I must confess to be a dry fly addict, generally only turning to subsurface tactics as a last resort. I am also a light-line, delicate presentation addict so rarely fish with lines over 3 weight; as a result streamer-fishing is something that I very rarely do despite being well aware of its efficacy. I am certainly not against the fishing of streamers for trout & consider the slavish following of the Halfordian ethics of upstream dry fly only to be outdated & rather narrow-minded.

Flyfishers in the USA have been fishing streamers for trout as a standard practice for many years, as have reservoir flyfishers in the UK, but I’ve seen relatively few river flyfishers using these tactics. However, more & more river anglers are realizing the potential of streamer fishing, particularly when targeting big predatory trout. Martin Smith of Huddersfield is one such person. In 2016 I joined him on a tiny headwater brook of a South Yorkshire stream & was amazed at the size of some of the trout that he extracted from its miniature pools with a small Jighook Streamer (Martin’s Minnow). It is also surprising how even really small trout will take a streamer nearly as long as they are!

Martin Smith streamer fishing on a South Yorkshire brook

Martin Smith streamer fishing on a South Yorkshire brook

Pike, perch & zander are of course the obvious fish to target with streamers, but there are other coarse fish that respond positively to a well presented small-fry fly pattern. Recently I’ve been targeting chub & barbel with streamers & have had encouraging success, catching chub up to nearly 4lb & barbel to nearly 6lb from my local Driffield Beck, plus wild brown trout to 2lb 8oz.

My usual setups for fishing streamers are totally unconventional as I usually fish dry fly & occasionally change from dry fly to streamer fishing when I feel that it is appropriate. As a result I just use my normal dry fly gear. For the trout, chub & barbel on my local Driffield Beck, chalk stream, I sight fish with a 10’ 4/5 weight rod, 3 weight Sunray Jeremy Lucas Micro Thin line & 12’ of leader/tippet (7’ butt from an Essential Fly 12’ 6x tapered leader tapering from 0.43mm to 0.2mm approx., plus 5’ of 0.18 or 0.2mm tippet, rather than the thinner tippet used for small dry flies). On small streams I generally use an 8’ 1 weight rod with a Sunray Jeremy Lucas or Stuart Crofts’ 1 weight Micro Thin line & 10 to 12’ of leader/tippet. Whilst when fishing the turbulent pocket water in the Austrian alps I fish my streamers with a 14’ 8” Tenkara rod & a 0.285mm diameter fluorocarbon line & 3’ of 0.15mm tippet. Casting with such light setups requires an Oval or Belgian Cast so that constant tension in the line is maintained & to avoid bead-heads hitting the rod. This works for me fishing at the normal ranges that I do on rivers & the advantage of light lines & long leaders is that it is far easier to apply subtle movements to the fly by manipulating the rod rather than the retrieve. Barbel in particular seem to respond best to high frequency twitching as the fly is slowly drawn along the riverbed.

Brown trout caught on a White Zonker & 1 weight setup

Brown trout caught on a White Zonker & 1 weight setup

Of course on the very rare occasions that I’ve seriously fished for pike in the UK or large mouth bass in Florida I’ve used more conventional gear, for pike a 9 or 10 weight rod with a suitably tapered line for casting bulky flies & for large mouth bass a 7 weight with a gain a suitable tapered line for casting bulky streamers & poppers. Tom at Sunray has the Microslik El Guapo Streamer lines (floating & intermediate) specifically designed for streamer fishing.

 A Martin’s Minnow variant

Barbel that took a Martin’s Minnow variant

Barbel that took a Martin’s Minnow variant

Blog Collection - David Southall

2 THOUGHTS ON “Barbel on Streamers”

by Dave Southall

The Martin’s Minnow variant that I have used is as follows
Jig Hook size 10
Gold or silver tungsten bead 4 to 5mm
Layers of:
White Essential Fly Predator Fibre
Silver Predator Fibre
Silver Crystal Flash
Tan Predator Fibre
Brown Predator Fibre

I hope that this is of help.
Since this blog I’ve also had a 6lb barble on a heavy pink shrimp (dark but bright pink spiky dubbing with pink tungsten bead in the middle & lead base either side of the bead.

by Carl Waine

Excellent article, any chance of the dressing for Martin’s Minnow? I, too, have started to use streamers more for river fishing and although I used to use this method as a last resort, I always run a streamer through at the end of the day as it generally picks out the better fish. I’ve had Chub up to almost 5lb from the Dove (no, not the Hartington stretch, Isaak!) and plenty of trout in the 1 – 3lb range. Chub seem to like White Zonkers a bit too much – to the point where I’ve had to take them off in the close season and use something more imitative[!] like a copper Slumpbuster (from Ian Barr’s excellent book)! :-)