot of water.
2. Vary your retrieve. Slow, fast, short, long, spazzy. Sometimes just let it swing.
3. Don’t be afraid to fish dirty water! Use a dark color fly and pound the banks!
1. When streamer fishing, make sure you have different weights of streamers.
2. Change your retrieve rate till you find what is working
3. Change flies for color as a last resort. I’d recommend changing flies only after you have tried the same fly fished with different retrieve styles.
Selecting tippet for streamers is much different than selecting for microscopic mayflies.
Bigger flies naturally require thicker tippet. Thankfully, using thicker tippet will not discourage shy fish from striking.
Look, fish can easily see tippet. But, large fish won’t bother to study what their meals are attached to. If they did, their lunch would get away. Do you typically see h-angry fish swim up and calmly eat a distressed minnow? No, that minnow gets slammed! That minnow’s lights get knocked out.
This aggressive behavior makes it easy to get away with thick tippets like 0x-3x. Plus, you are going to need these stronger tippets for what you are going to catch.
Thicker diameter tippet also helps with casting. See, streamers catch the wind when you’re shooting it through the air. This causes the fly to spin and twist the line.
Twisting in your line can cause weaknesses.
To combat this, you can three things.
One, use thicker tippet.
Two, tie a swivel into your leader. A swivel will prevent weaknesses and allow your line to spin freely.
Or three, shorten your leader. Less leader means less room for twisting. I’m sure there are plenty of other ways in addition to what I mentioned. But, these are some basic methods.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T TROUT SET
I see this all the time.
A fish takes and the inexperienced angler shoots the rod up to set the hook. Then the streamer pops out of the mouth and they lose the fish.
Because the hooks are bigger than average trout flies, lifting your rod up to set the hook will make the hook point pull up and miss a secure area in the mouth.
There is one easy way to ensure a great set.
Streamer fishermen use a simple technique called a “strip set.” Basically, you let the line set the hook.
To strip set, point your rod at the fly and strip the line until it is tight. You’ll feel the line tighten as the fish pulls back.
(Image from Vimeo)
Stripping the line allows your hook to set itself straight into the mouth.
It goes like this: strip, strip, strip, strip, *strike*, strip, fish on.
STRIPPING LIKE A MINNOW
Articulated streamers dart and swim just like the real thing.
But, you also have to make it act like the real thing.
While they strut their stuff, you have to make sure that they do it in the right direction.
Stripping towards fish can put them off. Baitfish don’t have the guts to swim directly towards larger trout, they flee. Large trout aren’t accustomed to pewny saplings attacking them so it may put them off the feed.
Make your streamer imitates a panicking baitfish or sculpin swimming away from the larger fish.
Swinging meat across currents is deadly. Many streamer junkies do this to cover a ton of water. Streamers swung down and across gives predators something to chase or, even, puts it in front of their face.
The basic technique is to cast out downstream 45° to the bank. Do a quick mend and follow your line as it completes its swing. Hold on tight because they don’t hit streamers lightly. You’ll fill the hard take and then do a quick strip set to make sure that thick hook is set properly.
PINCH YOUR BARBS
Big flies require bigger responsibility. I’ve seen many horror stories and have had many close calls, myself.
Whipping around heavy flies requires the right equipment and timing. A strong breeze can put your accuracy off and shoot your streamer into your back. For safety reasons, pinch your barb and have some sort of eye protection.
Not only that but makes it easier to take out for you and the fish. Although, there is a trick to barbless flies and that is to keep the pressure on. Any slack in your line will give them some wiggle room. But don’t beat yourself up if you lose a few without the barb, it’s natural.
Smooth and steady. Changing directions abruptly is only going to whip the heavily weighted streamer right into your head.
Have a fluid motion to your back cast and forward cast. But watch your streamer as you cast. If you shoot your fly too soon, you will lose momentum, decrease your accuracy, and probably tangle your rod up in the line. If you shoot it too late, your fly is on the ground. We are always taught a tight loop is the ideal. Take that idea — and roundhouse kick it out the window.
In this case, with so much weight on the end of the line, you’re going to want to widen your loops. Widening your loops keeps your fly from running into your line and from hitting your rod (possible damages).
The trick is to drop your rod tip a little bit on your forward cast.
The Belgian cast is a great way to keep your streamer from away from your head and makes for more accurate casting.
- Make a low angle back cast.
- Bring your rod up while your line is rolling out.
- Make a higher angle forward cast.