Ripping Streamers

I can see the look on your face.  Ripping streamers?  You must be crazy.

That isn’t fly fishing, you’re thinking to yourself.  I used to feel the same way.

Let’s be real.  There are a lot of purists out there…  Some people will only fish with dry flies.  Some people are die hard about nymphing and will tell you that it’s infinitely more productive than dry flying and yada yada yada…

Everyone has their reasons for fishing they way they do.  It’s simple.  You like it, and for whatever reasons you do like your style of fishing, that’s what’s fun for you.  I get it.  And you won’t find me arguing with you either.

For years I was hesitant to get into streamer fishing.  Why?  Well, it never felt like fly fishing to me.  It didn’t seem delicate, or that my presentation was a factor.  Instead, it felt more like bass fishing to me.  So I spent the first 10+ years of my fly fishing journey largely ignoring the idea of streamer fishing.

Fast forward to now, I’ve officially changed my stance.

On a recent trip to someplace special, my old man and I decided to take a float trip.  We’d floated this stretch before, and had good results with a dry dropper rig, but it wasn’t the most epic float trip we’ve put in the books.

This year, however, was quite different.

On a partly cloudy day with rain in the late afternoon forecast, we started out with a dry dropper rig.  We picked up a few fish, but things were a little slow.  So our guide suggested we mix things up a bit.

When he had me rigged up and ready to go, I was sporting a conehead black and silver wooly bugger with a pheasant tail nymph 8 inches behind it.  Unconventional, right?  I concur.  And I wasn’t so sure that this was a great idea.

But I know well enough to listen to the guide I hired, so I went along with it.

With my trusty 5 weight rod, which I had ripped streamers with before, I immediately remembered that I’m not that great at casting streamers.  In short time, however, and with some coaching from my trusted guide, I got the hang of it.  And then two things happened.

First, you can’t fish like a gentleman when fishing streamers.  There’s nothing delicate about it.  And second, I realized that the more violent and aggressive you are casting streamers, the more rewarding it can be.


My reward for violently smashing streamers at the bank on this day was glorious.  I wound up with two brown trout that are among the largest I’ve ever landed.  As soon as we switched to streamers, the river lit up with opportunistic and aggressive trout.  It truly was an epic day.

Here’s why you should be ripping streamers…

  1.  There’s a lot of action.  You’re constantly casting your rod or stripping line.
  2.  You cover a lot of water casting and retrieving as opposed to dead drifting.
  3.  The take, when it happens, is often as violent as your casting and stripping.
  4.  Fish like a big meal, and a leech or dying bait fish is packed with calories.
  5.  It’s fun to make the effort of pissing off a fish to get a take as opposed to a careful presentation.
  6.  The adrenaline rush you will experience when you set the hook while stripping your line, is one of a kind.

Looking back, had the guide not suggested that I switch to a streamer rig, I don’t know that I would have thought of it.  But since we did rip streamers this day, and it was not only productive, but awesome, my mind is changed.

I am now in pursuit of big trout on streamers.  And you should be too.

In part two of Ripping Streamers, I will cover rigging, presentation, and more details about why trout like streamers, and why so many of the biggest trout are caught on streamer patterns.

Tight lines,

-Justin Hancock
Lord and Chief Angler