Preforming Retrieves using Streamers

by Fly Fisherman

In performing retrieves the angler should never attempt to induce the interest of the fish by artificial movements which no small fish or minnow would ever make in its normal state. The fish you’re after, in using streamers, are not the little yearlings, they’re the kind gauged by pounds rather than inches and they have a highly developed and suspicious instinct—they’re the fish that got larger by avoiding unnatural temptations. The way you bring your fly back to you should simulate, as much as possible, the way a minnow acts in the water. Spare the time, at your first opportunity, to observe the movements of these little fellows under various conditions. The time won’t be wasted, believe me. If you think that movement is of lesser importance than the streamer itself, try fishing it as you’d fish a worm, for example, in still water. If by chance it should get some attention in its static mode it will be from a fish that was probably dropped on its head, quite forcibly, during its transfer from the hatchery to the home waters.

One effective procedure with streamers, particularly the bucktail variety, is to fish upstream. Holding your rod low to keep the fly as deep as possible, use this action: jerk and pause. jerk and pause, much as a minnow would act, picking up line as the fly nears you.
The jerk and pause method, in nearly all instances, is the productive procedure but the way in which it is done is the determining factor. For example, one angler will “jerk” in say two feet of line then in the “pause” release half of the line, or about one foot. That is one way. Another will jerk in the two feet then permit it to go back a few inches followed by a minor jerk and another minor release before he sweeps up again with the two-foot pull back. Another will sweep in say three feet of line, for example, then release just a few inches followed by the three-foot sweep again until the line is brought in close for another cast.

Another streamer fisherman will swish his rod from left to right as he retrieves, getting in an additional side darting action. I know of fishermen who merely jiggle the tip of the rod as they use a hand twist retrieve, much as the wet fly is brought in. I haven’t had much luck with that method. One further deception formula is to develop a palsy-like shake of your rod hand (if you don’t already have it)—this is just an added feature which gives the streamer minnow a nervousness that has an appetizing appeal to your cannibal customer.

The same series of experiments may be necessary as to depth in which your streamer should be fished. As a rule, streamers, particularly bucktails, are worked near the surface, probably not more than ten or twelve inches down, but if no action is evident at that distance you may find that near the bottom is the proper range. In this case, if the streamer refuses to get down there, it will probably be necessary to add a shot or two immediately above the lure on the leader. Try the BB size first—if a couple or three of the BBs don’t do it, add buckshot, or number sevens. When trout are really on the feed for minnows they usually are prowling about in relatively shallow water and generally near the shore or the bank edge. I have seen large trout take streamers when the trout’s dorsal fin was out in the air, in waters only five or six inches deep. Shallows are the areas that minnows frequent and if you and I were hungry trout we’d go where the food was, wouldn’t we?

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