On The River: Fall Streamer Fishing

Here in the mountain west, the transition from large terrestrials and other dry flies to size 20-24 nymphs can be disheartening. In order to make the switch easier, let’s talk about streamer fishing. It is a fun way to get on the water, feel big takes, and be able to have decent success even on the nasty rainy/slushy days that plague the fall here. Let’s break this down with a few patterns I love, some information on where to fish them, and some tips on how to fish them, On The River: Fall Streamer Fishing

The size of the rod and leader you use is going to be dependent on how large of a streamer you are using. In order to get a quality cast and presentation, your rod needs to be able to handle that fly. Your trusty 5wt will get the job done with anything size 8 or smaller. You can get away with a size 6 if it doesn’t have too much weight on it. For those bigger flies, size 4 and larger, I would recommend investing in a 6wt or a 7wt rod. If you rod is overloaded, your loop is going to more than likely turn into this large open thing. You will never have complete control of where that fly is going to land, and you risk that fly coming back and hitting your rod tip real good. I watched an older gentleman pull 3 brown trout, all over twenty-two inches, out of the river just using a size 6 wolly bugger on a 5wt rod. It is ok to not use those giant streamers you see on social media.

Flies that I like and have found success with:

  • Articulated Goldie: This fly is a powerhouse in the west, and especially on specific rivers. Its bright white body shows easily in the river, and I find it is best fished on those bright fall days.
  • Hot Head Wolly Bugger: This is my favorite one to use. Mostly because it’s the one I have had the most success on. However, there is a reason that this fly has withstood the test of time. I actually enjoy fishing this tied off the end of a plain black wolly bugger. That’s right…double streamer action.
  • Sculpzilla (White): I like this for the smaller waters during the fall, and the deep holes in the wintertime. It gets the job done. That’s all there is to say about it.
  • Geisha Girl (Purple): When it is slightly overcast, and I’m up on certain rivers in other western states that border ours, this fly is what I will put on first. If you don’t know, purple is a tried-and-true color in the west. This big gawdy fly gets their attention, and they tend to get aggressive towards it.
  • Egg Sucking Leech (Purple): During the fall spawn, I stay away from larger streamers that could end up tagging an unsuspecting fish that is just trying to relax. (FISHING ETHICS, PEOPLE!!!) So, I switch to smaller patterns, fished by themselves. The egg sucking leech looks exactly like its name states. Fish tend not to like something trying to take away their eggs. This fly also works well in making Kokanee angry enough to charge your fly.

Your leader set up in pretty simple. I like to use a 7.5ft 1x or 0x leader, depending on the size of the fly, and the fly tied on with a no-slip mono loop. When I am fishing two streamers, I connect them with 8-12 inches of 1x tippet tied to the hook of the first fly, and then tie a simple clinch knot to the second fly.

A simple idea of where to look is “where could a big fish hide?”. There may be trout eager to take your fly that are hanging out in shallow water. There are no definitives in fly fishing. However, a few good places to look are near structure, deeper pools, and deeper/slower water. When a fish is taking a streamer, it is in what I like to call “Ambush Mode”. It needs somewhere to hide, slower water so it doesn’t have to work as hard, and deeper water to go back down and hide again. Those three listed provide all of that.

There are two simple ways to fish your streamer. You can either cast it up stream and swing it down through the current, or you can cast down stream at a 45-degree angle and start stripping it towards you. When it comes to swinging the fly, I like to use that technique more during spring run-off time. I feel that it makes the fly look like a disoriented fish just tumbling down the river in the high water. I use the downstream and strip method more this time of year. Fish are testy of something getting in its area when it’s trying to spawn, or they are just more aggressive in general and are looking for a fight. Plus, it keeps my hands moving on those colder days.

There is certainly so much more we can get into about this topic, but this short article SHOULD have enough to get you started and maybe even have success. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to call or walk into our shop. If you don’t live locally, go into the shop closest to you and just ask. That is the best way to learn and develop as a fly fisher.