by Chad Shmukler
Once anglers achieve success with streamers, they often focus intently on fishing big flies. The reason is simple and well known: big flies catch big fish. There’s also a rush that comes with streamer fishing that doesn’t come with other brands of fly fishing. Streamer fishing is distinctly different than dry fly fishing and nymphing and in most respects is more dynamic and varied terrain. Unlike these other tactics where following a few basic rules can lead to consistent success, the streamer fisherman needs to approach the water with a more predatory, evaluative eye in order to produce results.
Streamer fishing is about the world of swimming prey. Whether that prey is smaller trout, baitfish such as minnows, sculpins, leeches or something else entirely — it swims. And imitating a swimming creature requires a different skill set and approach than imitating a drifting or floating one. Beginner streamer anglers will often try to apply the rules of the dry fly and nymphing worlds to that of the streamer fishing world and end up frustrated when the results don’t come.
The key is improving your streamer fishing is changing your way of thinking. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
DITCH THE LEADER
Streamer fishing, like all other fly fishing tactics, is about control. While a long leader can be an asset to the dry fly fisherman trying to control the drag on his high-floating dun imitation, it is the bane of the the streamer fisherman. Despite this well held fact, walk into any fly shop and you’ll find extruded, tapered streamer leaders topping 9 feet in length and I’ve found no shortage of “streamer leader” recipes that call for 4 different sizes of monofilament lines in order to create a 6-8 foot concoction or other similar nonsense.
When fishing big, swimming flies, control is about connection with the fly. A shorter leader means a better connection. Additionally, leader-shyness or leader stealth is largely a non-factor.
There’s really no reason to have a leader at all, at least not what one would traditionally consider a leader. Instead, go with a straight piece of monofilament or fluorocarbon. 3 to 4 feet will do just fine. When in doubt, go shorter.
The only exception to this rule would be if you’re fishing only a floating line, in which case you may need to go longer in order to get your fly to sink properly. But if you’re fishing a sinking line or sinking tip — as you most likely should be — keep it short.
FISH TO FISH
Most anglers approach streamer fishing from a covering water perspective, unlike dry fly fishing where an angler will fish to a specific rising fish or to specific lies, hoping to entice a strike. As such, they are fishing to fish, rather than just covering water. But streamer anglers should be fishing to fish as well. That’s not to say that covering water isn’t an effective tactic, it is to say that reading water doesn’t go out the window just because you’re streamer fishing. In tandem with covering water, streamer anglers should be identifying…
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