Swinging Streamers

Streamer fishing is probably the most productive way to catch early season fish. You’ve got your favorite streamer on and made a great cast. The fly is right where you want it. Now what do you do? There are two schools to fly fishing, the 1st is learning how to get your fly out there. You just did that. The 2nd is what to do with your fly now that it’s where you want it. It’s all about the retrieve. Different flies, different fish, and different times of the season require different retrieves. Ever been with someone who was doing all the catching and you’re using the same fly and not getting a tug. I’ve been asked this question a thousand times. “How come he’s catching fish and I’m not?” My answer always is the same “Because you’re not watching him and doing what he’s doing”. We’ve all been there. Don’t focus on where they are fishing pay attention to what they are doing with the fly. It’s got to appear natural, if it doesn’t you’re not playing the game right.

I’ll try and make some sense of it all, starting with early season streamer fishing on moving water. When you’re fishing streamers in the spring your fly is supposed to represent some species of minnow, mainly smelts in our neighborhood. Baitfish scurry about, not staying in any one place for any length of time. They stop in the wrong place and they stand the likely chance of getting gobbled.

In moving water, as your fly swings across the current, flick the tip of your rod slightly up and down to give your fly a little life. Flip the rod tip 4 inches and your fly accelerates ahead 4 inches. Pump the rod a foot and so goes your fly.

A fish may slam the streamer as it moves cross current but we all know most streamer strikes come at the end of the swing when your fly stops in the current for a second or two. Try leaving it there for a few seconds and give it a couple more jigs before you start the retrieve. You’ll provoke more strikes. Now as you retrieve stop the retrieve every few feet. Your fly may go right by a fish that may not be in the mood to chase it but then it stops close by and becomes a very easy meal.

So many times fishermen recast before they can see their fly at the end of the retrieve. It drives me crazy. If we had a fly camera to prove it, I’ll bet anything they may be taking the fly away from an interested fish without knowing it. I always, always, always retrieve my streamer close enough to see it, stop it, then jig the fly in that spot a couple of times before making another cast.

A – I’m making sure the fly is not fouled. Streamers are notorious for that. Ever reel up to leave or change your fly and find your streamer in a tangle. Who knows how long you’ve been fishing a fly that can’t even catch bottom.

B – A fish may just make a pass at your fly before your very eyes, which is always a thrill you’ll probably be braggin’ about later around the campfire.

If one retrieve isn’t working, try another. I like to not cast all the line I have off the reel and as the streamer swings cross current feed more line allowing the fly to drop downstream then use a couple quick jigs to turn the fly giving it a little different presentation. Subtle changes sometimes make huge differences.

If a fish makes a pass at your fly at the end of the swing leave the fly there. Do not recast, you’re taking the fly away from an interested fish. Leave it in the water and jig the fly, move it just a little to the right then left. Do a strip tease. Tickle him. It’s amazing how many times you’ll get a fish to chase your fly again. Some fish can be down right suicidal if you give them a chance.

And when you finally connect ask yourself “What did I just learn here?” Give it some thought. You were probably doing something different. Duplicate the retrieve in another spot and before you know it you’ve got a game going that fish like. Now you’ve taken your game to another level.

So I’ll just end by saying “It is important where you put your fly but I believe it’s way more important what you do with your fly after it lands that will get your fly a lot more attention.”