By Patrick Straub EBS Fishing Columnist
My last column described the process of becoming a dedicated streamer angler, a slow transition that typically yields one big fish rather than many little fish – quality over quantity. Streamer angling requires certain psychological and physical adjustments to your fishing game.
Streamer addicts have to cast more skillfully, possess specific rods, and use weighted flies. In this column, I illustrate how to get more out of your streamer fishing, and whether you choose to become a “streamer junkie” or not, is up to you.
Keep a hand on the line. When streamer fishing, your line hand – the one not holding the rod – is crucial. This will help you keep “in touch” with your fly. With your rod hand, keep your fly line tucked under your index and middle fingers, while you’re stripping the fly in.
Strip the line from behind your rod hand and never lose touch of the line – strikes happen fast. Most missed fish are the result of the angler losing contact with the fly line. Anchoring the line with your rod hand index finger will help you set the hook quicker.
Vary your retrieve. For many anglers the fun comes in feeling the fish strike your fly. This usually doesn’t happen until you strip your fly in. Vary your retrieval speed and the action you put into it – a general rule is to strip slowly in slower water, and vice-versa in faster water. Also, lift your rod up slightly at the end of your retrieve by flicking your rod tip up like you were flipping a pancake. Let the fly drop before your begin another strip. But be prepared: most fish strike as the fly is dropping back down the water column.
Strip-set with conviction. If the conditions are ideal and your technique is correct, you’ll get a lot of hits, which will result in many misses. By always being in touch with your fly you’ll increaseyour hook-ups by using a simple strip-set, and using it with purpose. When a hit occurs, violently strip the fly line and yank the rod to the side. Think about driving the hook into the fish. It happens fast, but the most important thing is to strip the line more than moving the rod. Be aggressive, you’re the predator going in for a kill.
Fight fish with purpose. Large fish have a strong sense of self-preservation and often find ways to elude capture. Be diligent and attentive with your rigging and knot tying, and don’t let line-tangle disasters happen. Learn the limits of your rig and put the heat on fish whenever possible. Don’t horse them in, but don’t baby a big trout either. Landing a fish as quickly as possible is much better for them, and your odds of getting it to net greatly increase. Most trout are lost either early or late in a fight.
Keep rod tip at a right angle to fish. Pressure is best applied down and angled across the stream, while ensuring the rod tip is bent – you won’t pull the fly out of the fish’s mouth, and you’re not fighting the current while the fish is.
There are many terms for diehard streamer anglers, the most popular being “streamer junkie.” If you’re wondering why, get on the river and when that first trout attacks your streamer you’ll understand why the tug is the drug.
Pat Straub is the author of six books, including “The Frugal Fly Fisher,” “Montana On The Fly,” and “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing.” He and his wife own Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky and Pat operates the Montana Fishing Guide School and the Montana Women’s Fly Fishing School.