Streamer Fishing for Trout...

There are few things I have enjoyed more than hooking a big trout on a streamer. Those that know me and have fished with me over many years may tell you they have never seen me tie on a streamer. Many would be right. I am admittedly a dry fly guy and have been for over 40 years. For the most part, I have reserved streamers for those days when either there were no rising trout and, especially, for dark and stormy days. There certainly are exceptions...but not many. 

For some reason that I cannot really explain, it has been my experience that trout seem to take a streamer more often and more aggressively when the weather is lousy and the skies are dark. I recall numerous days when I landed over a dozen rainbows over 18" and a couple over 20" in just several hours. In particular, a really lousy day an the Henry's Fork. That day I crossed the river at Last Chance (across from Henry's Fork Anglers) and walked up the far bank to the lower reaches of Box Canyon. Click here to read more...

In my mind, there are basically 5 techniques that can be applied when fishing with a streamer. I started to write this myself and then came across an article by Deneki Outdoors titled Streamer Fishing for Trout – 5 Techniques that probably says it better than I can.


  • The Swing. Cast across and slightly down stream, make a mend, and the let the fly swing on through. The standard swing covers the most water effectively as possible. By slowly swinging the fly across the river or stream, you give the appearance of baitfish ferrying slowly across the river. Make sure to allow the fly to swing all the way through before retrieving the fly. Often times, a trout following a swung fly won’t hit until the first strip or two on the retrieve. After your fly line AND leader have straightened below you, make 4 or 5 honest strips back before considering your next cast.

  • Banging the Banks. Casting a streamer to the opposite bank (or other likely holding lie) and immediately retrieving the fly with short quick strips is probably the most used technique. Why? Because it’s super effective! We call it banging the banks, and it can be done from a moving boat or from shore. The key is to cast into the first likely holding lie, make a few quality strips, then pick up the fly and hit the piece of juicy water. Covering water is the name of the game when banging the banks and by fishing each lie quickly, you key into the most aggressive fish.

  • The Dead Drift. Dead drifting streamers is a highly neglected streamer technique. Baitfish, leeches, crayfish, or any other organism imitated by a streamer does become injured and/or dies from time to time, and a free tumbling fish is an easy meal for a hungry trout. Plunge pools, heavy current seams, or any other piece of water able to disorient a struggling minnow is a great place to dead drift a streamer.

  • The Drift and Jig. The drift and jig is a great way to fish a streamer from shore that uses several techniques. Cast upstream as you would fish a dead drifting nymph. Continuously mend to allow your fly to get deep. As the fly drifts below you, make a series of quick lifts of the rod tip followed by a light slapping down of the fly line. Doing so creates a realistic jigging action imitating that of a struggling baitfish. Once the fly line becomes straight downstream, make a few quality strips back and repeat. Covering the water this way allows you to show your fly in three different forms; a dead fish (dead drift), and injured fish (the jig), and a fleeing fish (the strip) on one cast.

  • The Jerk Strip. The jerk strip is a streamer technique that separates the novice fisherman from the seasoned streamer anglers. While a standard 6-8 inch strip will catch fish from time to time, it is not the most accurate imitation of a struggling baitfish or minnow. Instead, retrieve the fly using quick downstream twitches of the rod tip, followed by a slow strip of the line hand to take up the slack created by the ‘twitch.’ With a little practice, the movement of the rod tip with the rod hand, and the drawing in of fly line by the line hand becomes seamless, providing the most accurate retrieve possible. Give it a try!