What does one think when they hear the word “fly fishing”? I would be willing to bet most would picture a gorgeous tight loop, flawlessly unrolling, and delicately delivering a tiny dry fly to the surface of the water with little to no disturbance, drifting downstream at the precise speed of the current, hopefully to be slurped up by an eager trout from down below, but there are a multitude of other methods to be taken of advantage by the fly fisherman.
One of my favorites is streamers, not your typical classic old school Grey Ghost or Mickey Finn style (they certainly have their place as well) but big streamers. Ungodly creations of fur and feathers that more closely resemble a dust bunny that has been hiding underneath the couch for years. This technique is not artful, and by no means delicate, but it produces trout. Big nasty trout.
Throwing large streamers for big trout is really a mindset kind of thing. You have to mentally prepare yourself for not catching a ton of fish and no matter what is happening to stick with it, 500 lackluster empty casts later without even a follow. Stick with it. It will happen and when it does it will make every previous cast oh so worth it. The sheer viciousness that a large trout savagely hits a big streamer with is unreal. Once you hook your first big guy, well it’s all over from there on out. It becomes an addiction that no other method of fly fishing really seems to satisfy.
One really needs to devote an entire day on the water, or possibly even longer, to doing this and only doing this. It is not the type of thing where you open up your flybox and say to yourself, “Yeah, this guy looks good” pick a 6 inch streamer out and give it a few casts here and there or work a small section of stream and change up after a short period of time with no action. It’s difficult to get into the proper mindset while fishing with buddies who are using normal techniques. They will be catching normal size trout with frequency and that will ruin your confidence and make you want to join in the crowd and not be the only guy to get skunked and succumb to healthy amounts of ballbusting until the next outing. For this reason I like to fish big streamers alone or with 1 other person whom is doing the exact same thing.
Now for gear, sure you can throw large streamers on a typical fast 5 weight. It’s not easy and not recommended but it’s doable. In all reality though to efficiently be rolling this style of fishing you really want a 6 or a 7 weight rod. I am almost always running these on a sink-tip or a full sinking line, depending on water depth and given current situation. Kelly Galloup’s Streamer Max Long by Airflo is really the perfect line for this style of fishing. It has 30 feet of a high density sinking line then a transition to nice intermediate running line, it really stays down in the target area while being aggressively stripped and really “shoots” surprisingly well. Also, most full sink or lines like the Streamer Max cast much better than a sink tip or a poly leader attached to the end of a floating line. Don’t expect or even try to achieve nice tight loops when fishing huge flies and sinking lines, it’s just not going to happen. Open up your loops and pretty much lob your flies on target.
I normally like to work a river upstream, not the case when fishing big streamers. I’ll work it down. I feel I can be much quieter and more stealthy when walking with the current as opposed to against it. Most fish will hit on the swing, so the area you expect the take to come in will be downstream of your location, so if you were working upstream you could have walked through this area already or at least close enough to it to have spooked a possible fish. Cast across, swing it down, take a few steps down stream, cast across, swing it down. Fanning the river using this method really puts your fly in front of many fish and effectively covers most of the river or stream.
So what about the flies? I really like throwing the 4″ to 6″ articulated stuff around here. From Sex Dungeons, to Butt Monkeys, to Circus Peanuts. The list of crazy flies with even crazier names goes on and on. They all work, but those aforementioned 3 are a few of my favorites. You have to get over the notion and thoughts that your fly is too big. It’s not. It took me a long time to realize this but it’s so true. I am fairly certain 25″ brown trout would attack a squirrel if given the chance so a 6″ fly is nothing for a big trout to engulf.
I prefer to run a very short leader of straight tippet material. There is no need to softly land a dry fly atop the surface so there is also no need for a fine tapered leader. Depending on fly weight, current, and depth I feel the fish will be will determine the leader length. Faster current and deeper water I will shorten up the leader, 2 or 3 feet is not uncommon. For most situations I am probably starting off with a leader around 4 feet. Don’t underestimate these fish, they are big, aggressive and will break you off in a heartbeat. You are stripping one way, a big fish and the current are going the other way. Be prepared for this. Learn from my mistakes and upsize your tippet. I run 3x fluoro on 4 inch sized flies and 2x fluoro on anything larger, and if any of this is taking place at night go straight for the 1x. Night time is a whole different adventure which will have to be addressed in another article at a later date.
So get out on your stream and “Throw ’em the Meat!!”, work the seams, the undercut banks, the log piles, anything that seems like it could harbor a large trout. Goodluck.