Streamer Flies - Sinking or Floating?  How About Catching!

Streamer Flies - Sinking or Floating? How About Catching!

Fly fishing streamers are typically one of the most exciting and effective ways to catch big fish. It doesn't matter if you're after trout or bass or anything in the middle of the two; when you have the right cast and right streamer, you'll be amazed at the results. But are streamers flies meant to sink or float?

Fly fishing streamers are typically one of the most exciting and effective ways to catch big fish. It doesn't matter if you're after trout or bass or anything in the middle of the two; when you have the right cast and right streamer, you'll be amazed at the results. But are streamers flies meant to sink or float?

As a general rule streamer flies sink. However, you must give it time to do so. Before casting a streamer, make sure to soak it in the body of water that you are fly fishing.  Some patterns are weighted and can be fished on a standard floating line, where others are designed to be fished with a full sink or intermediate sink line.

When fishing streamers on still water, for example, be sure to cast out as far as you can and let the fly sink at least 6 to 8 feet before making your retrieve.  When fishing in moving water such as rivers or creeks, using a weighted fly or full sink line will help sink the fly into the feeding zone so you can immediately start retrieving it when it hits the water

When fishing streamers in cold water, you should strive to slow down the fly. Make the cast across or go slightly upstream with it and then mend the line as the current takes it downstream, allowing streamer flies to sink.

Do Streamers Sink?

You also want to have the correct fly line for streamer pattern that you are fishing. You may want to consider a weight-forward steelhead taper in this case. Getting down to the fish and in deep water can sometimes be tricky. However, it is possible to do. One overlooked technique is the use of full sinking or sink tip fly lines for effective streamer fishing.

Defining Streamer Fishing

Before the question of, do streamer flies sink, you need to know what streamer fishing is exactly. In short, it’s a method of fly fishing using a submerged fly called a streamer. The streamers are built to mimic a smaller (or bait) fish that larger fish typically like to feed on. The size of the streamer can vary greatly, depending upon what you want to use. You must be prepared to fish more attentively than if you were using traditional dry-fly and to fish with an active retrieve.

Sizes of streamers

Reasons to Use A Streamer

When thinking about whether streamer flies sink, you should also consider why you want to use a streamer. Big fish will attack big flies when given a chance because they need a lot of protein to survive. The fish are attracted to these meaty snacks and will attack them because of hunger or instinct. You'll want to use a streamer for trout fly fishing or when on the hunt for rainbow trout, for example.

A streamer fly allows you to cover a large amount of water in a short amount of time. Based on your cast and retrieve methods, you can cover entire pools efficiently and successfully. It's an active way to fish and will bring about a lot of excitement to your day.

Streamer fishing is very involved, and you'll likely discover that it produces violent strikes when a fish does decide to bite at the fly. You'll definitely create some memories and set yourself up for some stories when you choose to use streamer flies in fly fishing.

While it works on hungry fish, streamer flies are also a great way to bait in fish that aren’t actively feeding. Streaming fishing can trigger reactionary strikes from large fish in the water. A reactionary strike is when your fly glides past a hunkered down fish, and that fish goes at it out of a primal instinct.

Getting Your Streamer Flies to Sink

It’s also important that if you’re going to get your streamer flies to sink that you’re methodical and intentional about when and where you use a streamer. Generally speaking, you should think dirty and think deep. Consider if there’s been a recent rainstorm and you notice the insects are out and nearby.

Look if the water is murky and deep to help you better determine if you should be using your streamer fly. Get the right meal in front of the fish’s face at the right water temperature, and they’re likely to be much more inclined to bite at it.

Large Brown Streamer Fishing

You can increase your fly’s visibility and ability to sink when the water is murky and deep, such as after a storm. Avoid clear daylight and clear water because it’s likely your fish will be less likely to swipe at large streamers in these conditions.

To answer where to use streamer flies so they sink, some of the best places to check out are protected spots. Think about behind large rocks, under backs, or in and around large trees that are submerged in the water.

Also, go places such as in the seams of the currents and find deep pockets of water. All fish of all sizes have predators, so look for cover. You'll find that fish are naturally drawn and go toward protection. You should work on finding good hiding spots where your fish are likely to come near and swim.

A few additional pointers are to fish the seam and fish deep. So what does this mean, exactly? Fishing the seam means you can check the seam to understand the knowledge of the water. Think of the water having lanes and figure out which way the fish are traveling. As for fishing deep, fishing streamers do best when fished in deep water. There are big and hungry fish down there that will be willing to go for your streamer.

If you would like to learn more about fly fishing a river, check out our article by clicking here

You may or may not realize that most streamers are constructed with flashy elements. This will help attract the fish to you. Your big streamer will get noticed, and the fish will likely bite because they've been waiting around for a meaty meal.

Choosing Your Streamer

When knowing which streamer to use, keep the following tips in mind. Come prepared with many options depending on whether you're dealing with wooly buggers, minnows and sculpin, or articulated streamers. 

You want your fish to be able to clearly see it. If they do or not, it will depend upon the water's color and the amount of sunlight you're seeing. It's best to use a purple or black streamer on cloudy or dark days.

Dark Streamer

On sunny and brighter days, use a white streamer to reflect the sunlight and stand out more. In addition to your streamer, you'll want to have the right rod, reel, and leader for fishing.

White Zonker Streamer

You may also want to add a split shot to your line to drastically increase the time your fly spends in its target area. It's best to invest in suitable fly fishing flies kits or the best fly fishing kits for fly fishing flies as well.

Casting & Fishing A Streamer

When casting and fishing a streamer, the rule of thumb is to send it far and make it dance. Forget about being elegant and smooth. When you're streamer fishing, you must adapt your cast to accommodate the weight of the fly. Below are tips to help you cast and fish a streamer on a river:

  • Stand right upstream of the hole or current
  • Modify your casting method depending on the weight of your fly
  • Pick your target
  • Load up
  • Use one swing or two
  • Finish with the rod tip high
  • Hit within 4-5 inches of the far bank

Large Cutbow with Streamer in Mouth

Best Practices for Fishing A Streamer

Fishing streamers are a way of fly fishing that allows you to be as creative as you want. Once your fly is in the water, you should follow the guidelines below. However, always feel free to add your personal touch.

  1. Get down: You’ll make the fish do less work to find your fly. Once your fly is in the water, let it sit for a few seconds.
  2. Mend it: After the fly has been in the water for roughly 2-3 seconds, throw downstream mend on it.
  3. Rod tip down: Tilt your rod tip down low when the fly starts its way downstream.
  4. Little strips: Start stripping the line when the fly has sunk.
  5. Let it swing: Keep tension on the line and perform small but rapid strips.
  6. Begin to jig: Give gentle tugs on the rod.
  7. Modify cast: Repeat all the above with a slight modification based on results.

If you're fishing streamers on still water or lakes, then cast out as far as you can go and allow the fly to sink about 4 to 6 feet before retrieving. Intermediate sinking lines are critical for effectively fishing a lake.

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So there you have it, you not only know the answer to, do streamer flies sink, but you also now know all you need to about streamers in general and having a good fly fishing experience. Having the right flies for fly fishing will ensure a positive outcome and the best results.

In either case, when fly fishing and using streamer flies, you're going to get an adrenaline rush like no other experience. Fishing is a fun and exciting activity. When you apply these tips and have the proper knowledge, you'll discover that you're much more successful and have a better time participating in the hobby.

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.

When he’s not spending time with his wonderful family, you’ll find him out on the water catching MONSTER trout, and he anxiously looks forward to the day when his kids are old enough to join him there.

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