Fishing smelt patterns (or any streamer for that matter) with floating line?

LimerickShaw

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Do you guys typically do this? I have a river that has some good salmon activity during the smelt run. I rarely fish streamers so I only have a floating line. My question is - if you are fishing smelt patterns or other streamers how often do you put split shot/weight on your leader?

I feel like it would take away from the presentation of the smelt pattern but I feel like I would need it in some scenarios. I just don't feel like there is enough weight on my smelt flies I purchased to really get decent depth but maybe I'm over thinking it?

Also, generally how short of leaders do you do when fishing streamers? I don't remember the size of the patterns I got and am not good enough at simply looking at the hook and knowing/guessing the size but I would assume it's probably a "normal" smelt imitation in terms of size. I was thinking of using a 9ft 4x or 3x leader and cutting it back a bit?

Any help advice or input would be appreciated.
 

Ard

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Nine foot leader should be fine, maybe look through these links for some ideas. Streamer Fishing

I gathered many threads together and placed them there a couple years back. Depending on the depth of your river and the behavior of your Smelts depth will be dictated by those factors. The mending video may be useful regardless of conditions.
 

flytie09

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I use a floating line almost 95% of the time swinging streamers. Here's a smelt streamer pattern I tied up. It's an American Smelt by Warren Duncan. A google search will show several others by Duncan as well as several other Carrie Stevens patterns.

american smelt (2).jpg

I swing flies and rarely use weighted streamers and never add split shot. I don't want to be dredging bottom, snagging rocks and stuff and risk lining fish. I use appropriate length and sink rate polyleaders, T-tips (tungsten coated - T8, T10, T12, T14, T18, T20) or will use an intermediate head with faster sink rate Poly / T-tips if I really want to swing deeper.

You want to be swinging at proper depth if targeting Kings/Coho. Lower and slower swing speed than Atlantic Salmon, which I understand will chase a swung fly much farther than their Pacific native relatives. If it's a Great Lakes Salmon...they are even less prone to hitting a swung fly. They will do so earlier in the season and downriver closer to the mouths/estuaries of where they enter.

Not knowing the river or rod/line you're using it's tough to say use X..... a 9' section of T 14 is a good starting point almost anywhere. Unless you're in certain sections of Canada for Atlantics where sink tips are not allowed.

Give us a little more details and we might be able to narrow the guidance better.
 

silver creek

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Do you guys typically do this? I have a river that has some good salmon activity during the smelt run. I rarely fish streamers so I only have a floating line. My question is - if you are fishing smelt patterns or other streamers how often do you put split shot/weight on your leader?

I feel like it would take away from the presentation of the smelt pattern but I feel like I would need it in some scenarios. I just don't feel like there is enough weight on my smelt flies I purchased to really get decent depth but maybe I'm over thinking it?

Also, generally how short of leaders do you do when fishing streamers? I don't remember the size of the patterns I got and am not good enough at simply looking at the hook and knowing/guessing the size but I would assume it's probably a "normal" smelt imitation in terms of size. I was thinking of using a 9ft 4x or 3x leader and cutting it back a bit?

Any help advice or input would be appreciated.
I have never fished a smelt streamer pattern for salmon but I hope this general post on streamers is some help.

The back story of my reply below goes back many, many, many years when I was in a talk by Lefty Kreh. In his talk, he emphasized that prey which act naturally and vulnerable are most often eaten, and our flies should do the same.

He gave an example of a fly fisher who fishes a streamer so that it goes right toward a large trout hiding along a rock or boulder. That is not natural and may spook the trout, since prey do not charge predators.

His approach was to mend cast down and across well above the boulder and stack mended to allow the streamer to sink. When it had sunk to the level of the fish and drifted into position, he mended down and across above the rock so the cross current mended line would catch the current and pull the streamer across the face of the boulder. This presented a broadside view of the streamer like a baitfish trying to sneak across the front of the boulder from the bank to the other side of the boulder. As the streamer reached the far side of the rock in front of the boulder, the trout could nail it.

A few years later I was on the San Juan River during a massive water release during the spring thermocline turnover. The flow was 5000 CFS, and normal flow are about 700 - 1000 CFS. The water was fast and dirty and the usual methods of fishing flies below a strike indicator were not working.

I remembered what Lefty had said during that presentation and thought a black wooly bugger might work. But how should I fish it? I was above the cable hole where the San Juan River has side channels and the flow more spread out. From the ridge above the river I could see some depressions and wide pockets in the river and I thought some trout would be holding in them. So I fished streams across over the lips of those depression like Lefty suggested fishing to the boulder.

I hooked fish after fish from those holding areas.

So the specific technique I learned from Lefty; but what Lefty really taught me was to have a strategy when fishing streamers. Just as we have a specific dry fly strategy when casting to a rising trout as to casting position, mends, etc; and a nymphing strategy as to where to cast and mend when nymphing; when the same amount of thought is used during fishing streamers, I believe we tend to learn from both our successes and failures.

So here is the post I came up with on how to weight a streamer based on Lefty's advice to me:

One would not think a question on how to weight a streamer for fly fishing would have much to do with the study of philosophy, but I find this question to be highly philosophical. Philosophy taught me that INTENT must always precede CONTENT.

So the critical question is NOT how to to weight the streamer BUT how do you want the streamer to act, and what are you trying to do with the streamer. What is your INTENT? That will determine CONTENT, what you must do and how you must act.

For example, if you weight the streamer with a bead head, and fish it on a floating line with a longer leader to let the fly sink, it will act as a jig. When you strip it in, the direction of pull is up and the strips will give the streamer a jigging action. So if your intent is to have the streamer act as a jig, weight the head of the fly.

If your intent is to have the fly avoid snags by to to riding ABOVE the bottom, you use a sink tip line and an unweighted lighter than water streamer that will ride above the sink tip line. Then when you strip, you get a reverse jigging action with the fly diving down then back up. The length of the leader determines how high above the bottom the fly will ride.

You can use your floating line and the "skittering anchor" method to do the same thing as explained by Gary Borger in his blog below. Since you think the flies you bought do NOT have enough weight, the skittering anchor might be one you could use.

Gary Borger >> Blog Archive >> Skittering Anchor



If your intent is to swing just under the water surface or to skate the streamer, you use a floating line and an unweighted streamer and cast across or down and across and the mend the floating line to get the swing/skate you want.

If your intent is to swing the streamer deep in front of a prime holding lie, you fish the streamer on a sink tip line or poly leader system and mend down and across when the fly has sunk to the right level and position. The down and across mend will catch the current, causing the streamer to speed up and swing across in front of the fish presenting a broadside view.

These are only a few of the possibilities. So what you want to do will determine how you set up the streamer, the fly line, the leader, your cast and fly line manipulation after the cast.

So you weight the streamer if you want it to sink AND the distribution of the weight determines the attitude of the streamer under water and how fast it sinks. You unweight the streamer if you want it to ride higher than the leader.

You use a floating or sinking line to determine the direction of pull on the streamer and to determine the position of the streamer in the water column.

You add weight to the leader and manage the amount of weight and position of the weight depending on your intent.

You manage the length of the leader to determine how close you want the fly to be at the level of the fly line tip AND the freedom of the streamer to move in the current from the position of the fly line tip.

Fishing a streamer is about managing the position of the streamer in relation to the fly line AND then manipulating the fly line (casting, mending, stripping) to get the streamer act the way you want. Think of streamer fishing as multiple SYSTEMS of fishing and you must first determine what you want to do before you ask about a system to do that.
 

flytie09

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I've not fished for landlocks.....you have to target the water conditions in front of you of course.

This is an interesting video from the Connecticut River in NH. Guides on it are nymphing a streamer with a bobber and swinging and twitching it like mad. Based on water I see....I wouldn't think heavy weighted streamers or weight would be necessary.

YouTube

I don't mess with indicators and streamers. You can try adding some shot with a mono leader...but casting such rigs can get tricky.

The swung fly technique I outlined casting across with various sink tips would most assuredly work. This guy from Red's Fly Shop explains the swung fly technique as I would approach it almost anywhere. It is one of the easiest and most misunderstood methods out there.

YouTube

Good luck.
 
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Rip Tide

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I've fished for spring landlocks
My personal best was on a weighted "black ghost" but the grey ghost, Magog smelt, Hornberg, MickyFinn, all good.
There's probably even Sabago specific streamers that you might want check out. I know near Moosehead smelt flies need to have some purple in them. They don't call them "rainbow smelt" for nothing.

At ice-out, the salmon cruise the lake shore and trolling with sinking line is a must.
But once the smelt stage for their spawning run, river mouths are where you need to be.
Once the salmon move up into the rivers, they hug the bottom. But unlike trout that seem to like the heads of pools, salmon are more likely to be toward the tail-out. When there is plenty of cover.
Take the whole pool if you need to to get your streamer down, but once the tail of the pool contour begins to rise up, that's when you most need to be paying attention.

You also might want to think about sucker spawn.
Early season trout love sucker spawn.
 

flytie09

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You can use your floating line and the "skittering anchor" method to do the same thing as explained by Gary Borger in his blog below. Since you think the flies you bought do NOT have enough weight, the skittering anchor might be one you could use.

Gary Borger >> Blog Archive >> Skittering Anchor
Another great one Silver. I had never heard of the skittering anchor technique. Almost like drop shotting. I used to use something similar for Lake O tribs where I pinching on shot onto the tag end of a piece of mono at a barrel swivel where I would join my leader and tippets together. But the shot is 3-4 feet above the fly....not inches. This is classic chuck and ducking from way back. I've done it, do it at rare times and honestly hate it. It is not fly fishing to me anymore. I simply do not like pinching on extra weight to my line. And on the SR in NY Fly Fishing Only Zones....there are added weight restrictions of 1/8 oz max.....Guys are breaking this rule all day long.

You can also consider sliding a bead or a cone head on your line before you tie your fly on. That's been know to work before as well.

Give me a sink tip any day or a slightly weighted fly I can swing. Way easier to cast and much more enjoyable. You can get an unweighted sparsely tied fly to sink where you want with proper cast angle, mending and swing technique.

In many cases...if you are fishing high water, wading out to your chest and chuck and ducking the guts of the run......you should stop what you're doing, take a step back to ankle deep and fish the softer edges with a sink tip. Fish are not in the fast and furious flows...unless they're getting clubbed with lead all day.....

Well....you've got some ideas Limerick.....go give them a try.
 

LimerickShaw

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Not knowing the river or rod/line you're using it's tough to say use X..... a 9' section of T 14 is a good starting point almost anywhere. Unless you're in certain sections of Canada for Atlantics where sink tips are not allowed.

Give us a little more details and we might be able to narrow the guidance better.
In a Maine river known for a decent smelt run and I’m using a 9FT 5WT echo base with some WF line. It’s not a huge sized river in width. I didn’t realize they have leaders with differing sink rates - guess I should at least educate myself on that.
 

ddb

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I have no doubt some of the patterns used catch land-locks, brookies, and even lakers in early spring during the smelt runs.

But smelt are 7-10 inches long, thin bodied, critters and actually imitating them, even suggestively, requires a light touch with the materials and a long thin profile. The old 6x streamer hooks come into play in many traditional patterns.

Way back in the day some 'trolled' these flies from canoes around lake estuary mouths by holding the fly line in their paddling hands which gave the fly a darting movement. Stop and go probably still works.

ddb
 

Rip Tide

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Sea run smelt might get up to 7 - 10i inches, but landlocked rainbow smelt are more like 4-5 inches.
And the traditional flies used for trolling are not going to work in moving water
 

ddb

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Maybe small lakes in the NE only produce small smelt but the adult run smelt from decent size fresh water lakes are another story.

In my 'yute', I dipped and netted many sacks of spring smelt from the GL for food. 4-5 inchers were not worth the cleaning. Admittedly, the 10 inchers were rare, but far from unseen.

The already cleaned smelt in stores here are imported from Ontario and are longer than 4-5", even w/o their heads.

ddb
 

ddb

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Maybe small lakes in the NE only produce small smelt but the adult run smelt from decent size fresh water lakes are another story.

In my 'yute', I dipped and netted many sacks of spring smelt from the GL for food. 4-5 inchers were not worth the cleaning. Admittedly, the 10 inchers were rare, but far from unseen.

The already cleaned smelt in stores here are imported from Ontario and are longer than 4-5", even w/o their heads.

ddb
 

huronfly

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There's a big river here in Ontario where huge brook trout gorge on giant smelt that get chewed up going through turbines... the smelt are easily 6+ inches long. Fwiw we need to use 10-15 foot type 6 sink tips wto get down, as this river is about 10-14 feet deep with a strong current. Pretty standard swinging techniques work here, stripping streamers through the slower water works too...
 

viggysmalls

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I fish a lot of smelt patterns in the rivers around me during the spring, targeting sea-run and resident trout, but have accidentally hooked slink salmon as well. I never use a fly larger than 4 inches and usually it is more like 2-3 inches. I also rarely use a sink tip or split shot. I find the smelt patterns and other hair wings sink fairly well on their own, when using proper mending techniques. However, if it is a real deep run or pool I do have some poly-leaders that I throw on. I use a 9' 5 weight or 6 weight, and sometimes even a 4 weight on the smaller rivers if I don't think I will run into any big fish.
 
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