Streamer Fishing for Trout – Pro Tips from a Professional Guide!
The topic of this article is streamer fishing for trout. Streamers are very versatile flies. They can represent insects, larvae, minnows, and crustaceans. These are all prime forage for all species of trout in both streams and lakes.
A streamer is a fishing fly that works below the surface of the water. Depending on the streamer selected and the manner in which it is retrieved, streamers can mimic a wide variety of trout forage. While current is a factor in moving water, the angler does need to impart action to the fly in most cases to elicit a strike. Streamers can be used to work the entire water column.
While many anglers fly fishing for trout prefer to catch them on dry flies, the reality is that sub-surface flies will catch more fish day in and day out. Streamers will also produce larger fish with regularity. As tall trout species grow and mature, they focus more on larger prey such as minnows as opposed to insects. Larger meals simply offer more nutrition.
Kara is a trout fishing expert who lives in Dillon, Montana. She guides for trout in her local waters. She loves to fly fish for trout with streamers! Kara Jean has her own apparel line, Yellow Sally Fishing that caters to female anglers.
To book a trout fishing trip in southwest Montana with Kara call Greater Yellowstone Outfitters (816) 591-3535.
Top trout fishing streamers
As mentioned earlier, streamers are very versatile trout fishing flies that can be used to imitate the things that trout feed on. Some really look like nothing that exists in the water, yet trout will still take them when presented properly. Most are weighted.
Here is Kara’s list of the top trout fishing streamers
- Muddler Minnow
- Wooly Bugger
- Micky Finn
- Clouser Minnow
- Sparkle Minnow
- Yellow Yummy
The Muddler Minnow is a classic streamer fly that has been around a long time. It is tied in natural brown colors and mimics sculpins and other aquatic prey. It it generally worked slowly near the bottom.
The Wooly Bugger is perhaps the most popular streamer in freshwater. It is a weighted variation of a Wooly worm. It is a ‘buggy” looking fly that can be tied to imitate a variety of trout forage.
The Micky Finn is an unweighted streamer fly that is a bait fish pattern. It is unweighted and usually tied using fairly bright colors. Micky Finn streamers are worked faster and closer to the surface.
The Clouser Minnow is considered a smallmouth bass fly (it was invented by Bob Clouser for smallmouth on the Susquehanna) and is often ignored by trout anglers. This is a mistake! Clousers are arguable the most popular saltwater fly. They can be tied using different hook sizes, weighted eyes, and material to imitate anything a trout eats. It also rides with the hook up, resulting in less snags.
The Sparkle Minnow is one of the most productive little streamers in the West. The body is made out of Wing-n-Flash, and features a tri-colored marabou tail. The sparkle minnow is a staple streamer pattern for just about any body of water in the country, particularly out West.
Yellow Yummy flies are a good choice in spring when the waters are high and off-color. It is a bright fly that displaces a lot of water and makes a large splash on entry.
Zonkers are very effective and versatile trout fishing streamers. They can be tied in a variety of materials and colors to imitate every type of trout forage that lives beneath the surface.
A Leech fly mimics a leech, which trout feed on. They are mostly fished slowly and close to the bottom. Leech flies are excellent search baits used to cover water when fish are near the bottom.
Tackle requirements when streamer fishing for trout
Tackle requirements for streamer fishing for trout are similar to other forms of fly fishing. One difference is that the line should sink down into the water as opposed to floating when dry fly fishing. Kara prefers a 6 wt outfit for most of her streamer fishing for trout.
Anglers can use a floating line for streamer fishing. Most streamers are weighted and a split shot or two can be added to get the streamer down deeper in the water column if needed. The floating line adds versatility; anglers can easily switch back and forth from streamers to other flies.
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There are conditions where a sink tip line does work best. Primarily, this would be when fishing high, fast water. The sink tip line will better facilitate getting the fly down without adding too much extra weight. Another situation is in summer when warmer water pushed the trout deeper into pools and holes.
Leader options when fishing streamers
Water color and fish species and size will dictate the leader size and to some degree, length. When the water is dirty or heavily stained, a 0X flourocarbon leader and tippet is a good choice. Streamers do get hung up. Having a stronger leader will save anglers from losing flies to the snags.
When the water is clear, 2X or 3X leaders are a better choice. However, anglers do need to be prepared to lose a few streamers. Leader length is a bit of a personal choice, but Kara prefers shorter leaders, between 5 and 7 feet long. She believes it results in the streamer having better action in the water.
Trout fishing with streamers in rivers
Streamer fishing techniques vary in a couple of different ways from dry fly fishing. Streamers are usually fished across the current and down stream. Also, streamers obviously work below the surface of the water. They are manipulated by the stripping hand of the angler.
Fly fishing with streamers from a boat
The best technique when fishing streamers, particularly from a boat or raft, is to work tight to the bank with casts. It is important to make a splash with the fly when it lands, no delicate presentations here! This will get the attention of a trout. After it lands, the fly is stripped a few times before casting again.
This technique requires constant casting. It is crucial to cover as much water as possible. Brown trout in particular are partial to undercut banks. A noisy, fast moving streamer will appeal to their predatory nature and elicit a strike. This is very exciting as the takes are visible. The fish will often “bump” the fly or miss it entirely. This only adds to the excitement! A pair of experienced anglers can cover virtually the entire banks of a river.
Streamers are usually cast out across the stream or river. As the current grabs the line, the streamer fly swings with it. The angler keeps the rod tip low, near the water. Using his or her stripping hand, the fly is manipulated using short strips. As in all fishing, the retrieve should be varied until a productive pattern emerges. When a fish takes, set the hook and get the rod tip high.
Trout fishing with streamers in lakes and ponds
Streamers can certainly be used effectively for trout and other species in still waters such as lakes and ponds. This can be done from both the shoreline and from a boat. There are a couple of differences when fishing lakes as opposed to streams. Obviously, the main factor is the lack of current in lakes. Also, anglers fishing streamers in lakes will usually do best going to a full sinking line.
Kara fishes streamers extensively in still waters when both guiding and fishing on her own. The primary challenge is determining the depth that the trout are feeding at. It does require patience! She starts closer to the surface them works deeper, using the countdown method on a sink tip line or sinking leader. Anglers simply cast out and allow the line to sink for 5 seconds before beginning the retrieve. If no take occurs, cast again and count to 10 before retrieving the fly.
Leech flies are also effective when fly fishing for trout in lakes and ponds. They are cast out and allowed to sink close to the bottom. Retrieve it back in with long, slow strips. The takes are quite aggressive when employing this technique.
Kara highly recommends that anglers who enjoy stillwater fishing give Pyramid Lake on the Paiute Indian Reservation a try. It has a good population of Lohanton Cutthroat trout which are both large and gorgeous!
In conclusion, this article on streamer fishing for trout will help anglers experience more success using this technique!