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Old 09-13-15, 07:28 PM   #1
S.Trutta
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Default Streamer Selection

Since my "2 cents on streamer fishing" post seemed to be well received I thought I would follow up with some thoughts on streamer selection, especially since a few of you have been having ongoing discussions with me on this topic via PM. How to select a streamer seems to be a very common conversation between streamer enthusiasts, as well as people who are just getting in to streamer fishing. When would you choose to fish a classic "small" streamer like a zoo cougar, wooly sculpin, etc. vs a larger articulated streamer, or even a triple hook monster streamer that can be up to 10" long?

I think the first thing to understand is that a lot of streamer design and subsequent streamer selection is not necessarily correlated to food items. This may sound odd but hear me out. Trout, even the biggest nastiest trout in the river that can be 30" or more long, still eat mostly sculpins, minnows, crayfish, etc that are 2-4" long MOST of the time. Sure they eat some smaller trout, chubs, etc that can be surprisingly long (12" or more), but that is not the bulk of their diet. Why then, if they eat food in the 2-4" size the most frequently, would you throw an 8" fly at them? I hope the info below helps answer this question.

When selecting a streamer....the first thing to do is to understand the water you are planning to fish. Are there lots of fish in this water? What is the size makeup of the fish? Ie. If your fishing somewhere that is mostly 12-15" trout and an 18-20" would be a trophy fish, its probably not the place for a 10" streamer. Are there few fish, but really large fish? Are there lots of small fish that need to be "weeded" out to find the big boys? Lastly...what do you want to get out of the day? Do you want a lot of action and don't care about the size of fish? Or do you want to ditch your shot at numbers of fish and try to stick a few really big fish? The answers to these questions should give you a great jumping off point for what streamers to try.

When to fish the classic single hook flies like zoo cougars, wooly sculpins, stacked blonde's, butt monkeys, etc? These flies, now considered small streamers usually in the 2-3" range, were once considered huge flies. As streamers became more popular, and articulating flies became the norm, some people forgot these flies and all the big fish they had to their credit. These flies are excellent when you want a lot of action. If you want to turn, roll, and hook a lot of fish and are not concerned about targeting a specific size of fish these classics are great. That does not mean they can't and don't still hook large fish...just that they are less differentiating. A 12" trout is just as likely to eat this as a 22" trout....but of course in most streams there are way more of the former than the latter. They fish easily on 6wt rods with a 200gr sink tip. They also can be a great choice, even when hunting for big fish, when the water is low/clear and its very sunny out. I may fish mostly articulated flies now, but I always have some of the classics on hand. 2 weeks ago we had great streamer fishing in the morning as the rain fell with 5-6" flies. Later in the day the sun came out and those bigger flies stopped moving fish. We switched to smaller single hooked flies in the low water and a #4 zoo cougar hooked the biggest fish of the day, over 20", before the hook popped out.

When to fish articulated flies in the 4-6" range? These are my bread and butter streamers and I fish these a high percentage of the time with most of my flies being in the 5-5.5" range. Big enough to be a good meal for a monster fish, yet still manageable for even low teen sized fish. If you haven't streamer fished before with flies of this size, you may be surprised how many 12-13" fish crush and attack a fly that may be deemed too large for them. I like these sized flies when fishing water that I know has quite a few fish in it, especially if the average size of the fish is good. An example that comes to mind is the Pere Marquette flies only water in Baldwin, MI. This section of river has a high fish density, at least compared to some other MI streamers. In addition, the average size is somewhere in the teens with the bulk of streamer eaters being in the 14-20" range. Now, there are some goliaths in here stretching to close to 30", but they are the odd balls. You can certainly catch them on a streamer of this size....but once again, because the teen sized fish are way more common in numbers, they are also way more common in what you catch. Bottom line is its hard to go wrong with a streamer in this size just about anywhere. I fish these mostly on a 7wt rod with a 250gr sink tip.

When to fish the truly big streamers in the 7-10" range? Yes, we occasionally fish musky sized flies for trout...and yes, we have caught some of our largest fish on these flies. No, they are not the best choice a lot of time. It might make you feel cool at the fly shop talking about the monster flies you fish for trout, but in general you wont get a whole lot of action. Flies in this size range are probably the least versatile, but they absolutely have their place if you consider yourself a trophy hunter. These flies excel in a few situations that come to mind. The first is when you are fishing what we call "marginal trout water". This is water that doesn't have a high fish density, but the fish that are there are huge. Certain sections of the Au Sable and Manistee Rivers fit this bill, and i know a lot of guys fishing sections of the Yellowstone that match this description as well. For the GA crowd...some of the lower sections of the hooch or toccoa would be what Im talking about. The biggest fish usually live in places where there aren't many trout. There are not many fish per mile, and you are now hunting more than fishing. In addition, remember that truly large browns feed almost exclusively at night. This poses a problem when we are trying to get them to feed during the day while we are on the water. Remember earlier when I asked why you would fish an 8" fly for a fish that eats 2-4" food items most of the time? This is why. These huge browns spend a lot more time NOT feeding during the day than feeding. If you fish smaller food items you will virtually never see these fish. Its not because your fly isn't a big enough meal for the fish....its because they simply aren't interested in feeding. However, throw a 8-10" fly with huge eyes, flash, wiggle, etc. and rip that thing through his domain and see what happens. He no longer views that fly as a meal he doesn't have interest in....he views it as a threat and a challenge. Trigger that territorial response, get him mad, make him puff up his chest and show that fly who's boss. My good friend Matt wrote an article about this tactic a few years ago for a online magazine and I'll never forget his phrase "Knock on his door and he might let you off with a warning. Enter his house and you increase the chance of pissing him off. **** him off. Thats what you want. Poke the bear. Open the door, turn over his couch, and run like hell." This is hard work...hours and hours, days and days of searching. Most fish have no interest in a fly that large. Kiss your days of lots of action goodbye. However, put the fly in front of the right fish who is an ornery mood and you've got yourself a lifetime fish. Its like watching an orca whale take out a seal. The other time flies like this are a good choice is when you have a lot of smaller fish, but you aren't interested in them and instead want the biggest fish. Flies of this size weed out all but the largest apex predators.

Hope this is helpful to everyone. This is by no means hard fact....merely my opinions based on what I see while chasing fish religiously on the streamer. Any questions let me know....and I hope to see photos from you all of big fall browns with streamers in their jaws!

Rich
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Old 09-13-15, 09:26 PM   #2
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Nailed it!

Well written Rich. Mind if I make this a "sticky"?
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Old 09-13-15, 10:13 PM   #3
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S. Trutta,

Great post. I have been getting more and more into streamer fishing and this post and your previous post has helped me greatly. Do you know of any good books on streamer fishing? How do you know what size/weight sinking line to use? I do a lot of fishing in GSMNP and north Georgia and the holes can get over your head in a matter of feet. So basically if your streamer/nymph doesn't get to the bottom quickly you can potentially miss the entire feeding zone in that particular hole. Because of this I have been religious about adding as much weight as I possible to my streamers; tungsten cone heads with the hook shanks wrapped in lead wire. But I've learned that this isn't quite the answer. All the weight kind of kills the action of the fly and I am usually hung up as soon as it gets to the bottom. How do I find that happy medium of quickly getting my fly to the bottom, maintaining the action, and not turning the fly into an anchor?

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Matt
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Old 09-13-15, 10:28 PM   #4
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drifter.....sure thing, if you think it would be worthwhile.

Dead driftin....

That's a tough situation....but here is my 2 cents. In general, properly fished streamers are not really designed to be fished uber deep, at least not the way we streamer fish. In fact, water that's more than 5ft deep or so is more or less ignored as we look more for 1-4ft of water. That's also why I fish a lot of unweighted flies, and retrieve quickly with the fly only 12-18" below the surface.

In your situation, I think you have two options. The first is to stick to nymphing in the deepest runs where fish are hugging the bottom. Nymphing is a superior technique if getting real deep is critical. Concentrate your streamer fishing in the shin to chest deep water, especially seams, in and around boulders, log jams, etc. the second is to swing the deep pools with streamers. The Galloup method I talk about in my post will never let you get too deep, and tying steamers with that much weight completely destroys the action. I would look for a 5-10ft streamer tip line with a short leader. I'd fish bigger buggers/leeches etc. cast up, start it off like your high sticking nymphs, and then swing it out. You'll get deep and potentially wake up a big fish laying on the bottom.

Overall for sinking lines a good general rule is 200gr for 6wt. 250gr for 7wt, and 300gr for 8wt.

Rich
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Old 09-13-15, 11:48 PM   #5
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Thumbs up

Rich....I guess I'm fishing deep enough with my streamer setup. I'm using a 6wt with a 300 grain sinktip. I typically use this outfit when driftboating tailraces during heavy flow. I occasionally get hung up on the bottom....but not often. I agree on the leader....I use a piece of Maxima....4 to 5 feet long...nail-knotted to the sink tip.

I'm upping my streamer game this Fall.... 5-inch streamers will be the norm. No more micro boogers.
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Old 09-14-15, 04:13 PM   #6
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Great information, Rich. Thanks, again.

Matt
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Old 09-14-15, 04:26 PM   #7
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Great post, but I still have one question. How do you decide what color streamer to throw? I have heard that in overcast coditions black and olive work best, and when the sun is out throw yellow and white. Is this true? Thanks a ton.
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Old 09-14-15, 04:44 PM   #8
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I don't think there is any steadfast rule on streamer color. I usually will start with dark flies in dark water or clouds, and light colors when it's sunny or clear water, but that's just a starting point. Overall I just try what feels right and switch colors frequently if I am not moving fish. I usually won't go more than 10 minutes with a fly before changing color, size, weighted, unweighted etc.

Rich
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Old 09-30-15, 03:05 AM   #9
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The contents of this message might be totally inaccurate, misguided or otherwise perverse. If you are stupid enough to follow any of the tips listed here and mess up yourself or your equipment, I am absolved of all responsibility. The information contained herein is based on my personal experience and by no means constitutes the correct way to do it. Your mileage may vary.

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Old 09-30-15, 04:41 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drifter View Post
Yep. It's a great read
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