With the new season comes new challenges in trout, weather, flows, and disciplines. My personal favorite is Spring Streamers. The tug is truly the drug and, once you have a predator try to kill your fly and damn near ripping the rod out of your hand, you will be hooked for life. The following steamer tips and techniques are designed for spring success.
Rigged at the Ready
I use the Scientific Anglers Sonar Intermediate Tip Sinking Line attached to a nonweighted fly for shallow water. I start with a piece of 20 or 16 lb of the Absolute Fluorocarbon Trout Tippet from the loop on the line using an improved clinch knot and then again using an improved clinch knot, attach it to a #12 micro swivel. Using a second piece of Absolute Fluorocarbon Trout Tippet with an improved clinch knot from the swivel attach it to the eye of the fly with a non-slip mono loop knot. The intermediate line will sink at an extremely slow rate of 1-2 inches per second allowing your unweighted streamer to move through the water during the retrieve in a suspended state while preventing it from snagging the river or reservoir bottom.
For deep water scenarios, I go completely opposite knowing that in close quarters using the short game the run might only be ten feet long, five feet wide, and 6 feet deep. You can go with a full sink 300 grain plus line in need of reaching deep still water, giant holes on a river, or cutting through heavy current. Be aware in narrow water and tight quarters a sinking line will belly on the bottom and prevent your fly from quickly reaching the depth of the trout. Instead, use a heavyweight forward flowing line like Scientific Anglers Amplitude MPX to turn over a heavy rig with ease. Using a 0x 7.5 ft Absolute Fluorocarbon Tapered Leader attached to a 3-foot piece of 1 or 2x Absolute Fluorocarbon Trout Tippet. And now you have a fast sinking leader with a thin yet strong diameter to-ward the tip for less resistance during the sink. Attach this using a loop knot to a heavyweight fly like a Tungsten Cone Head Meat Whistle and you can quickly reach the bottom of a run behind the drop off where large trout are known to hold in tight quarters.
Timing the Season
Temperature can play a big part in correctly timing the trout’s period of peak activity, which is the ultimate goal for a good day on the water. Conventional thought about timing can cause problems on the river when many anglers believe the early bird gets the worm. Yes, you will often have less pressure on the river early in the day, but finding open water to fish does not mean the trout will be actively feeding. First and foremost, never forget to take daily water temperature readings. The best way to learn is by understanding what causes a good day on the river. If you do this on a weekly or monthly basis and keep a journal every year, you will know when the activity of the trout will increase or understand why it is not an active day on the river. Prime water temperature is around 45 degrees or more. These temps usually start in the spring. Below this temperature the trout are in a lethargic-state; while they will still remain active during the day to feed, it will be slower and produce fewer results for anglers. Once the water begins to warm, approaching 50–55 degrees, the trout will begin to reach their maximum activity temperature, sparking feeding behaviors, strong fights, and migration within the waters in which they live. These temperatures will be found into the middle of summer. Once you reach the dog days of summer, you want to start thinking about times during the day when water temperatures are 65 degrees or less. This is often in the early morning and late afternoon. The fish in higher temperatures will act sluggish, just like they would in cooler temperatures. Many variables can affect temperature, from weather to time of day. If the ice is melting slowly in the spring, the temperatures will remain cold until the ice is gone which fishing will improve. If a storm rolls in during August, the period before and after the storm will see cooler water and air temperatures, resulting in good trout activity. Lastly, think about the species of fish you are pursuing. For example, rainbow trout prefer cold water that is warming, while brown trout prefer warm water that is cooling.
Thus, early morning can be great for rainbows, while afternoon and evening hours can be ideal for browns.
Sending a New Angle
The traditional method for fishing streamers starts with a cast across-stream at the top of the run letting the fly sink to the trout. Once the fly is deep enough, start a retrieve with the streamer acting like it is escaping away from the fish. While this is an effective way to cover the water in large rivers, it is a problem in tight quarters or tailwaters where you can see the trout. Your presentation is drastically shortened on narrow water, and the fly or flies will line the trout’s back if it is high in the run. To prevent this from happening, cast up- and across the stream at a 45-degree angle, similar to how you start a drift using dry flies or nymphs. Your rig will have time to sink without spook-ing or lining the trout in the run. Then, with your rod tip at water level, start a retrieve with your body turning downstream toward the bank you are casting on. Keep your line taut as you retrieve your flies through the run. This angle will expose your fly to the maximum number of fish in the run. With this method, you have a variety of ways to present the fly. If you are fishing in early spring when the trout are lethargic and stage in deep, cold water, a more natural, less aggressive presentation often works. Start by doing slow strips pauses, allowing the fly to move and dead drifting the same retrieve. Or try fast, short strips with short pauses, causing the tail to dance while the eye of the fly lifts and drops like a jig. This is a good retrieve for aggressive trout looking to ambush an injured meal.
You can also swing the fly through the run above the trout to give the streamers both movement an appearance of a dead drift. When the streamer is in front of the fish, twitch the tip of your rod while swinging the fly to make it seem as if the food source is trying to escape. If you do this at an exaggerated angle upstream of the trout in a low tuck body position, you won’t spook the trout and you will get more hookups. Trout in shallow riffles or runs prefer to stay stationary because there is no room for them to move up or down as they would in deep water. Their viewing lanes are incredibly narrow, and if the fly is not presented a foot or two in front of them, they will not see it. This is why a drift to a swing at the end will target that specific trout, and maybe even entice others in the area to attack. Remember that the key to the swing is to leave enough space above the trout so that your fly or leader will not rub the fish, spook it, or snag it.
A Cut Under
Undercut banks are some of the best locations for large trout to hold and feed because the trout will have maximum protection or cover. For years anglers have targeted these areas, but conventional drag-free drifts simply do not get the flies deep into the undercut where the trout are holding. As with many other presentations, I have found confidence over the years using a taut line. I swing my flies into the undercut and allow the large trout to see my offering. To perform a proper swing, start by casting above the undercut at a 45-degree angle with your fly landing as close to the bank as possible. Then throw a downstream mend to position the fly line straight along the bank in the downstream direction. This becomes the excess line that will swing into the undercut. When the flies drift into the first opening of water in the undercut bank, twitch the tip of the rod back about one foot toward the bank nearest you. This straightens out the fly line, creating an extended line that is now upstream from the early mend downstream. Your flies will ultimately extend two to three feet into the undercut bank, allowing your subsurface presentations of nymphs and streamers to be effective. If you can’t swing the flies under the bank, try to trigger a take by drifting right next to the bank. Often, a drop-off or shadow will provide cover. Always look at the current upstream from the undercut and read where the drift comes into the run. Remember to cast short. Your attractor fly can entice the target to move out of its comfort zone, especially during low-light conditions.
Six for Spring
If I had to choose, I would pick the three streamers below to produce a tug. Matched with different colors I believe the movement, versatility, and durability place make them great-searching told to find that next predator.
1) Mayer’s Mini Leech #10-#16 (rust/sculpin olive/black)
2) Barr’s Meat Whistle #1/0-2/0 (ginger/blue)
3) CJ’s Mini Slugo #2 (yellow/brown/grey)
4) Tommy’s Drunk and Disorderly #3/0 (olive/yellow)
5) Blane’s Finesse Changer 3.5” (black/white)
6) Craven’s Double Dirty Hippie #2 (tan/rainbow)
Landon Mayer’s angling success is fueled by an addiction to pursuing large trout. Mayer enthusiastically teaches and demonstrates his techniques and on-river knowledge to fellow anglers across the world. To get in touch with Landon check out his website www.landonmayerflyfishing.com or give him a follow on Instagram at @landonmayerflyfishing.