One of my favorite ways to fish for trout is by throwing streamers. I’m a total sucker for it. Whether that’s out of a boat or walking down a bank, there’s nothing quite like that big tug you get when fishing those bigger baitfish and leech patterns for trout. Heck, even if you aren’t landing fish you at least get the satisfaction of the swipes, tugs and long follows. That’s why utilizing a streamer might just be your best bet for some action early in the season. Typically the water is higher and colder, and less insects are hatching — making a streamer pattern an easy choice for its simplicity. Just don’t fish it like you would in the middle of the summer or early fall. Here are eight tips that are sure to help improve your fishing with the big bugs this spring.
1. Slow down. When water temps are quite a bit colder from snowmelt and early season rain fish are less aggressive and won’t move nearly as far to eat. Vary your retrieve speed and go much slower than you would later in the season.
2. Get Deep. At least deeper than you’d normally fish a streamer. Use a sinking-tip type line or very heavy bugs. This makes casting a bit harder, but will pay dividends in terms of getting your fly in front of more fish that are willing to take a look.
3. Fish Upstream. Most of my casts are downstream when wade fishing or to the bank when fishing from a boat in the middle of the summer or fall with a streamer. In the spring you need to get your bugs down and fishing upstream is a great way to do this. Throw a quartering cast upstream, right after your fly hits the water give it a huge mend, which will let your bug get down to where the fish are. This will work with a sinking line or floating line.
4. Dead Drift Your Bugs. I know, this runs counter to what you do most of the time with a streamer, but it can be deadly effective in the spring when fish are less apt to chase down a baitfish. Try this with a sinking line and a natural material leech pattern.
5. Use or Tie Streamers That Utilize a Ton of Natural Material—like rabbit, marabou or peacock. Typically when fishing these flies slower this type of material gives a more realistic action and just moves more at slower speeds. Use streamers with heavy weight like tungsten heads or bodies too.
**6. Fish Two Streamers In-Line With Each Other. **I might get hate mail for this one, but it’s effective: I like to use something we call salt and pepper on my local rivers. Make sure one is a darker color and one is lighter, hence the name. This give you two advantages: one, you can use the lighter color to verify the location of your streamer and attract fish. Two, it give the fish options — if the fish doesn’t like the darker pattern it might go for the lighter one or vice versa. Some of my friends/streamer fiends swear that you must tie a smaller pattern in front of a larger one — thus imaging a bigger fish chasing a smaller fish. I personally don’t buy that and find it harder to throw, but if it gives you confidence go for it.
7. Always Use Fluorocarbon. It’s more abrasive resistant and sinks a bit better when throwing these types of flies. Many times in the spring the water is dirty and sizing up is a good option as you lose less fish and fewer expensive flies like streamers as underwater snags are more difficult to see. Yes, you might forgo a few fish because of the larger tippet, but if a fish is committed to a streamer it’s probably going to eat it even if you have a bit larger tippet than normal.
8. Use a Non-Slip Mono Loop Knot to tie on your streamer. It’s a stronger knot and gives the fly a much more natural presentation when fished at slower speeds. It basically allows it to move more freely than if it was tied on with a simple clinch knot.