Streamer design has evolved and mutated since the invention or modification of the Wooly Bugger in the 1960’s. And similarly, streamer fishing tactics have also transformed from only casting your bugger diagonally to the opposite shore and swinging it through a run. Not to say that, that technique won’t work. But using differently weighted streamers you can have effective ways to target trout in different parts of the water column. This article is meant to provide some streamer fishing tips, and 3 ways to target trout and other predatory fish using different streamer actions and weights.
To get the most of your time on the water, which is never enough, you must maximize the effectiveness of your presentations. This means, if your streamer fishing, finding the right action, colors, and identifying the correct water column in which to target feeding or aggressive predators. Predatory fish such as trout will have a fight or flight response to a streamer being jerked, swam, or jigged through their lie. Fish will either eat a fly because they see it as food, or they will “hit” a fly to drive it away due to territorial aggression. If you are not getting strikes from places that you “know” hold fish, it might be time to change your presentation and likely the water column that you are fishing.
Due mainly to blind aggression, fish willing to crush a streamer are not leader shy and not at all concerned about the thickness of your tippet. Use heavy tippet! Please learn from my mistake and do not cut your nymphs or dry flies off and tie on a Sex Dungeon to the end of your 4x tippet. Not only will it not cast efficiently, but you will most certainly be taught a lesson by the biggest, baddest beast around, and lose a $10 streamer in the process. Keep a separate leader in your pack, just for streamers for that magic hour just at sundown. I use a leader from 5 - 7 ft. in length, usually ending at nothing less than 12 lbs test. But, if you are anything like me, you have already learned from this mistake and broke off on what you know, was the biggest trout you have ever seen.
There are more than just 3 “actions” of streamers, but there are 3 generic types or actions that find most useful when referring to streamers; Unweighted, Lightly weighted, and Jigs. Unweighted streamers are streamers that do not dive immediately after the pause of your strip, and are most often used in combination with sinking line, or my favorite, a sinking poly-leader. Lightly weighted streamers usually have cone heads or dumbbell eyes and give the streamer a slow sinking action on the pause. Heavily weighted jig streamers immediately start to sink on the pause and are fished bouncing off or near bottom.
Unweighted streamers are almost always fished with a sinking line or a sinking Poly-leader, and fished in the top half of the water column. Poly leaders have become an MVP of my fly box, and I will not leave home without one, and the changing of leaders is worth the
time it takes… especially when a tactic change is warranted. Unweighted streamers, like Lefty’s Deceiver, Kelly Galloup’s Zoo Cougar, Mike Schmidt’s Double Deceiver, and my favorite, Gunnar Brammer’s Hollow Point all have suspended slide when paused. It is the fly version of a suspending Rapala, and it is sometimes the trigger predators are looking for. Unweighted streamer presentation is used less frequently by fly fisherman, and may be just what the doctor ordered on highly pressured streams and rivers. Or, what you should use if you have already hit likely holding areas with no luck using weighted streamer options.
2. Lightly Weighted
Lightly weighted streamers are extremely versatile and common. Most streamers have some sort of weight added either in the form of dumbbell eyes, cone heads, lead wraps or a combination of the three. These types of flies do not require a sinking line or leader and can relatively quickly get down a few inches to a couple of feet. Streamers like Kelly Galloup’s Sex Dungeon, Boogie Man, and Charlie Craven’s Gonga and are all streamers that have been proven effective for targeting larger trout, and are usually fished in the top two thirds of the water column. The above flies fish differently for sure, but have a similar niche to fill in your box as they all work about the same level of the water column. And through manipulation of your line you can provide these articulated feather dancers with sexy moves to meet the needs of any willing brown trout.
Heavy. That is what I think when I see a piece of water that is moving quickly and/or is very deep. Casting heavy streamers isn’t pretty, but sometimes the most effective presentation is to get down all the way to the depths of Hades and bounce the bottom. In these cases, you need a fly that can quickly get to the bottom.These flies target the bottom third of the water column. Sculpin Helmets, by Flymen Fishing Co. do the job excellently, so do adding large tungsten dumbbell eyes or a large tungsten head to any streamer. These weight devices completely change the action to that of a jig. An up and down jigging
presentation might be exactly what triggers the ferocious strike from that brown trout you know lives underneath that root ball. You know, the one that you always fish and never see one fish. Oh yeah, that is the home of Hog Johnson. He owns this joint, and he isn’t coming out of that root ball for your size 6 wooly bugger. Effective jig flies include Rich Strolis’ Headbanger Sculpin, Solitude Fly Co’s Sculpzilla, and any fly that is tied with enough weight to get down fast.
To review, by using streamers with different weights, you can cover more of the water column effectively. And a different presentation, maybe using an unweighted streamer, might be the ticket to pressured fish in often visited water. If you already have weighted and lightly weighted streamers, attach a sinking poly leader, grab your favorite unweighted streamer and watch as the streamer dances into the gaping mouth of a giant.
Two articulated streamers weighted differently to fish different parts of the water column.
Same streamer: top is heavily weighted, middle is weighted with lead eyes, bottom is unweighted.