As fall settles onto the top half of the planet there is a sudden angst that rushes through most anglers’ veins. Fly fishermen know that the window is opening on some great opportunities that will only last for a short amount of time. Streamer fishing for large, surly Brown trout in the fall is one of those annual events that many fly fishermen have imbedded in their psyches. When Autumn’s frosts appear, the time for fishing for the golden giants is upon us.
Streamer fishing is one of those things that comes easily to most fishermen – or at least the concept does. Casting a large fly, retrieving it and then casting again is how most fly fishermen perceive the basics of fishing for Browns in the fall. Truthful in its essence, but far too superficial to have great success. The first element for success when chasing Brown trout with big chunks of feathers and fur is being able to cast. This is the same for all fly fishing but being able to cover water with long, accurate casts will increase your success substantially.
“Cast 50’ and Then Add 20 More!”
First off, I will say that most people fishing streamers don’t use the proper rod, myself included. Usually I am under-weighted and under fast in my rod selection. Longer, faster action rods like the Sage Method, Winston B IIIx, and the Scott Radian are three great rods for long casts with heavy flies. These rods can carry a lot of line easily. When paired with the proper line, they make for a much more pleasant day of fishing than slower rods.
One of my favorite sayings when I was guiding was; “Fish don’t live in the air.” Having your fly in the water is essential and having a rod that one can easily shoot line out is key. For example, two false casts instead of 4 or 5 over the course of a day means your fly is in the water almost 33% more of the time. Now you can see why having the right rod matters.
People who like to fly fish like to cast. There is something in all of us that makes us want to be able to cast further then we actually need to most of the time (especially us at Stillwater). Fishing streamers is one of these times where this “primal” need to shoot your whole fly line out into the ether should be fostered, not suppressed. This is why I always tell people choose a fast rod with a line weight you like – then go up one weight. Don’t overweight the line on the rod, this isn’t 20 years ago, most rod manufacturers have paired the line weight with rod for the best user experience. You will be surprised how easily 20’ extra feet of distance is added to your cast by selecting a fast rod, one or two line weight classes higher than you would normally use.
Put in Their Faces
Getting the fly to where the fish sees it is very important –“I am Captain Obvious!” But how do you get that #2 Sculpzilla into the Brown’s vision effectively? This is where selecting the right line is key. Personally I tend to use various sinking and sink tip lines with very compact weight forward heads like the Rio Outbound Short, Rio InTouch Deep Sinking, and the Airflo Kelly Galloup Streamer Max lines. These are easy to cast big flies and come with a variety of sink rates. Which brings up the next important line characteristic.
Delivering your fly accurately with distance is a combination of rod and line. But getting the fly to where you need it in the water column is entirely up to you line that you have selected. There is nothing more frustrating than not having the right line to get the fly to the right depth. That is why having a line with interchangeable tips can be a great choice for the angler on a budget. My personal preference is having multiple lines that are on extra spools because I find them faster to change out. I recommend having a Type 3 15’ sink tip, Type 3 full sink, a Type 5 15’ sink tip, and a Type 6 full sinking line for most conditions. These options seem to work for me, but you will fine tune your line selection for the rod, fly size, and locations you are fishing. Just remember that the goal is to get it down to the fish.
Time to Fish…Finally
I am not going into fly selection. Streamers are a conundrum for most of us. Often the streamer that the fish decides to bite resembles nothing that lives in its environment. That is why the best options that I can give you for picking the right fly is to ask around if you aren’t familiar with the water and to have as many patterns and sizes as you can. Black, olive and white sculpin, rabbit leech and muddler patterns seem to work in most waters this time of year. Bright, flashy patterns can be effective too. Fortunately the reason the fall is when the Brown trout can get angry and dumb. A Brown will put anything into its mouth out of sheer anger this time of year. Spawning and pre-spawn time seems to do this to these usually wary fish.
The last part to the streamer equation is how to move your fly through the water. Fast, short, jerky strips is how I usually start out because this mimics a bait fish in distress or just ticks the fish off – who knows. I do know that I always start out in a pattern that involves how far I let the fly sink and strip speed. For example: On the first cast in a new area I count to three while the fly sinks. Then give it three fast strips and then let it set for a two count and then repeat. On the next cast I will count to 6 while it sinks and so on and so forth. This consistency will allow you do a consistent searching pattern down the bank or around the boat depending on where you are fishing. After all, streamer fishing is searching the water for fish and sticking to a pattern of cast lengths, retrieves, and depths with help you zoom in on your quarry much faster.
For us at Stillwater Fly Shop covering the water efficiently is the key to successful streamer fishing for Brown trout. There are many elements that will make your search for that big Brown more effective and fun. Just remember there is really no wrong way to streamer fish but systematically approaching your search will increase your success.