The Euro-Streamer Game

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.

First up, I read George Daniel’s seminal streamer-fishing book, Strip-Set. I added my own tweaks by fishing streamers on my all-mono Euronymphing leaders with Euro-style rods.

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 use a micro-thin leader with my Thomas and Thomas Contact 1133 #3 most of the time. If flows are up, I throw the thin leader with the Contact 1086 #6 for a little more backbone.

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.

 

Fly Patterns
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….

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16 thoughts on “The Euro-Streamer Game

  1. I find it a little funny that everyone tacks “Euro” in front of anything and everything done on a mono rig, as if it’s the mono rig that makes Euro nymphing Euro nymphing.

    1. Right! In my case, I am using a Euro rod, a Euro leader, a Euro sighter, and striving to keep contact with my flies that are often jig-style Euro-style ones. I totally see what you mean!

  2. I am about to buy a T&T Contact rod. I was thinking the 10’8″ 3 weight rather than the 11’3″ as I have been nymphing with a 10′ 3 weight Zephrus and would like to keep the swing weight down, maybe a little more accuracy in my mono rig cast, and maybe a little easier putting a big fish in the net (have landed a half dozen salmon on the Swift in the past month).
    Do you want to convince me that the 11’3″ Contact is instead the way to go?
    Also, I believe you “broke” your Contact last year – any concerns with the rod and big fish in current, as I will be fishing the Madison in July? (Or was your beakage from a non-fish fighting accident?)

    1. The Contact #3 has a #5-like fighting butt and has easily tamed multiple 20”+ fish for me. The “best” rod is a personal choice and largely a function of the type of water you target and how you like to fish.

      And, flows.

      Regarding the Madison, I think it would all depend on flows there when you go. The Contact #3 would have been fine for when I last was at the Madison. But, at the Salmon River, the #6 was adequate during low flows, but for higher flows, I brought a #7. So, it is very dependent on flows, and I would definitely call fly shops near the Madison to check in on flows before you go.

      You also should call Thomas & Thomas if you can. They’re very helpful and are eager to help people. Awesome folks.

      No QC concerns. I broke my Sage ESN similarly.

  3. Thank you so much for your reply. I will give T&T a call.
    With flow rates up I have been bringing 3 rods to the Swift, even though I’ve mainly used the 10′ 3 weight. I’ve used a 10 foot 5 weight Zephrus to catch a fat rainbow in the high flow upper runoff section, and have swung streamers on a 10′ 7 weight trying to entice the zombie salmon that seem to be hibernating.
    I’m amazed to have caught so many salmon on a 10′ 3 weight, but they were all on size 30 nymphs and 7x or 6x tippet so I figured either the tippet would break or the hook pull out before the rod would break. I did put a really good bend in the rod though, especially leading the salmon into the net. Still, I would not have even dreamed of targeting the salmon if the water temp was higher than 35 degrees and they were in a more usual fighting strength. The ones I have caught were the few I’ve seen actively feeding, but were clearly relatively lethargic in the cold water. And I doubt I would have targeted them without seeing that Hardy SIntrix video of bending the tip of the rod practically to the handle before breaking. Some amazing technology in these high tech nano resin blanks – T&T calls theirs “StratoTherm ” resin.

  4. Hi Charles, I fish the Contact 1133 and I appreciate the added length for what it equates to in terms of range. You can reach a bit farther and fish under your rod tip, or extend your range up and across. The trade off comes in tight quarters where the added length can be a burden and close-in fish fighting takes some getting used to, but its not a big deal. I prefer a long net with a big hoop anyway. There’s plenty of backbone, especially if you reduce the rod angle and let the butt section do the heavy lifting.

  5. FWIW, the Contact 1133 i tried was much more accurate for me than my 10′ 3wt ESN. Lots less tip bounce. I do want to fish the 10’8″ 3wt before I decide which fits MY fishing style and preferences. The ESN replaced an 11’ESN that absolutely killed my shoulder fishing with the necessary heavy reel to balance it. Don’t want a repeat performance!
    My streamer fishing is pretty traditional using 6wts with sinking lines, short leaders, sculpin patterns, BNDace, soft hackle streamers. That said, being able to slowly dance a light streamer in a pocket does make a lot of sense.

    1. Try a slump buster or something similar. If you tie your own and want to fish as the author is describing, try tying them size 8-10 on a Jig hook with tungsten bead.

    2. Hi Mark, I agree with Damon. In addition, I’ve kept the streamers pretty simple, usually throwing Woolly Buggers both on jig hooks with tungsten beads and regular hooks with brass beads. I also have on hand Leeches, Soft Hackle Streamers (no weight) and The JT Special.

    3. I agree with both Damon and Jo, and would suggest buggers in black, red, and purple. Also gartsides magic minnow and soft hackle streamer. I also really like small versions of rhode island flatwings in colors that mimic the baitfish where you are at. Marabou conehead muddlers also are good.

  6. Jo! What a good read and tonnes of info! Thanks for all of it. I love swinging and drifting small streamers! I often douuble up with a dropper fly that is either a different color, or smaller pattern. If I am swinging, I will put a northern spider or soft-hackled nymph on it with good results too!

    Keep it up!

  7. Cool idea I like it. I used to dead drift streamers under indicators for steelhead and lake run browns. Tight line makes a ton of sense too. I liked the dead drift under indicator because you can fish a dead drift then either initiate a swing or a leisring lift depending on how you check the float and set rod/line angle at end of dead drift. Any time you can get two presentations out of one drift is a win.

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