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Freshwater / Streams & Rivers

Streamer Basics

STREAMERS: What, When, and How?

Depending on your fishing circle the word Streamer can be used with enthusiasm or in detest. Some fly fisherman wouldn’t go to the water without a Streamer and others rather not fish than use one. Regardless, those who use Streamers love them and I personally believe anyone should give them a try.

What exactly is a Streamer?

The definition of a Streamer seems to always be expanding. Especially now with the popularity of micro streamers. Roughly speaking, a streamer is a fly used to mimic aquatic prey which are not insects. These flies mimic a score of creatures, the most popular being crawdads, baitfish, immature trout, leeches (scientifically speaking leeches are not insects), frogs, etc. Due to the size of what they are made to imitate streamers are typically much larger than the flies we use to match insect.

While streamers can effectively be fished with a dead-drift (moving at the same speed as the current) many times they are not fished in this manner. Instead, streamers are often stripped though a river. With differing speeds and a variety of strip and pause motions, Streamers are often made to look as if they are moving through the water the same way the creature they mimic would swim.

When Should You Use Them?

One of the great benefits to fishing a streamer is that to some degree it can always be a useful fishing tool. Waters which are home to crawfish, leeches, and other large yummy creatures tend to have these food sources available to fish year around. This implies that you could presumably fish with them year around. Not to say that fish won’t sometimes prefer smaller insects, but streamers can be a great fall back.

There are two factors which may limit or completely dismiss your ability to use streamers. The first, is temperature. During extreme cold water conditions fish are not apt to expend too much energy chasing something large. They can grow lethargic and prefer to dine on slower food such as insects flushed to them.

How Are Streamers Used?

The classic streamer rig is simple an appropriately sized leader (typical shorter in length than those used in nymph rigs, I prefer a 5’ leader while throwing streamers). A Streamer can be attached directly to a leader or to a piece of tippet. The knot used is a personal choice, some use the standard Improved Clinch Knot. Others choose to use the Non-slip Loop Knot to hold their streamer. The loop knot allows an extra level of movement in the flies.

Many variations of rigging streamers can be very beneficial. For example, by adding weight a few inches above the streamer gives it extra movement. Streamers can also be used in multiple fly rigs, though it is strongly encouraged that the streamer is placed at the point of the rig (fly closest to the fly line).

Fishing a Streamer is very freestyle and has endless “correct” techniques. Streamers can be used in both rivers and lakes. The key to success with Streamers is to properly mimic the motion of the prey they trout believes the fly to be. This could include stripping the fly in quickly, slowly. Using short strips or long, or even simply dead drifting the fly as in the same manner as an insect pattern. The important part is to use a lot of variation until you find the speed and motion the fish are attracted to. Mix it up and enjoy the process of figuring it out.

Streamers can be a very fun way to feel an aggressive take from a fish. It can also be a saving grace on a day which might have left you skunked. I encourage everyone to try it after all, The tug is the drug…Right?

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