A medium to medium-fast rod is helpful and a 9’ 7 weight rod is the preferred weapon of choice for our area rivers. You can use a 5 or 6 weight rod but it requires much more work on the casters end. There are many different types of lines you can use and it depends on which waters you will be targeting. You can use a floating line or you can use sink tips lines. The water you will be fishing will determine what type of line you will need.
When we fish the Madison River, it is a shallow swift moving river. A floating line is all you really need. When fishing the Yellowstone River or the Missouri River, a sink tip is preferred to get the fly down in the deep runs and pools.
When streamer fishing, you want to use a very strong leader. When fishing a sink tip line you can use a short 3-5 foot leader. I build my own out of P-Line Fluorocarbon. I use 2-2.5 ft of 20 lb and then 1-1.5 ft of 15 pound test. I tie a non-slip mono knot to attach the fly. If fishing a floating line you want to us a longer leader to get the fly into the trout’s zone. You can add split shot or a bullet weight if needed to apply more weight. Be sure that you don’t clip your rod casting with the additional weight (many rod tips have been broken using this technique). I use a 24 foot (300 grain) sink tip when fishing deeper rivers. It gets the fly down quickly and keeps it in the trout’s zone.
There are thousands of different patterns and sizes that you can throw. The new trend are huge articulated flies, but they can be difficult to throw and foul easily. I do carry a large box of streamers with me in the boat, but I can narrow it down very easily. I like patterns that represent the sculpin in our rivers and baitfish or smaller trout patterns. Zonkers, Bow River buggars, Sculpzilla’s, and wooly buggars are the streamers I reach for most often. I often reach for white patterns as you can usually see it come through the water, but will switch through olive, black, and brown patterns as well to see what the trout want that particular day.
How to Fish the Streamer
There is really no wrong way to fish a streamer. You want to cover as much water as possible. Whether you are fishing from the bank or from a boat, casting towards the banks, around big boulders, into riffles, any likely areas trout like to live in. You want to vary your retrieve as you strip the line back, hopefully finding a place that the trout find. In shallow rivers or areas you will want to retrieve at least fast enough to keep it from hanging up on the bottom. In deeper water you can slow your retrieve, but sometimes the fish want it moving faster. You will have to experiment with the retrieve to see what the trout will chase and eat. The object is to present your fly to the trout, and then make it flee, enticing the trout to chase it down and eat it. The strikes are like lightning hitting the end of your line. You will know immediately when the trout hits your fly. With strong leaders, set the hook aggressively and bring that wild trout to the net.
Streamer fishing isn’t for everyone. It requires lots of work, a lot of casts, a lot of stripping of line. But when you hook into a trophy trout, it’s all worth it. They say “the tug is the drug.”