As the minnow fights the current, taking chances moving from one stone break to another, you can see its lateral line and light belly. To you that tiny fish is barely discernible, but to the hook jawed brown trout lying in the slow moving water behind that stone, that morsel might as well have been painted chartreuse and blaze orange. In a flash of white and yellow the big male takes that minnow out of its moment of struggle.
This scenario is how Streamer Fishing came to be. A streamer is for the most part an imitation of some form of bait fish. They can also be a leach or sculpin imitation. Fishing streamers is a great tactic to combat high, fast water in the Spring. You can also pick fish up later in the season when the water is clear and slower by using an unweighted streamer.
A lot of streamers come weighted, Bead Head Woolly Booger, Cone Head Muddler, Clouser's Minnow, Bunny Flies, and Jig Buggers are a few. These are great for deep pools and fighting heavy current. Unweighted streamers come in a variety as well- a Muddler or a Mickey Finn are two examples of streamers. These are great in low water or clear water.
Just like any of the other flies you’ve learned about, there are multiple ways to fish streamers. The biggest streamers would best be thrown on a 7 or 8 weight rod but most of the streamers listed above can be fished on a 5/6 weight easily. Something to take note of when fishing a streamer is, unlike insects, fish species actually have control of how they move. They can swim with or against most currents, moreover they will move in and out of fast and slow water. This can make presenting a streamer easier for a beginner because they aren’t as apt to look unnatural to the trout.
Streamers are multi species. Any fish in the world that you can fish for with a fly rod can be caught on a streamer.
To fish a streamer you can swing it through current just like a nymph. It will help to swing the fly through strike zones. For this you will cast across the current and follow the fly with your rod tip in a “swinging” motion. You should swing the fly into the bank. Then I like to strip it back to me in short bursts, pulling the line with my left hand.
Speaking of that. My favorite way to fish a streamer is to cast it out and strip it back. This is best done with sink tip line. This is really the only function for which a novice angler may want sink tip. You will want to find a pool to strip through. An angler will want to target slower deeper water for stripping. You can vary the retrieve with small strips, long strips and pops of the rod tip. In some cases less is more and in others you seemingly cannot impart enough extra movement in the fly. Let the fish tell you what retrieve they like by taking note of what you’re doing with your retrieve during the first strike.
Fishing streamers is a great way to cover water quickly, and can be very productive in times where other flies can be tough to fish. Some of the strikes can be very light, but a lot of the time when the take occurs it will feel as if the fish is trying to remove the rod from your hand. Some folks find streamer fishing to be their favorite style because of the interaction with the fly and fish. So, give it a shot!