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Fishing Streamers in Less Than Perfect Conditions;

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
Recently we have had some threads where members are querying streamer fishing. With all the people out there floating Indi Rigs and dropping nymphs from a big dry I still believe that to be a successful streamer fisherman is The Holy Grail of the fly fisher. I must include being a master on the dry fly to the Holy Grail club also. I think that those two styles of fly fishing; streamer & dry, are the two types of our sport that require the most dedication to master. Yes, almost anyone can catch a fish on an Adams and likewise on a well constructed feather wing streamer but to do it consistently is not an accidental occurrence. It requires accuracy, control and above all that you become familiar with the rivers and the fish.

I have not been writing lengthly replies to threads for a few years now but today I did get a little carried away. It seems that on todays forum the people specialize in pasting you Tube videos as an answer to a question. I don't do that, if I don't think I know the way to do something I don't say anything. I like to see our members reply to threads with a "This is what I do" type answer and not to say "watch this". I'm just old school through & through I guess.

Anyway a fellow was having trouble with 'murky and high' water while attempting to fish with streamer flies. He didn't indicate flooding so after I read all the replies I wrote this......................

I have taken the time to tell you a little about what I do This is not what I read but what I have learned and whether it will work for everyone or not I can tell you that it works for me.

I have been catching assorted species for a long time using streamer flies. What I can tell you about this fishing technique is that there are different approaches to streamer fishing. One is to lob the biggest thing that you can propel with a fly rod & line out as far as you can and then stand there holding the cork and hoping for the best. Another way is to know where you will most likely find a trout holding itself in the current or near its lair. I have adopted the targeting of holding spots as my avenue to success.

When water conditions are not perfect as those you describe you must rely on what you know from fishing the same river in lower and clear water. When conditions are good you must concentrate on finding fish, not necessarily catching fish but finding them. If all a fellow worries about is catching fish while he has never taken the time to study his home rivers to learn where the fish are at, that persons catch rate will be much lower than the person who has taken time to observe and learn. There have been many days when I caught nothing and I didn't expect to catch anything. What I did on such days was to survey the stream or river I was on in an effort to understand that particular place. During a slow and methodical survey you will discover the fish and you will see where they are holding and where they run to when frightened. These are the 2 most important places for any trout; where they eat & where they take shelter. Once you understand the places and the features of the river that provide those 2 important zones for the fish you know where to attempt to find and catch them in future visits.

When a river rises and becomes murky we as fishermen usually are looking at the surface conditions and are easily disheartened. However, beneath the surface little has changed for the trout. Of course there is limited visibility and an increase in current velocity but other wise it's business as usual for the fish. During these times the characteristics of the surface can change dramatically to our eyes. What was once a current seam may now be a smooth glide while an underwater obstruction such as a boulder or log may now be a bulging swell on that surface. This is where your memory and some common sense come into play if you intend to try to catch fish in less than perfect conditions.

Generally the fish will not wander too far from their shelter spot in heavy water conditions and when they do venture to a feeding lane they will be staying closer to the bottom. In situations of low visibility the bottom strata is an important navigation tool for trout who wish to be able to get back to their shelter quickly. Because of this bottom hugging behavior you must gage your depth of presentation more carefully. You must allow for additional sink time for your fly and subsequently do your casting from a different location than you would in a reduced flow. At this point getting the fly down becomes a bit of a physics exercise and not so much one of needing more weight or larger flies. More weight and bigger flies result in one thing for sure, more snagging of the bottom. If you know where there should be some fish and you position yourself correctly you should be able to gain results with a normal sized fly. You may find that a pattern that provides a sharp contrast will work best in the worst of murky conditions. When the water is really bad I will go to white, black, and a combination of the two in order to try for something that may be spotted by the fish.

I think the most important aspect of streamer fishing is knowing where to present them. I don't believe that size or whether they make noise like a spinning lure are as important as getting the fly in front of the fish. If you want to get good at it you must be willing to sacrifice some time from trying to catch fish and dedicate that time to learning about those fish. Beyond that you should spend some more time learning how to control a submerged fly and to know and understand the sink rate of your flies so you know where they are and what they are doing even in murky waters.

When you combine the various principals of observation and situation control that I have tried to lay out here you then enter into the realm of the fellows who are not surprised when they catch a fish. If you don't take the time to learn and understand what it is that you are really trying to do you will be in the ranks of those who simply throw the biggest thing they have out there and then stand there holding the cork. You may be suprised at how many long time fishermen I've met who are still holding the cork.



  1. Davo's Avatar
    Ard, well said!! I have been an avid streamer man myself for the last 15yrs. Chucking streamers all day can be a tiring affair. It behooves one to know the water and the prey. To target the right spots the right way is the path to success. I'd estimate that I spent the first 5 seasons of my streamer fishing learning what to do and why.

    I like good dry fly action just like the next guy. That being said I spend 85 to 90 percent of my time on the water fishing streamers no matter the conditions.

  2. pkins44's Avatar
    Kudos, Amigo. I've been looking for someone to spell it out for me because I often can't find the words. I have just recently started not worrying about catching as learning what is happening under the water. I have been playing with the murky faster moving waters the past couple of days chasing smallies. I'm starting to get a pretty good idea of where they like to be. And with this information now it takes away some more of the mystery. Thanks for all the great posts and help.
  3. milt spawn's Avatar
    Methinks I'll tie one on tomorrow... a streamer that is! milt.
  4. theboz's Avatar
    Not being surprised is knowing the place you fish and your quarry. When you put your time in a mental picture forms and many times that can be used on waters you haven't fished before. Placing that streamer before the boulder not behind it but far enough past it that it will run in front of the fish you know is there. That translates to confidence and knowledge of where the fish lies and how to get him to take. This is the challenge that makes it all worthwhile as opposed to holding the cork.