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fishing of streamers for trout & consider the slavish following of the Halfordian ethics of upstream dry fly only to be outdated & rather narrow-minded.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
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
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