Its that time of year again. The leaves are turning brown, orange, yellow and every colour in-between, the water is cooling down, the fish are not looking up as regularly and I’m dusting off my streamer box. Autumn isn’t just pretty, it is a great time to throw some meat around. While people generally associate streamer fishing with larger waterways such as the Goulburn, with a few adjustments, it can be equally effective on the small streams. Streams that just months before were packed with dry fly smashing little trout. In fact, streamer fishing on small streams is one of my guilty little pleasures.
There are a few things you can do to really up your success rate on little streams. Unlike on big waterways where streamer fishing is often about covering water, on small streams, it really pays to “hunt”. Just because you are throwing meat doesn’t mean you can forget about streamcraft. Stay low, stalk, be stealthy, HUNT. Blindly covering water simply isn’t all that effective, spooking far too many fish on less than ideal presentations. Much like when you were fishing those same streams with a dry fly, carefully identifying the most likely lies and presenting the fly exactly and delicately, it pays to do the same thing when fishing streamers on small streams. Most strikes are going to be reaction strikes, generally you get them on the first pass or not at all, so it really pays to try to maximise your chances on the first pass, even more so that when you are fishing a dry fly or nymphing the same waters. On little streams, I try to carefully read the water, identify the most likely holding positions and then do my upmost to fish those areas effectively on the first pass, before throwing speculators into the less likely water and finally moving on.
When it comes to fishing the streamers, the retrieve options are endless. Unlike insects in the surface film, emergers, beetles and most nymphs, the leeches, minnows, small trout and larger swimming nymphs that you are trying to imitate with streamers aren’t slaves to the current. They chase prey, they avoid predators, they move. That means that they can go with, against or across current. That means your retrieves can go with, across of against the current while still being “natural”. Often, it will take a little bit of trial and error on the stream to determine what the trout are “into” on a certain day. Some days the classic down and across presentation is a winner. On others the drift and jig can be a killer. On others, the very under rated dead drift will be many a trouts undoing. All work on their day, so vary it up. Let your imagination go wild and try things. Try LOTS of things! As a rule though on small streams, active retrieves are usually the go in long runs or slower water, wheras dead drifts the go to in plunge pools and faster water. Don’t be afraid to fish your streamers under an indicator either, especially when fishing small streamers where the takes can sometimes be hard to detect, especially if you are fishing relatively static retrieves and throwing in mends and slackline to get exactly the right drift.
During your retrieves, use your rod tip. Twitch the fly, wiggle it, twerk it, bounce it, pulsate it. While simply stripping flies will catch fish, you can impart a much more lifelike action into your flies if you use the tip of your rod to impart subtle twitches, pulses or twerks into your flies. This goes for strip retrieves, down and across retrieves and dead drifts. All of these techniques can be made more effective by using your rod to jazz up your retrieve, make your flies look more natural and entice more eats. If you come from a spin fishing background, this should come as second nature. You do it when fishing plastics or hardbodies on a spin rod, don’t think that just because you are holding a fly rod that your rod tip doesn’t exist and that it cant be an effective tool.
Streamer choice. Don’t be afraid to fish small streamers. Don’t be afraid to fish big streamers. Don’t be afraid to fish two streamers. The number of patterns available are pretty much only limited by your imagination. There are a lot more choices out there than size 6 or 8 wooly buggers. Personally, I fish a lot of fuzzle buggers, bucktails, crayfish (these can be really effective on some streams, either simple fuzzle/wooly buggers with rubber legs or more realistic patterns) and baitfish patterns (galaxias patterns can be a killer on some streams) in sizes between 6-12. I also love throwing 4-6 inch articulated nasties in water you can almost jump over. In the case of the latter, you will catch less fish than on the smaller patterns, but the ones you do catch will generally be bigger and even when they are not, there is something strangely appealing about catching 8-12 inch trout on a 6 inch streamer (barbless of course).
Thats a start. Now get out there and throw some meat! 🙂