Streamer Fly Fishing

Dry fly fishing is one of the most exciting styles of fly fishing because you actually see the trout come up out of its hiding place to eat your fly. It can be one of the most exciting things to see when fishing—and what typically gets newcomers coming back again and again.


Welcome to the streamer fly fishing segment of our beginner tutorials.  

So, what is streamer fly fishing?

Streamer fishing is the closest thing in fly fishing to what most fishermen start out with—lure fishing. Like lures, streamers imitate smaller fish, bait fish, scallops, and other common aquatic life such as leeches or crayfish. Streamer fishing is exciting because you are constantly moving, retrieving your line, and covering lots of water. It is also exciting because when a trout hits your streamer, it feels like a bull is pulling on the other side of the line.  

Let’s discuss the rod setup for a streamer rig.

Because streamers do carry a little more weight than a nymph or a dry fly, you might want to look into a 6 or 7 weight rod, if you don’t already have one. A heavier rod will make casting easier and send the streamer out to greater distances. If you don’t have a 6 or 7 weight rod, don’t worry; you can still whip out streamers with whatever rod you have on hand.

You might be asking, what type of line do I need for streamer fishing? If your rod comes with a floating line it will work just fine, but if you’re really getting into streamer fishing and are trying to reach deeper depths such as deep pools in still water, you might want to invest in a sinking tip line. These lines are weighted on the end to bring the leader and fly down to deeper depths faster so you can reach those larger trout lurking in the depths.

This line setup is going to be different than our dryfly or nymph rig setup. You will want a 4x or stronger leader about 4 to 5 feet off your line. There are some streamer leaders on the market that have micro swivels on one end that you can attach additional heavy tipet . Then attach the streamer to the end of your leader by using the Improved Clinch Knot or the Non-Slip Loop Knot. After you have tied on your fly, give a little tug to make sure that your knot is good and the fly does not immediately break off. Then make sure to debarb the hook by crimping the barbs down with your fishing pliers. This will make it easier to remove the fly after you have landed a MONSTER!

Now that your rod is set up, let’s discuss the best time to streamer fish. Streamers can be a good selection if the water is murky or off-color, like if it has rained recently and the water is not as clear as it would be on any other given day. When water levels are high from runoff, that’s another good time to use streamers.

Streamers are also great options to use when fishing off a boat, because they cover a lot of water. With the added weight, they can be cast much farther away than you would be able to cast with a dry fly or nymph rig set up.

Because streamers are fished on an active retrieve (which we will show you a little bit later), you also don’t have to worry about a dead drift presentation or perfect placement like you would with a dry fly.

Where is the best location to use streamers?

Pretty much everywhere. Because you can cover large amounts of water quickly, you can use streamers in just about any area that holds trout. We will go into greater detail on stocking trout in future lessons, but for now, just remember that there is no wrong place for streamers.

Now we are all set up and ready to hit the water. Let’s first discuss using streamers on moving water. Unlike with dry fly fishing and nymphing where you are casting 3/4 upstream, you will want to cast a streamer directly across-stream. Start retrieving the line with the opposite hand of your casting hand, in 6- to 8-inch intervals.

This represents a small bait fish that might have been spooked from its hiding place and is making a run for it. Because trout are territorial, if a streamer comes into the view of a hungry trout, you’re almost guaranteed to get a hit. The 6-inch retrieval is a great way to get started with streaming, but it’s not the only way to fish streamers.

Try changing up your retrieve—two fast retrieves with a pause, then three fast retrieves with a pause. Fish, like most living things, do not move in a consistent manner, so making your retrieves as realistic in movement as possible will make your streamer more appealing to the MONSTER TROUT!

Another approach is a dead drift with a swing. Cast across-stream and then hold your line tight. Mend your line slightly upstream and let the streamer swing around and rise to the surface. As soon as you get the hang of the streamer in the water and your retrieve rates, try changing up your angle on the water. Cast downstream and retrieve it back to you. Or if you are using a sculpin pattern, cast upstream and retrieve as it depends. Sculpin typically swim downstream when frightened.

While streamer fishing, make sure you pause during the last few strips of the line before picking it up to cast again. Trout will sometimes chase your streamer across an entire river waiting for the prime opportunity to take a meal.

So, how do you use streamers on still water?

You’ll use a streamer on still water in the same way you would on moving water, except you’ll want to give the streamer a little more time to sink before starting your retrieve. Look for areas where you can cast to opposite banks or to obstructions such as inlets, beaver dams, or foliage. Change up your retrieve until you find a combination that lands you that MONSTER TROUT!