Rank streamers for easier fly selection | Outbreak Magazine

Most of us benefit from having systems in place. This is true for almost any activity or pursuit, including fly fishing. When variables arise, whether expected or unexpected, setting up systems allows us to methodically troubleshoot our way to a solution. And, if our system is well designed, we hope this solution is the best. Over the years I have developed systems that I use to solve a number of questions I encounter on the river: which rod to use on a given day, how to build my leader, how to dress and how to choose the model. fly tying, including streamers.

The characteristics of the fly are not lacking when choosing a banner: color, size, presence of flash or other characteristics designed to attract fish, whether the fly is articulated, etc. All of these considerations matter. But, in truth, these characteristics exist in streamers of all shapes and sizes. It’s rarely enough to choose a streamer just because it’s flashy, or articulate, or black.

Whether a trout hits a streamer out of aggression or simply out of hunger, it is more likely to hit a fly that is closer to its position in the water column (its “strike zone”) and that is. animated by the fisherman in an appropriate manner taking into account what we can determine about the behavior of the trout. In other words, where are the trout and what are they doing?

In my experience, the answer to this question is most often determined by a combination of factors: water temperature, water clarity, and what we can discern from fish activity.

Is the water extremely cold causing the fish to stay close to the bottom forcing you to fish deep and slowly? Are the fish in pre-spawn mode, staging themselves in shallows, leading to aggressive fish that will attack a fly moving quickly in shallow water? Is it spring, with hungry trout hunting along the banks? Is the water not colored, limiting the visibility of the fish, forcing you to slow down the action of the fly to give the fish more time to react?

As with all types of flies and all methods of fly fishing, when fishing for streamers, a fish is more likely to take a hit at your supply if it is a fish. well presented fly. Whether a streamer is well presented is most often determined by the depth of your fly in the water column and the type and speed of your retrieval.

Unlike dry fishing or nymphs, however, the success of your streamer presentation is greatly affected by which fly you choose. Some streamers are designed to sink faster than others, others to traverse water with speed and grace, and others to move erratically, to mimic injured prey and trigger a feeding reaction. The quality of your streamer’s presentation is determined, on the whole, by what it is designed for.

So how do you choose the right streamer? If you’re like me, you use a classification system that divides the world of streamers into three types of streamers based primarily on sink rate (and therefore how deep your fly is in the water column) and how which it is intended to be fished. (and the type and speed of your recovery).


Jigs are heavy head designs (often, but not always attached to jig style hooks) that are designed to drop quickly into the water column and be fished with slow retrieval. Models with dumbbell eyes (like a Clouser minnow) are examples of jig models. The heavy heads of these flies serve two purposes. First, the weight helps the fly to fall quickly into the trout strike zone. Second, the weight on the front end helps create an “up and down” motion during recovery. These patterns are often best fished with a floating or slow sinking line where the position of the fly in the water column (after sinking) is well below the level of the fly line. This separation in height between the line and the fly makes it possible to create the movement from top to bottom “jiggy”. This is also why regular floating lines work so well with jig style streamers.

These models are not designed to be fished quickly. Let the streamer run well below the fly line, make a short strip that pulls the fly up towards the fly line, followed by a pause to allow the streamer to fall. Then repeat the process to continue the presentation from top to bottom. Think of jigging as slowly grinding your pattern near the bottom of the stream.

In my experience, jigs work best when visibility is limited and trout activity is low (eg in extremely cold weather). My favorite cold-season streamer approach uses a float line, a 9 ‘, 2X long leader, and a heavy barbell-eyed streamer pattern.


I classify swimmers as models designed to move quickly through the water with rapid or continuous recovery. Often times, the best swimmers aren’t bulky or are constructed with materials that wick water away, allowing the fly to glide through the water with minimal resistance. What you don’t want is a pattern containing materials that absorb water like wool. While water-absorbent materials like wool will help make a fly sink, these flies also move slowly through the water (instead of sliding through it). If you’ve ever felt like pulling a wet sock off in water, there’s a good chance you’ve caught a fly constructed from water-absorbent materials.

Patterns like a traditional wool bugger (with or without a conical head) or the new Gamechanger-style patterns are good examples of swimmers. Swimmers are best fished with a high fast recovery in the water column. These are great choices when you want to fish close to shore, when trying to play takeout with predatory large trout hunting in shallows. While these models can be fished with a buoyant line, a slow or intermediate sinking often helps keep the model below the surface during a faster retrieval.

Hanging (or floating) banners

While I find myself fishing swimmer and jig style streamer models more often, hanging style streamers have their place, especially when trout activity is on the alert. These streamers are often created with deer hair, which adds buoyancy. Patterns like Drunken Disorderly by Tommy Lynch or Zoo Cougar by Kelly Galloup are two examples of hanging banners. Due to their high buoyancy, these models are best fished using a plunging tip or fully sinking line, as the weight of the line keeps these floating streamers anchored below the surface. Your recovery when fishing hanging streamers should be similar to jig style models – a break is required to allow the line to sink under the streamer before the recovery. The combination of the weighted line pulling down and the floating nature of the streamer pulling up creates an erratic up and down motion, mimicking an injured baitfish. While fishing for a sinking line and a floating streamer takes some getting used to, this combination does an amazing job of mimicking injured baitfish. As with swimmer-style streamers, hanging streamers work best when trout are actively hunting, especially during times of low light or when large predatory trout are hunting.


By grouping your streamers into these three types, you can effectively choose the right fly for almost any condition. What type What streamer you want to fish should be the first question you ask yourself. Once you have answered this question, you may worry about the little things in life like color or if the fly has rubber feet, flash, cone or sculpin head etc. Add a little local experience and knowledge and you’ll be on your way to choosing the right weapon.

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