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The Greatest Lesson in Fishing Streamers

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May 16, 2012

The Greatest Lesson in Fishing Streamers

By Kirk Deeter

Most of you who follow FlyTalk might realize by now that Romano and I are both shameless streamer junkies. We'll pound the banks from a boat, trying to turn big fish with blind casts, but we also like to wade and sight-fish streamers in low, clear water. Big flies catch big fish, to be sure. Yet in clear water, you have to make the right presentation for streamers to work well. While I've learned many valuable tips from streamer gurus like Kelly Galloup, who said, "You have to dictate the action, and not wait for something to happen," the greatest streamer lesson I ever learned didn't happen on a trout river, and it didn't even involve a true streamer fly. 

I was fishing on Biscayne Bay in Florida with legendary flats guide Bill Curtis about 10 years ago. Bill was on the poling platform and I was standing on the bow, when a big permit that looked like an aluminum trash can lid gliding through skinny water came cruising into view. Without a word spoken by either of us, I locked my eyes on the fish and unfurled what I thought was the perfect cast: A water-loaded beauty that formed a tight loop, rocketed 60 feet through the air, turned the leader over, and plopped just a foot or two ahead of the fish. The crab fly landed exactly on the money, or at least where I wanted it to drop.

The permit didn't spook at first, but as I started making gentle strips, lightly bouncing the fly into the feeding zone, it abruptly finned away.

By the time the fish split, Bill was already climbing off the poling platform, grumbling unmentionables under his breath. Having thought I made the perfect cast, I was crestfallen but willing to rationalize the episode via all I had heard about the notoriously fickle nature of permit. Still, on impulse, I asked aloud, "What in the heck happened? What went wrong?"

Bill looked me straight in the eye and deadpanned, "Fish like that aren't used to bait attacking them."

Then he sat down behind the steering wheel, cranked up the boat motor and didn't say another word. I let it sink in for a moment and then realized that I had been taught the greatest lesson that can ever be learned about catching wily, predatory fish with large flies; by a master in as few words as humanly possible.

Think about it and apply this reasoning to the trout world. Little, finicky trout like to sip helplessly-floating nymphs and dry flies -- they demand to be "spoon fed." But when they get big, they go after other fish. They also get smart, so when something swims toward their mouth, they don't typically eat it.  

Learn to drop streamers where trout can see them, and then immediately make those flies look like they're panicked and fleeing. It's a simple concept that's easier said than done. But if you figure that deal out, I guarantee you'll unlock the secret to catching more and bigger trout, in any conditions.

 

Comments (18)

Top Rated
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from Koldkut wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

Amen! Kelly Galoup is the man, and I've seen the same situation pertain to trout, they just turn tail and run away when the bait attacks.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from badsmerf wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

Good point. This is one of the things I try to do with streamers; namely baitfish imitations.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

I'd guess that a high percentage of the time anglers fishing streamers fish blind, don't see the fish. They don't know if the streamer is fleeing, or being stripped towards their quarry. They guess that a fish is laying near a structure if they see the structure, but a very effective way of stripping streamers on a river is to mend downstream, and strip the streamer along a bank fleeing the streamer downriver, as it is believed most wounded baitfish flee. What if the predator is located downriver below where the streamer lands? I fish a lot of streamers, and seldom ever see the predator before casting. The guy casting the big streamer for muskies hopes to get his streamer in proximity to a muskie so he can see it. He can't consider the option of fleeing, or attacking as it has been described.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

Good logic. And I definitely get your point But I also have to agree with sayfu. I know when I'm throwing streamers 99% of the time it's usually blind. I see structure of some kind be it a rock, undercut bank, down tree, etc. I usually throw 5-10 feet upstream of it and work it down and away from that structure assuming something is lying there waiting.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

..never really knowing were the fish actually is.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

The same philosophy applies to all fishing. Learned this trick in high school as an aspiring bass fisherman.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

buckhunter...If you can see down in that dirty bass water, and see a bass behind a sunken log, you must dress in a phone booth.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

What Deeter is talking about here is Salt Water sight fishing, and permit have exceptional sight, and very wary critters. My flyshop buddy went to Belize fishing for permit for the first time ever, and I couldn't wait to ask him how it went, how'd you do? He said, "I caught several permit, not that hard." I said, "BS, tell the truth. He responded that the technique was to get the fly/crab ahead of the permit, and still fish it, not strip it. Said all he was told to do was strip out the slack in the line/leader, and stop, then strip out whatever more slack developed. Permit dipped, and took the still crab, and fish on! But that's permit, and not brown trout in a river. And if all else fails? Buy a Burke lure, and...."Put a Burke where they lurk!"

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tkbone wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

Not the point of the article but I think Sayfu's permit anecdote is also valuable advice about fishing streamers since sometimes I have a lot more success when I let the fly and the line do the work and resist the urge to hit the "strip club" and make the fly go too fast. I don't think it's all that uncommon that in certain lies, like in tailwaters, stunned and disoriented prey is the norm rather than the scared @#$&-less, really fast bait trying to get away.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mgofish wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

What type of box is that in the pic? Looking to buy a couple of new boxes for Bass/Pike sized streamers

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

Hope someone interested in streamer fishing watched the latest addition of "Orvis Guide to Flyfishing"..on cable. Tom Rosenbauer covered streeamer fishing from A-Z like no one else can. A very good show segment with lots of substance.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from greg_george1 wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

This is very true and is something I practice frequently when stream fishing. But I also believe that there are certain instances when casting directly over the fish may work better. When fishing topwater it typically does not spook the fish and many times brings an immediate bite. Fish that sit along the shoreline are waiting for the insect to fall from the tree and that is what the lure is imitating.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Larson wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

I think that situations and fish vary. Kick up a sculpin in a trout stream and it tears down stream. Small streams, big streams, salt, trout, permit, northerns; all different. You try to match the conditions and situation.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from steelmaster wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

I love how everyone knows everything about every fish every caught anywhere. True is I don't know whats best neither do most of you, what I do know is that the wily old fisherman on the banks of your river has recipe you want. I won't lie, my go-to baits and flies were learned from this approach, nothing that I drummed up in my head but by simply listening to these duffers

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

Baits, and flies?..I'd bet a bunch you aren't much of a fly angler.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from otdorjunky wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

this article has some great points. espicially for a beginner anglers like myself. please keep the good arcticles comings!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

otdorjunky...I would say it has NO useful points for you as a beginner angler. You need to be able to cast a big streamer well, control the line when the fly hits the water, and be ready to strip, and put action on the fly. If it is freshwater you fish, virtually NO ONE sees the fish before they cast the streamer. Saltwater? That takes experienced anglers to fish in the salt, an accurately throw a bulky fly in often strong breezes. Stating that it is "the greatest lesson in streamer fishing" is totally off the wall.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from BassCanuck wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Sayfu = Arrogant douche bag

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Sayfu wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

I'd guess that a high percentage of the time anglers fishing streamers fish blind, don't see the fish. They don't know if the streamer is fleeing, or being stripped towards their quarry. They guess that a fish is laying near a structure if they see the structure, but a very effective way of stripping streamers on a river is to mend downstream, and strip the streamer along a bank fleeing the streamer downriver, as it is believed most wounded baitfish flee. What if the predator is located downriver below where the streamer lands? I fish a lot of streamers, and seldom ever see the predator before casting. The guy casting the big streamer for muskies hopes to get his streamer in proximity to a muskie so he can see it. He can't consider the option of fleeing, or attacking as it has been described.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

buckhunter...If you can see down in that dirty bass water, and see a bass behind a sunken log, you must dress in a phone booth.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

Amen! Kelly Galoup is the man, and I've seen the same situation pertain to trout, they just turn tail and run away when the bait attacks.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from badsmerf wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

Good point. This is one of the things I try to do with streamers; namely baitfish imitations.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

Good logic. And I definitely get your point But I also have to agree with sayfu. I know when I'm throwing streamers 99% of the time it's usually blind. I see structure of some kind be it a rock, undercut bank, down tree, etc. I usually throw 5-10 feet upstream of it and work it down and away from that structure assuming something is lying there waiting.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

..never really knowing were the fish actually is.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

The same philosophy applies to all fishing. Learned this trick in high school as an aspiring bass fisherman.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

What Deeter is talking about here is Salt Water sight fishing, and permit have exceptional sight, and very wary critters. My flyshop buddy went to Belize fishing for permit for the first time ever, and I couldn't wait to ask him how it went, how'd you do? He said, "I caught several permit, not that hard." I said, "BS, tell the truth. He responded that the technique was to get the fly/crab ahead of the permit, and still fish it, not strip it. Said all he was told to do was strip out the slack in the line/leader, and stop, then strip out whatever more slack developed. Permit dipped, and took the still crab, and fish on! But that's permit, and not brown trout in a river. And if all else fails? Buy a Burke lure, and...."Put a Burke where they lurk!"

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tkbone wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

Not the point of the article but I think Sayfu's permit anecdote is also valuable advice about fishing streamers since sometimes I have a lot more success when I let the fly and the line do the work and resist the urge to hit the "strip club" and make the fly go too fast. I don't think it's all that uncommon that in certain lies, like in tailwaters, stunned and disoriented prey is the norm rather than the scared @#$&-less, really fast bait trying to get away.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mgofish wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

What type of box is that in the pic? Looking to buy a couple of new boxes for Bass/Pike sized streamers

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

Hope someone interested in streamer fishing watched the latest addition of "Orvis Guide to Flyfishing"..on cable. Tom Rosenbauer covered streeamer fishing from A-Z like no one else can. A very good show segment with lots of substance.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from greg_george1 wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

This is very true and is something I practice frequently when stream fishing. But I also believe that there are certain instances when casting directly over the fish may work better. When fishing topwater it typically does not spook the fish and many times brings an immediate bite. Fish that sit along the shoreline are waiting for the insect to fall from the tree and that is what the lure is imitating.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Larson wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

I think that situations and fish vary. Kick up a sculpin in a trout stream and it tears down stream. Small streams, big streams, salt, trout, permit, northerns; all different. You try to match the conditions and situation.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from steelmaster wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

I love how everyone knows everything about every fish every caught anywhere. True is I don't know whats best neither do most of you, what I do know is that the wily old fisherman on the banks of your river has recipe you want. I won't lie, my go-to baits and flies were learned from this approach, nothing that I drummed up in my head but by simply listening to these duffers

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

Baits, and flies?..I'd bet a bunch you aren't much of a fly angler.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from otdorjunky wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

this article has some great points. espicially for a beginner anglers like myself. please keep the good arcticles comings!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BassCanuck wrote 1 year 23 weeks ago

Sayfu = Arrogant douche bag

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 47 weeks ago

otdorjunky...I would say it has NO useful points for you as a beginner angler. You need to be able to cast a big streamer well, control the line when the fly hits the water, and be ready to strip, and put action on the fly. If it is freshwater you fish, virtually NO ONE sees the fish before they cast the streamer. Saltwater? That takes experienced anglers to fish in the salt, an accurately throw a bulky fly in often strong breezes. Stating that it is "the greatest lesson in streamer fishing" is totally off the wall.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment