Fishing big articulated streamers for trout is a big part of US fly fishing culture. In general fishing big dirty streamers for trout seems to be a visible and vibrant part of American fly fishing culture, complete with die hards who fish very little else. In Australia, streamer fishing, especially with big articulated beasties, doesn’t appear to have quite the same following. While I’m sure every fly fisherman throws wooly buggers and the like from time to time, streamer fishing just doesn’t seem to be as prominent in Australian fly fishing culture. Now there is probably a good reason for that, a lot of Australian trout rivers and streams just don’t hold the biomass of forage fish that US trout streams do. We don’t have sculpins and many of our native galaxias haven’t fared too well in many trout streams. So it makes sense that Australian fly fishermen focus on nymphs and dries and imitating insects and not fish. After all insects make up the vast majority of the diet of a lot of Australian trout, partly because Aussie trout just don’t have the options of the American counterparts in many of our trout streams. Or maybe I’m just late to the party and only now discovering something everyone else already knows… That fishing articulated streamers is fun.
Damned fun in fact. They have awesome names like the “cheech leech“, “circus peanut”, “lunch lady“, “double screamer”, “sex dungeon” and so on; they are fun to tie and most importantly they work. What more could you ask for? Now I’m only a very new convert to the articulated streamers, heck streamers in general. For most of my (relatively) short fly fishing career streamers have generally been my fly of last resort. I would tie on a dry fly whenever possible, a nymph or two if that wasn’t an option and then only if that failed and I was drawing a blank would I tie on a streamer. That happened a few times this season and almost invariably I’ve caught a fish or two and avoided the ignominy of a fishless session. That success sowed the seed, thoughts like “maybe I should fish streamers a little more regularly” started to become ever more regular, that maybe I should stop treating them as the pariahs of my trout box only to be used in times of dire necessity. So, a few weeks back after a few beers, inspired by some US blogs, I quickly tied up a little articulated streamer the night before hitting the streams. What ensued was silly, partly because I was fishing for escaped hatchery trout and I think partly because articulated streamers are effective fish catchers. You only need to watch their action in the water as they drift through a riffle to be sold on why this might be the case. After my success I tied up a few more and took Nick out to try and catch his first brook trout a week or so later. The fishing was a little more subdued, but it was still hot, we caught loads of brook trout and this time also managed a few Atlantic salmon and a little brown trout. All the fish fell to articulated streamers. I also sent a few up to Perrin in Canberra which he used to great success chasing rainbows on a little stream an hour or two from Canberra (check out our instagram account for those bad boys). The last two weeks of the stream season had quickly turned me from a trout streamer skeptic into a streamer believer and articulated fly nut. The conversion was quick, not just because they are effective fish catching tools, but also because I found tying and fishing them a hell of a lot of fun, even when I wasn’t catching fish. Savage strikes on the swing are addictive as all get out and it was just nice to be doing something different. Variety is the spice of life and all that.
So why do they work? Firstly, they have a load of action and just look good in the water. Part of it is also likely to be hardwired trout instincts. The same reason rapalas, celtas and other lures work. That is, they draw reaction strikes, not the calm considered rises to well imitated insects that many fly fishermen (myself included) find so tantalising and beautiful. Fishing streamers is a different kettle of fish entirely, yet it brings its own rewards, it taps into a different part of the many moods of the trout and a different part my own fishing psyche. Throwing meat snacks taps into the prey and territory drives of the trout, luring them into making a split second decision to attack. As a fisherman, its a rawer, less refined experience, akin to tinnies and sport with the boys rather than a glass of champagne and a fine dinner with the girlfriend. Its instructive that its often the first drift through a pool or lie that will bring a savage hit on a streamer. Once they have seen it and had time to assess it, they will often wise up. Its more about tapping into the survival instincts of the trout rather than perfectly imitating a food source. I’ve written about that same phenomenon, with a bit more added science here. There is also the fact that while fish forage may be less common in Aussie streams than in the US, there is always fish forage in any trout stream no matter where it is, trout themselves. Trout will happily eat other trout. So while fish may not make up the majority of our trouts diets, most trout are still tuned in to an easy fish based dinner when given the opportunity. Fishing articulated streamers may not be for the purist and that’s completely fair enough, I get that. For the rest of us, I strongly recommend tying up a couple and giving them a go on your local trout waters, you might just be surprised at how effective they are and how fun fishing them can be 🙂 I look forward to tying up a few more and experimenting with designs (I’m pretty excited about tying some surface patterns) as well as chucking a few at the local bream and flathead in Eden in July and testing some bigger ones on the local murray cod populations.
Remember that the trout streams and rivers in NSW and VIC are now closed, the lakes remain open if you want a trout fix. Until next time good luck on the water or at the vice.