Streamer Time

Decisions pic by Elizabeth Rodgers
Decisions pic by Elizabeth Rodgers

Last Sunday, the Journal headed to the water with fishers Tom and Betty. Tom wanted to fish streamers rather than stare at a bobber all day. Betty was happy to catch a few fish and check out the scenery.

From the first cast it was apparent this wasn’t Tom’s first rodeo, and it was a nice change to do some streamer fishing and over the course of the day brought back to mind plenty of hard earned lessons from the past. And definately some worth noting if you are planning to hit it yourselves.

Go With Confidence: If there is one certainty in streamer fishing it is that you are going to be casting a lot and retrieving the fly a lot. It is the nature of the beach. There is lots of “mundane” activity between the hits, and you have to be ready to seize the moment when it arrives. A positive attitude and confidence in your approach helps sustain your edge through the lulls. Try and treat every cast as if it could be whacked by a trophy. This is the White it actually could happen.

Bring A Spare Rod: Streamer fishing means lots of casting adding extra demands on rod and caster alike which means more things can go wrong. Whack your rod tip with a heavy fly and you might be caught short in more ways than one.

We had only been fishing an hour or so when Tom noticed something strange with his 6wt. Upon inspection the tip top guide was easily able to do a 360 degree revolution. The thought of what a line twisted around the rod tip plus a strong trout could do to graphite had us both blanching and Tom stringing up his spare stick.

After lunch we were fishing some drop-off below a grassbed and Tom exclaimed at a serious whack on the fly from a serious fish, and I could see him fumbling on the rod butt. “Almost pulled the rod from my hand”, he said with a smile and no little excitement. He was serious too, and stranger things can happen, so another good reason for a backup outfit.

Keep Your Rod Tip Low: This is probably one of the top three tips for anyone stripping streamers on a river, lake or in the salt. The bite when it somes won’t often be a soft slow suck, giving you time to prepare. A high rod tip means there is a bunch of slack line between the rod tip and the water, you have to move before you can get tight to the fish and sink the hook. Often its just enough time for the fish to get free.

Sage Rep Cary Marcus with a nice streamer-caught Cutt from Norfork
Sage Rep Cary Marcus with a nice streamer-caught Cutt from Norfork

NO TROUTY STRIKES: My first saltwater fly fishing trip was to Baja where my hosts, spent a long time trying to eradicate my freshwater failings. Our trouty instincts tell us immediately to lift the rod tip up when we feel a take the better to cushion light tippets. Wrong!

On saltwater fish, and when you are stripping streamers on heavy tippet, the best tactic is a strip strike. Use your stripping hand to make a sharp hard pull, at the same time, pulling the rod tip low and away from the fish. The effect on the fly is more immediate, and if the fly misses the fish’s mouth it is still in the zone for another than rather than being pulled up and away.

IMAGINATION IS NOT A CURSE: when it comes to retrieves. Vary your retrieve rates, pauses and tactics until you find something that works. The fish will let you know. There is nothing worse than a bored fly fisher mindlessly stripping the fly at a constant, mundane rhythym. Nature’s rhythyms are infinitely variable and never constant.

Tom varied up his retrieves, particularly after we discussed some of the Shop’s other guides finding over recent weeks that very slow retrieves had been working well. As it turned out, Tom was getting them on fairly fast retrieves out from the bank and then some slow retrieves. Imagination here is not a curse.

Sinktips or Full Sink: This issue could fill volumes alone and is much debated among fly fishers. Personally the Journal prefers full sink lines, which cast better and in most cases get deeper. But certainly others here on staff, and among our guide crew, fish sink tips with good success and confidence.

But I’m still iffy. I still think, like on our low rod tip, that having a “relatively” straight line of pull to the fly is advantageous when it comes to hooking fish. I haven’t done any definitive testing, and while Tom’s hookup rate on a sinktip Sunday was fairly low, there is no concrete evidence to suggest a sinking line would have performed better. Lets put this one down to personal choice.

Now if you want more entertainment to whet your appetite for tossing some big hungs of protein up against the banks check out this video “See the Take“. from last year’s Drake Magazine video awards