Streamer Fishing Techniques

Streamer fishing

Do you like to catch bigger fish? I think that anyone who likes to fish enjoys the opportunity to try their luck at a monster fish! Fishing with streamers is not only a fun way to fish but streamers can attract bigger and more aggressive fish.

Brown trout on a streamer

Streamer Fishing For Trout

Big trout like big meals and a streamer is a big meal for a trout. If you use these simple streamer fishing techniques then you can get some nice fish to chase and crush your bug.

Before we get started on the techniques lets get to understand what streamers are and why and when fish like to chase them. Hopefully eating them.

Streamers are a fly that imitate a larger food source like a small trout, minnows, crayfish, sculpin or leeches. These are active flies that are in the water and just trying to avoid becoming a meal. We have all seen those commercials with underwater cameras filming lures that simulate either a bait fish or an injured fish (usually bass lures) This is exactly what we are trying to accomplish with a streamer. You will see in our techniques that something like a dead drift will imitate a small bait fish while stripping or active retrieve will imitate an injured bait fish.

We know fish are predators right? So they are always looking for their next meal. Thinking of it that way there is no bad time to fish with a streamer, however, streamer fishing during the spring and fall months may be more productive than the rest of the year. Here is why. During the fall, fish are trying to increase eating and fatten up for winter. Also, its important to know that, for brown trout, the spawn is on and that leads itself to aggressive feeding habits. Whether its hunger or a territorial response to a smaller fish invading their holding area and threatening potential offspring, fish pound streamers.

Its important as an angler to understand that fishing to fish that are actively spawning on their spawning beds or a redd should be avoided for the good of the future generations of fish.

When spring temperatures start to increase and water flows rise fish get more active and for lack of a better explanation just start feeding and looking for big meals, after a long winter fish are hungry.

Streamer fishing on the Snake

My First Technique, The Most Important

There really is no wrong way to fish a streamer. Throw conventional casting and drifting out the window and just try different things, use your imagination.

The Swing Technique

The swing is the basic of all streamer fishing. With any technique you will have the chance at the end of your float to let the bug swing. The swing gives the appearance of something trying to get out of the way of the feeding lane or channel. Think of it this way. If you are a small fish and you get swept into an area that you know that big fish are eating you are trying your best to get the hell out of there as quick as possible so you are swimming across current and trying to find cover as quick as possible. The swing can be accomplished many ways.

Cast straight across or a little down stream at the bank so the water takes the fly, it will start to swing. Once the fly gets out of the current start to strip towards you and then cast it again. Cover the water a few times before moving a few steps.

Dead Drift Technique

You may be saying “dead drift” are you crazy? I thought so too until I went fishing with someone who just tossed the streamer up in the middle of a run and let it drift. I thought well that’s OK but the fish will only take it at the bottom of the run but to my surprise four fish were taken out of that run from the top to the middle as well as the swing at the bottom. This opened my eyes about streamer fishing. The only explanation was the fish took the “dead drift” as an injured or struggling fish, sculpin or leech and then as it tried to swim away. Whatever, it worked and worked well.

Retrieve Technique

The retrieve seams like the most logical approach to streamer fishing. Cast it in the water and strip / retrieve your fly like your mimicking a small fish or leach etc. This is another classic technique and very effective. The question is how do you retrieve? Fast, slow, short strips, long strips three short and one long? It depends on what the fish are in the mood for that day so try different striping methods until you get a fish to crush your fly.

Don’t be afraid to tie a dropper on the back of your streamer this can be very effective especially when using the swing technique.

Brown on the Snake

Types of Streamer

There all types of streamers to choose from. A few good types that work well in my area (Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho). Are simple patterns that are easy to manage while casting and just catch fish. Notice that they all have coned or bead heads that add weight to the fly and help them get down in the fish zone.


If you have no idea what steamer will work for your area and conditions. Stop by your local fly shop and ask. I have found that most fly shops are more than happy to give up the goods on what is fishing well.

Rod and Line Suggestions

Rod and Rod Size. It is not necessary to have a special streamer rod, a 9 foot 5 weight works just fine. However, if you decide that you enjoy streamer fishing and want to take advantage a 6 or even a 7 weight rod will help you cast the heavier flies further with less effort.

Fly Line. I think that sinking, floating or floating with a sink tip line is a personal choice. I use floating line and depending on the depth of the water I’m fishing I will add some weight, either at the nose of the fly or six inches above the fly.

Floating Line with a sink tip. This is awesome and a great way to get your streamer down without using weight. I prefer this to an all out sinking line because I like to adjust my depth a little and I like to fish medium to large rivers.

Sinking line. This type of line is perfect if you know you want to be fishing in deep holes and you want to get your fly down, down, down. The best place to use sinking line Is when you’re fishing in big water or lakes and you know you are only going to be fishing streamers that day.

Leader and tippet. A stout 3x leader is ideal for most streamer fishing. Fish are not really leader shy when chasing streamers so make sure your line won’t break when an aggressive fish pounds it. I always have all sorts of tippet material on hand so I will use 2x or 3x when attaching tippet or tying on a dropper.

For additional information about choosing fly line, click here.

Get out and go Fishing

These are some basic streamer fishing techniques that I hope will help the beginner understand the fun and importants of learning how to fish streamers. Stay tuned for more in depth blogs about streamers and streamer fishing and as always if you have any questions or comments please leave them below.

For more information about fly fishing click here

Take a look at this video. Its awesome!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *