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  • Fall streamer fly fishing: 3 tips for more strikes.
  • Post author
    Andrew Loffredo
  • 5 RiversAutumnfly fishingfly fishing tipsfly tyingstreamer fishingtroutTrout Unlimited

Fall streamer fly fishing: 3 tips for more strikes.

Streamer fishing is one of the most visual and exciting ways to fish for trout!

As a former member of the U.S. Youth Fly Fishing Team, I picked up some streamer tricks that are useful for both new and experienced anglers.

Here are 3 tips to consider when you’re “hucking meat” this fall.

1. Approach the water with a plan.

Joel (holding the brown trout) & Thomas Hierholzer of the Virginia Tech Fly Fishing Club.

Avoid stepping in the water as much as possible!

I can't tell you how many people (including myself) I've seen blow up a hole before they even make one cast.

Think about your steps before you make them. Have a planned approach before you start to fish. 

You'll be surprised how many more fish you'll catch with this tip alone. 

Don’t ignore the skinny water.

Oftentimes, anglers avoid skinny water in favor of deeper pools.

Granted, there are big fish in pools, but, more often than not, the actively feeding fish are in shallower water where it's easier for them to hold, feed, and corner baitfish.

I prefer to fish water four feet or less with decent flow, as these are the areas I get the most action.

Small water fly fishing: streamer design and tactics.

Time of day.

As the sun gets progressively higher in the sky, the more traditional methods of fly fishing (dry flies, nymphing, wet flies) tend to slow.

On a sunny day at high noon, I like to use streamers with a lot of flash to attract fish. It kind of has a “disco ball” effect in the water that fish simply can’t resist.

Who said fish aren’t fans of The Trammps?

2. Target and retrieve.

James Molloy, president of the Union Fly Fishing Club, demonstrates "The Mend."

Structure.

Structure in a stream can be a little more abstract than in lakes.

Aside from the obvious downed tree, undercut bank, or misplaced shopping cart (we’ve all been there), look for subtle differences.

Focus on small dips in the stream bed, slightly larger rocks, and where the river bottom changes color.

Brown trout particularly are attracted to these parts of the river. A nice pair of polarized sunglasses (I personally like Costa’s 580 silver mirror lenses) helps detect these areas.

Downstream and across retrieve.

Traditional streamer fishing dictates to cast your fly downstream, with an upstream retrieve.

I suggest the opposite.

Instead, try casting upstream with a downstream retrieve, as this more accurately imitates a distressed baitfish and causes fish to instinctively chase the fly.

Another retrieve to try is (when the fly is 90 degrees in front of you) to let the fly swing and strip it perpendicular to the current. This offers “a full view” of the fly to the fish.

Paired with long, fast strips, this becomes a deadly way to fish streamers.

They're at your feet, dude! 6 reasons to make shorter casts when wade fishing.

“The Mend."

While performing a downstream and across retrieve, when the fly is 90 degrees from you, try a quick mend. This causes the fly to rapidly change direction.

Oftentimes when this change direction occurs, it induces a strike – even by fish who have denied the fly on a previous cast!

3. Fly design.

Weight the front end.

Weighting the front end of your fly with a Fish-Skull Sculpin Helmet or Baitfish Heads, along with tungsten wire in the front half of the hook, will cause your fly to have a jig-like motion.

This jig-like motion simulates a dying baitfish, and triggers more strikes from hungry trout!

Traditional streamer hooks don’t work.

Through trial and error, I've found most traditional streamer hooks don’t work. Either they pop out of the fish’s mouth or are prone to foul-hooking them.

Instead, use hooks with wider gaps and smaller shanks. After using Gamakatsu B10s hooks for the past few months, I've found the extra hook gap has increased my percentage of solid hookups!

Importance of variety – weights, colors, flash.

Variety is an important element of any streamer box.

A good streamer box should consist of flies that have varying weights, colors (brown, olive, black, tan, white), and flash (none, some, and a lot).

You don’t necessarily need a lot of patterns; just a few variations of a handful of “confidence patterns”.

The fewer patterns you have in your box, the less time you spend picking them and more time fishing!

Quick review.

Approach the water with a plan, look for subtle structure, and offer the fish a variety of retrieves and fly patterns. 

Then get ready to buckle in!

Want more articles like this? 

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Enjoy tying streamers? Check out our step-by-step streamer fly tying tutorials to learn new patterns!

About Andrew Loffredo:

Andrew Loffredo of Trout Unlimited, Fall streamer fly fishing: 3 tips for more strikesAndrew is the TU Costa 5 Rivers Coordinator at Trout Unlimited, where he assists college students with starting, organizing, and managing TU-affiliated collegiate fly fishing clubs. He has over a decade of fly fishing experience, including being a member of the U.S. Youth Fly Fishing Team and president of the Virginia Tech Fly Fishing Club. For more information on the 5 Rivers program, or if you would like to start a TU-affiliated 5 Rivers fly fishing club, please contact Andrew at aloffredo@tu.org. 

  • Post author
    Andrew Loffredo
  • 5 RiversAutumnfly fishingfly fishing tipsfly tyingstreamer fishingtroutTrout Unlimited

Comments on this post (9)

  • Oct 19, 2016

    nice article – you are letting all my secrets out of the bag

    — Marcone

  • Oct 17, 2016

    Subscribe to mailing list

    — Mark Labacz

  • Dec 12, 2015

    First I would like to compliment you on your Fly Fishing site. Finding good sites that can help save money on good quilaty fly fishing gear is important with the economy the way it is. We want to save money so we can still go fishing.

    — Sampson

  • Nov 20, 2015

    Thanks for th good advice.
    I am looking Foward for more of your input

    — Karl Walter Schmidt

  • Nov 20, 2015

    Thanks for th good advice.
    I am looking Foward for more of your input

    — Karl Walter Schmidt

  • Nov 19, 2015
    I fish here in Kansas in lakes & ponds and now with North winds blowing it’s getting harder to cast and catch those fish….but I like especially your comment on more flashily streamers in mid day…will try that….thank you for the tip….

    — Alan

  • Nov 18, 2015

    Good tips, some I’ve tried some I have not. Will try different hooks. Thanks.

    — Jim Rauch

  • Nov 17, 2015

    Several things I had never thought of.

    Gary

    — Gary LaRose

  • Nov 17, 2015

    Good info Andrew. Well done. Being a self diagnosed streamer junkie my self I liked your comment about using wide gap hooks. Huge point!

    — Michael Stack

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