Why streamers are so important to your fly box arsenal
If you are already a fan of chucking meat for slabs you probably have a nice selection of streamers. The more you obsess about it, the more variety you have. From natural to synthetic, there is a growing diversity of streamers on the market. It may seem crazy and unnecessary to even us streamer freaks, but there is a method to the madness. The majority of fishermen who casually fish streamers and do not see the results, most likely do not have a proper streamer selection at their disposal. The lack of variation in your streamer box can be the very start to diagnosing your lack of success.
Getting to the stream is one thing, being properly prepared is another.
Would you go dry fly fishing with just one color and one size fly pattern? Unless you’re Hank Patterson, I truly doubt it. This is mostly a problem for beginners in the world of streamer fishing, but it can happen to anyone who is not properly prepared for a day of stripping sirloin.
You have to understand that not all big fish appreciate a wild color fly. Attractor patterns do work, yes, but having a selection of patterns that have a similar profile color scheme and movement to the natural bait fish in the water is a vital prerequisite for some battle weary fish.
I have a friend who I will keep anonymous, who is a major nympher – maniac. When he is searching new water his first instinct is to put on a few variations of nymphs and other subsurface crustacean imitations. He will have much luck, but will pass over a lot of water. I know he is fishing nymphs and is looking for particular water to get the best results, It just so happens that I am streamer fishing. Not only can I produce a fish out of the same water he is fishing, I can also move fish in all the water he passed up because it wasn’t optimal for nymphing.
I linked up with my friend Andy Link on a trip to Big Spring for a day of fishing, a stream he is not too familiar with. In the morning we had caught a few during a BWO hatch that lasted about an hour. Then nothing. It just completely shut down. But, as many anglers began to leave, I continued to hook fish. I showed Andy what I was using and he laughed and said “holy shit”. The 4 1/2 inch streamer that I had tied to match the larger sculpin had been very successful. So being a good friend I gave him a 5 inch streamer to use that matched small baitfish in this spring creek. As we approached water that looked void of fish life, I showed him some key spots to cast to that I told him would hide the more larger fish in the stream.
With impressive accuracy he put the fly right in front of the clump of vegetation surrounding a submerged tree branch. It wasn’t more than two strips latter a mammoth rainbow came out after the fly. In a daze he stopped the fly and the fish lost interest and retreated back to its hole. Andy looked in disbelief. He would never have thought to combat fish with a streamer in this creek where trout scurry at the vibration of a size 20 midge hitting the water too hard.
Andy had just realized what us who are “hip to the strip” have already known. Sometimes the best chance to catch a trophy fish is to probe with streamers.
Larger fish are mostly carnivorous, it’s just a fact.
It is well known whether you are talking about browns, rainbows, smallmouth bass or musky, once they reach a certain length, these species and many other similar predaceous fish stop feeding on crustaceans and small aquatic insects and begin to feed primarily on smaller fish.
Yes, it’s hard to believe even the esox spends its first year eating zooplankton and other small crustaceans as it takes it this long just to reach 13 inches. After that, however, it becomes a different animal! Yes, you can catch a large fish on nymphs, no one is arguing that. However, I urge you to go to the zoo and see if the biggest lion in the cage lives on a mice diet.
Though big fish are caught with small flies, don’t fool yourself. These predators have a genetic and instinctual predisposition to feed on larger prey.
This is the combat zone, the “trenches” of streamer fishing. When that larger fish gets tired of eating small stuff, it retreats back to its hole or undercut bank, behind a log jam, etc., to wait for an unexpected strip steak to float by. The best way to fish these predatory choke points is by chucking meat.
Fishing these structures is easy, well, the technique is, as many of these sunken branches look like a fly decorated Christmas tree. You want your fly to behave like it is fleeing from these hiding spots. Small fish know that something larger dwells in the darkness, waiting there to feed and it needs to flee for its life. Always strip the streamer away from holding areas. It looks odd when prey is charging toward a predator. Predatory response is great! The take is as unforgettable as the fight. It can draw out a fish that isn’t even hungry, so remember: never neglect your streamer selection.
By Ben Rogers
Owner and Head Guide
Chasing Tails Fly Fishing