Is a Streamer a Wet Fly? - We Ask A Professional Fly Tier

Is a Streamer a Wet Fly? - We Ask A Professional Fly Tier

People new to fly fishing have come to use with all types of questions and here at Drifthook Fly Fishing we aim to answer them all.  One of the latest questions we received was, "What is a streamer?  Is it a Wet Fly?" and vice versa. 

Fly fishing streamers are one of the most effective and enjoyable methods employed in catching large fish. Whether you're fishing for Trout, Catfish, Bass, or anything in between, the proper cast combined with the right streamer can provide incredible results.

Traditional Wet Fly Pattern

People new to fly fishing have come to use with all types of questions and here at Drifthook Fly Fishing we aim to answer them all.  One of the latest questions we received was, "What is a streamer?  Is it a Wet Fly?" and vice versa.  So we asked our local professional fly tier Mike Harper the same question. 

As a general rule, any fly meant to sink and be fished below the water's surface can be referred to as a wet fly. Wet flies come in a variety of styles and can be fished in several ways. Traditional wet flies, streamers, and nymphs are the three main categories of wet flies. When the word "wet fly" is used, it often refers to traditional wet flies designs from the 1800's and early 1900's in the US.

Traditional Wet Fly for Salmon

Traditional wet flies used in the early days of fly fishing were fished by casting them downstream, letting the flies swing across the current. Then they are drawn back upstream periodically while maintaining a tight line. The term “Wet Fly Swing” was established.

Due to the tightness of the line, strikes are frequently felt rather than seen. Traditional wet flies, particularly soft hackles, can also be dead drifted in the same way as nymphs. As the fly wanders across the water, it appears as though it has life, and this is because of its silky nature.

 Muddy Buddy

Streamers are fished by casting downstream as well as upstream and across stream. The retrieve is a little faster and typically jerky, depending on the stripping method utilized. In most cases, streamers are designed to simulate minnows and baitfish. This implies that they should swim a little faster and irregularly than typical wet flies, designed to imitate slow-moving hatching insects. 

Bear in mind that more than 90 percent of what trout and most other fish consume is found beneath the surface of the water. You'll have a much better chance of catching more fish if you master wet fly tactics.

Brown Trout Caught on Fly Fishing Streamers

What are Fly Fishing Streamers?

Streamers are a type of fly fishing pattern used to capture fish while fly fishing. They're usually bigger than standard fly patterns and look like aquatic prey like small fish, giant aquatic insects, and leeches.

Generally, streamers are used by Fly Fishers who want to catch larger fish such as freshwater trout. Larger fish frequently react more quickly if they detect what appears to be a massive, appetizing meal in the water. 

Bow River Bugger Streamer Fly

Big flies imply large prey, and this is most common in trout fly fishing. Crawfish, leeches, and baitfish are all excellent sources of calories. Those who fly fishing streamers should be prepared for a lot of hard bites, as most predatory fish will attack with great speed for these meals.

Another exciting thing about Streamers is that they are one of the most adaptable flies, and they may be used in almost any situation, even rough or murky water. Because of their significant physical presence, it is easier for fishes to recognize them, increasing the likelihood of bites.

Types of Trout Fly Fishing Streamers

Streamers come in different verities and depending on what you need them for. The list below provides some detail on streamer types.

Feathered Streamers

Feathered Streamers: This styler were among the first to be introduced to the market in the late 1800's, and they continue to be popular today. Buck-tails can be anything from baitfish to leeches.

Butt Monkey Sculpin Pattern

Sculpins: These streamers look like sculpins which are little fishes that live in pools, shallow water, and ripples. They're a preferred diet of trout and other large freshwater fish. Thus, they're one of the most common baitfish in the fly box. They can also be used in almost any situation. Sculpins come in a variety of colors and sizes, and this increases your chances of catching your trout or catfish.

Double Bunny Baitfish Streamer

Baitfish: The majority of streamers on the market represent baitfish of one kind or another. Fly fishers utilize these streamers in both fresh and saltwater.

Bunny Leach Fly Fishing Streamer

Leeches:  Leach patterns mimic jus that, leaches.  Leaches can be found in still waters as well as rivers and creeks across the globe

Crayfish Fly Fishing Pattern

Crayfish:  Crayfish streamers represent crew dad patterns and crayfish patterns.  These are typically use in still waters where crayfish are abundant.

Articulated Streamers

Articulated Streamers: Are streamers designed with a hinge in the body to give more lifelike movement to the pattern.

    Streamers are available in a wide variety of colors. The importance of color, on the other hand, is controversial. While some fish will react to color changes, the majority will not. 

    If you're visiting a new place, talk to local fishing guides to determine which colors local fishermen prefer. Sometimes you'll notice that certain groups of fishes prefer one hue over another, either because it looks more like its prey or because it's more apparent.

    For out top 25 Places to Fly Fish check out our full article here >

    Some locals may recommend specific streamer colors and patterns as the most effective, but don't be scared to try something new. There is no definitive science that can determine which method is the most effective. If you're ever in doubt, remember the mantra: "bright skies, brilliant fly; dark skies, dark fly." Choose a bright, colorful fly on a bright, sunny day. Choose a black streamer if the weather is dark, dismal, and drizzly.

    Dark Streamer in Brown Trouts Mouth

    I'm some cases, streamers don't mimic any prey. Interestingly, it doesn't seem to be a problem. Freshwater fishes have an inherent attraction to anything that resembles an insect or vertebrate. Artificial streamers usually highlight the traits that fish look for when searching for food, making them easier to spot than natural prey.

    When to Use Streamers When Fly Fishing for Trout 

    Nothing compares to the thrills of fly fishing with streamers, especially trout fly fishing in the US. But streamers are helpful for more than just collecting large fish, and they're also beneficial in situations where no other type of fly will catch a fish.

    Best Fly Fishing Streamers for Sale

    It can be challenging to choose the correct pattern while approaching a body of water. The decision is frequently based on your assessment of the situation. Streamers usually allow you to catch fish in high and muddy water. This is because of their size and how they glide in the water. Fish recognizes the telltale signature of prey and move closer to feast. As a result, they can be pretty helpful when there is sediment or dirt in the water.

    Streamer Fly Fishing for Trout Video Link

    Fly fishing streamers are particularly useful when you're not sure what kind of fish are in the water or what they're eating. Typically, your lure must be tailored to the species you want to catch. But that isn't always achievable if you're going in blind. As a result, streamers provide a "catch-all" method for catching any large fish that may be in the water, even if the conditions are bad.

    Why are Streamers So Effective For Finding Trout?

    Streamers, for example, imitate the appearance of food that trout would typically consume. Some of which are baitfish and crawfish. However, some designs that don't match traditional food sources are effective for attracting fish. Hellgrammites, leeches, and stoneflies are among them.

    According to one theory, trouts usually act on reflex, and they can't resist coming up for a bite when they see the bait wriggling in the water. Another theory is that these larger insects resemble the favored prey of trout, and they'd come up for a bite regardless because they can't tell the difference.

    Finally, there's the notion that trouts can't afford to miss out on such a calorie-dense supper, regardless of what it might be. They have no idea when their next food will be delivered.

    Fly Rod for Streamers

    What Type of Rod Should I Choose for Trout Fly Fishing Streamers?

    If you're employing streamers, making big catches should be high on your priority list. As a result, you'll want to choose a reinforced rod that can withstand the tugging and pull of the various species you're likely to attract. People have caught trout weighing over sixty pounds in places like Great Bear Lake, with some captures exceeding 65 pounds or more. Ordinary rods are incapable of withstanding such pressure.

    If you frequently fish streamers, a six or seven-weight rod is a good investment, and they are preferable for throwing larger flies than their four and five-weight counterparts. 

    A floating line is generally adequate for people who prefer to fish in shallower water. On the other hand, a sinking dip line is the best choice if you want to become serious about streamer fishing. Due to its higher weight, it is more stable in fast-moving deep water. It also allows you to attract larger fishes that reside closer to the water bed. This increases your chances of landing a gratifying catch in open water.

    Large Trout caught on Streamer

    If you are using large streamers, make sure your tippet isn't too light. Trout chasing streamers will attack and pull violently. It would be best if you had something strong enough to withstand the pressure and at the same time keep your streamer connected to the line. You can start with tippet size of 3X, but if you're using large flies, you might want to go with 2X or more.

    Other Equipment that is needed for Streamers

    After you've decided on your rod, you'll need to think about the rest of the gear you'll need in your arsenal.

    • Leader: A leader is a type of bait commonly used to catch trout or other large fish. It makes your fishing line sink deeper. In the process, the streamer appears more visible and appealing to fish. The length of the leader usually is six to nine feet, with a 3 to 4X multiplier. Those searching for the biggest fish will frequently utilize even larger lines.
    • Tippet: Tippet is additional line that is added to your leader to extend the lifespan of your leader.  It comes in both monofilament and fluorocarbon in sizes ranges for all species.
    • Reels: Fly fishing rods need reels to house the backing, line and leader.  Newer reels on the marketplace have larger arbors to help balance out the long rods and also bring in your catch at a faster rate.

    Fly Fishing Gear for Beginners

    How to Cast Your Streamer

    Anglers might spend a lifetime perfecting their casting methods to the level of precision required by specialists. They make it appear so simple and gorgeous!

    Imitating the professionals, you see in magazines and on YouTube might be difficult if you're new to the sport. The usual overhead, double haul casting method isn't always practical, and this is because streamers are substantially larger than standard flies. 

    So what’s the solution? 

    • Choose the location where you want your streamer to land. Search for a bank, a current, or a pit that could be home to fish.
    • Increase the tension of the fly. You don't have to do a backcast if you don't want to. You should be able to cast it as long as the fly is tensed.
    • The line should be swung once or twice. This is because of the streamer's weight, and it only takes a tiny amount of force to set it in motion.
    • Finish it up by raising the tip of your rod to about 120 degrees or 30 degrees relative to the water. The fly will be able to travel further if the rod is kept in this position. 

    Matthew Bernhardt

    About the Author

    Matthew Bernhardt, a third-generation Coloradan, grew up at the forefront of the state’s fly-fishing revolution, enjoying time on the water, side by side with experienced guides and lifelong anglers.

    By combining his passion for fly-fishing with input from other experienced fly-fishers and guides and his fine arts degree from Colorado State University, Matthew spent five years carefully developing the Drifthook Fly Fishing System, built to help every angler catch more trout.

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