One of the great aspects of streamers is that they can catch fish in all water conditions and can be used just about anywhere. As a general rule Muddler minnows, woolly buggers, and woolly worms can be used in just about any type of water, any season of the year, or any time of day. Bucktails can also be used in all conditions but seem to do their best work in crystal clear water or when water levels are down – especially when you want to imitate a specific forage fish like, say, minnows or dace.
Using streamers on the water can bring success by using simple techniques. More advanced skills and techniques can be used and any experienced streamer angler will tell you that, obviously, the easier techniques should be mastered first.
In still water lakes and ponds fish a streamer like you would a lure. Cast to likely spots the fish will be such as under water structures, inlets and outlets, stump or brush depending on where the fish will be for the time of year, or day, that you are fishing. Give the fly a few seconds to sink, then retrieve, or strip, the line back to you keeping the rod tip pointed horizontally. By keeping the rod tip low you reduce drag on the line as it moves through the rod guides and when you get a quick strike you need only hold the line and lift the rod tip to set the hook. Here is where you need to experiment with both how deep you allow the fly to sink, along with how fast you strip line. Try different depths and retrieve speeds, stripping maybe a foot of line quickly or slowly, or maybe only short and jerky retrieves. Water conditions as well as time of year will dictate what you need to do. Keep trying different retrieves until you find what will work for the day. It also helps to know the seasonal movements of the fish for the water you’ll be fishing and what forage fish are available. The PA Fish and Boat Commission has a book titled Pennsylvania Fishes that can not only help you identify forage fish, but will also give you a wealth of information on the habitat, biology, and behaviors of the game fish you are after.
On streams and rivers you can cast directly across stream or slightly up stream and let the streamer drift through places you suspect fish to be much the same way you would fish a wet fly or a worm. At the end of the drift keep the rod tip low and strip line back to you to prepare for the next cast. It is during this retrieve that you will sometimes get a massive strike, so don’t let your attention wonder. A slight variation to this technique would be to strip line back towards you as your fly drifts through the best looking spots. In this way think about imitating a wounded or crippled fish that is trying to swim across stream. This technique can be deadly and strikes will be fast and furious. Again experiment with retrieve speed and depth. Another approach, although more advanced, would be to cast directly upstream and strip line back to you at the same rate as the water current speed. In this way your streamer looks like food drifting with the current and might appear more natural.
Streamers are a great way to locate fish in the Stream. Some experienced fly anglers will actually go back to spots on the water where they might have missed strikes with streamers earlier in the day and try again for those fish during the evening rise with wet or dry flies. Again, experiment. The key to success with streamers is trying different things until you find what the fish want.
In high and/or muddy water it is best to use the darkest streamer you have – black being the best because this puts a better silhouette in the water for the fish to see. Streamers can be modified in many ways to meet water conditions from bead heads, lead weight, to dumbbell eyes, and tied with flashy material incorporated into the fly for better visibility.
The Commonwealth offers us a variety of water types and fish to pursue throughout the entire year and fly fishing with streamers is a great way to go. Fly fishing doesn’t have to be small flies on trout streams only. For seasoned veteran fly anglers, streamers don’t have to be a last resort or something to use only in high water. They can be a great go-to fly that will help you catch more fish between hatches. If you’ve been thinking about trying your hand at fly fishing or want to begin a younger angler in the sport, streamers are a fantastic, fish-catching way to get started.