Every year, I decide to pick a river or a technique on which to focus. I’ll liberally visit other waters or employ other techniques to catch fish, but I like learning something new.
This year, my Orvis H2 tip-flex #4 has gone from being a dry-fly rod to a streamer rod. It can handle big fish very easily and has enough backbone to chuck-and-duck. I’m not throwing big, articulated streamers, and so, I’ve yet to need the usual #6 streamer rod. I’ll leave that project for another year!
My go-to streamers tend to be Wooly Buggers and Gartside-style soft-hackle ones. They’re not weighted. I instead use split shot, for I like unweighted flies that dangle in the current at the end of a drift. I trail the streamer with a wet fly, usually a size 16, 18 or 20.
Here are some photos (the wet fly patterns all came from the Hughes book; he has some novel all-fur wets and cool techniques for putting on a soft hackle to really secure it):
Here is my set-up:
- Regular WF floating fly line
- A 5x nylon leader cut back a few feet
- Split shot
- Tippet ring
- 4x fluorocarbon. One or two dropper tags
A few other things are worth mentioning.
First, I tie the streamer onto the upper-most dropper tag and put on wet flies below that. I want the fish to see the streamer first as an attractor pattern during a swing. Trout have taken a wet fly 80% of the time.
Second, in faster water, the key is to put on enough split shot to get down quickly. I’ve been surprised how deep some of the buckets are that sit just below the shallow riffles.
Third, with 4x, I almost never lose flies. When I do snag, it usually is because the split shot gets trapped among some rocks, but a hard pull nearly always frees up the rig intact. I don’t think the fish are tippet-shy when they see a streamer.
I still feel that I’m new to the technique, but it has yielded some good fish already. I also bring to the river my tightlining rod, just to mix things up.
On my most recent trip to the Farmington, a rare mid-week visit just before a long work trip, it was a lot of fun to throw and swing the streamer-and-wet-fly rig.
The morning during a cold rain was surprisingly slow. Even though I hit a spot loaded with fish, I couldn’t buy a take. The water was 60 °F, and I thought the fish would be active. They weren’t, at least, for me.
So, I moved spots.
Eventually, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and loads of bugs started popping, even though the wind was blowing very hard. I landed a lot of fish. Here were some of the better ones, which measured 14″ to 17″ and which fought harder than any new stockie could.
But, the grand-daddy of ’em all was a big brown at a new spot that looked fishy but, unfortunately, I was there after other anglers had thoroughly worked the area and landed some fish. I caught the brown while tightlining with my Thomas and Thomas Contact #3. I was using a drop-shot set-up, as I was tired of the snags at that particular run.
The fish absolutely slammed the SJW. Once hooked, it leapt into the air and straight towards me. The trout was huge! My pulse accelerated quickly, and I followed the fish downstream as it pulled away.
Fortunately, my knots held, and very low side pressure with the rod tip pointing upstream gently led the fish above me, at which point I put the absolute wood on it with the butt of the rod. The fight ended quickly once I did that.
I was stunned when it taped at a solid 20″!
The brown had an orange elastomer behind its left eye, which meant that it was stocked in 2014 or 2015 (or possibly this season, if orange is being used for 2019). I’ve a note to DEEP to see what the elastomer colors are for this year, but I did see some newly-stocked fish with red elastomers during my outing.
So, enjoy the late-spring conditions. They’re very forgiving right now, and I hope you soon can get out on the water!