I do not (yet) throw large, articulated streamers. I do not (yet) fish only streamers on any given outing. I do not (yet) own a streamer rod.
But, I throw streamers both for fun and when I think they’ll work. I’ve done it on winter days and on summer days. I’ve done it at deep pools and at shallow water. It has been particularly useful recently, given the seemingly perpetual high flows.
Why this approach? All-mono rigs are super-sensitive and help me sense soft takes (which happen even when streamer fishing). I feel most takes rather than see them.
Also, mono rigs sink quickly into the strike zone, are stealthy (a bright and thick fly line slapping down on the water alerts fish’s lateral lines, IMO), and I will do everything I can to minimize rig-fiddling time. So, this single rig is extremely versatile and can cover streamers, nymphs and Euro dry-droppers.
Most important, the all-mono approach has worked well for streamers. An unusual percentage of my big fish have come from the Euro-streamer game. So, I’m sold.
I am early in my journey, but have some lessons learned:
The Swing Has Been the Thing
I cast up stream if I need to get the fly down in fast water. Or, I cast across if the current is more forgiving. And, if we are talking slow-ish water, then the classic downward cast at a 45° angle works.
But, the key has been the pace of the swing.
With upward mends, at which long Euro rods excel, I try to time the streamer’s arrival at the money spots with a swing that is not fast: I want the fly to lazily swing across and present an easy meal.
My Euro sighter is easy to spot and thereby helps me predict a fly’s movement and pace; the white section sticks out during low-light conditions, and the pink and green material really pops when the sun is out. I will grease up the sighter to do better upstream mends, if needed.
Sometimes, I gently jig the fly as it drifts around. Usually, I just dead-drift it. Sometimes, I try to manage the drift so that the fly swings up at the money spots. I play around, and that is part of the fun.
As much as possible, I keep my leader off the water in order to maintain contact with the flies, and I am pointing my rod tip at the fly. I’ve noticed that if I have an upward angle to the flies, a fish can bounce off the barbless hook after the take.
When I sense a bump, I pinch down on the line and slowly raise the rod tip, letting the fish hook itself when it feels the metal and turns downstream in a panic.
Using the Euro Rig for Streamers
As mentioned, I don’t swap rigs when going from nymphs to streamers. The benefit is that I don’t have to carry a second rod or swap spools.
Below the sighter, I have my usual fluorocarbon tippet with a dropper tag about 20″ above the endpoint. To fish streamers, I clip off the nymphs and attach a tungsten-beaded jig-style streamer at the terminal end and am ready to go. That’s it. This is my “base case” Euro-streamer approach.
But, wait, there’s more.
Weight: Adjusting with Tungsten, Brass and Split Shot
This is the fun part. Depending on conditions, and what the fish want, I’ll vary the weight on my fly or will pair weightless streamers with split shot.
For example, if I keep getting hung up on the river bottom, I will clip off the heavy streamer and attach a fly with a smaller tungsten bead, a brass bead or no weight at all. Sometimes, the latter makes particular sense if the fish want a weightless fly that flutters around (more on that below).
To get down, I put on split shot. I put it on the mainline above the dropper tag knot, which prevents the shot from slipping down.
If I still am getting hung up, I will put on a small barrel swivel (blasphemy, I know) where the dropper tag connection hits the main line and will cut off the tag.
I will add a short piece of light fluorocarbon to the swivel for a new dropper tag and put an overhand knot at the tippet’s end. I add the split shot to the tag.
The logic? If the shot gets stuck on structure, and you have to break off, the dropper tag will break off cleanly and the rest of the rig can stay intact. So, you lose fewer flies and minimize re-rigging. This is a trick I learned while fishing the Salmon River.
Note also that pairing shot with a weightless fly can create an irresistible up-and-down motion to the streamer if you gently and occasionally pulse or strip the line. This can be deadly.
The Streamer ‘Pocket Pick’ Method
At slow and deep pools and slots, such a fluttering streamer can work well. I think of it as trying to pluck a fish or two from each fishy-looking pocket that I can target.
I start with the drop-shot set-up I learned from George Daniel during one of his clinics. I tie an overhand knot to the terminal end of the tippet and attach split shot. I then attach a weightless streamer to the dropper tag.
I cast out, swing the streamer and pause it at fishy spots. The long reach of a Euro rod really enables this technique. So, you have the split shot bouncing along the bottom, while the streamer floats, dangles and flutters above it. Once the fly is below me, I slowly crawl it back. In the deep mid-winter, sometimes you need to trim the tippet so that the streamer will be closer to the bottom, where the fish are.
Sometimes you need a lot of weight for this technique, but there shouldn’t be many lost flies as snags will capture the split shot and not the streamer. That’s the hope, anyways.
While fishing the Salmon River, I noticed how sensitive steelhead are to colors. So, I’ve been bringing residual Woolly Buggers and Leeches with me when I throw streamers for trout: olive, black, white, orange, yellow, blue, pink, etc. I am not noticing a pattern yet other than I cannot get any takes on black streamers.
Other than color, the flies are pretty generic, and mostly are in size 10 or 12. My current thinking is that the Euro-streamer game is more about presentation than fly patterns.
So, that’s what I’ve been doing. I know there are some streamer aficionados out there. Please share in a comment about what has worked for you?
A Happy Easter and Passover to all….