Stressed trout with a fly fishing hook in his mouth

Fall is Streamer Season!

Stressed trout with a fly fishing hook in his mouth

Big Trout like Big Flies!!

Fall Fly fishing in the heart of Colorado Ski County is best known for the incredible Streamer bite. Don’t get me wrong the Dry fly fishing with Blue Winged Olives (BWO) can be just as productive. In my 30 plus years fishing in the Colorado high country, one thing that I have become very aware of is the if there are BWO’s on the water then chances of the Streamer bite being on are excellent. As the temperatures drop and fish become more aggressive in preparation for the winter, streamers can elicit powerful strikes from trout. Here are some tips for fly fishing with streamers in the fall in Colorado: 

Select the Right Streamer Patterns: In the fall, trout are often looking for larger food sources to fatten up for the winter. Pre spawn Brown trout are going to be in search of a T-bone steak rather than a size 20 BWO or Midge. One observation that many anglers have made is the once a trout gets to a certain size they prefer a larger meal. Streamers that imitate baitfish, leeches, and smaller trout are effective. Some popular patterns include Woolly Buggers, imitations, and articulated streamers. There is a slight rule of thumb: Fish bright streamers on bright days and dark streamers on dark days.

The Right Equipment: Having the right equipment for the conditions is very important when getting into the “big flies for big trout” game. Stepping up to a fast action (stiff) 6-7wt rod is going to make fishing theses bigger flies much less of a workout. A 91/2 Ft. rod has made my life so much easier especially when wading with streamers. The added length will give you much better leverage if you need to roll cast a streamer rig and also gives you better fighting power for bigger trout. The Orvis Recon 966-4, Redington Predator 966-4 and TFO LK Legacy TF 06 96 4 LK are just a few of the rods that I use. One added feature of these rods is that they have a fighting butt. The addition of a fighting but just makes casting, mending and fish landing so much easier.

The Right Line for the Right Time: Matching the lines to the rods and the water your fishing is a crucial part of the game. Aggressive weight forward lines are going to make your day on the water much more enjoyable. Whether you want to use a floating line, sink tip lines or full sinking lines you want to make an educated choice. I tend to match the line to the water I’m fishing. On the Eagle river which runs right behind our shop, I prefer to use a floating line with an aggressive front taper. The Orvis Hydros Bank Shot floating line is one of my favorites. The Monic Advanced Trout floating line is excellent for shooting long casts in more challenging conditions like wind. And the Airflow Kelly Gallup Streamer Float line are all excellent lines for freshwater streamer fishing.

When fishing the Colorado or larger rivers, I’m usually fishing from a boat. But even if wading these bigger waters a sinking tip line is going to be the best way to cover the most water effectively. Every fly line company has it’s own versions of a sink tip line and many are available in multiple sink rates. Whether it’s inches per second or Intermediate/full sink these lines are all designed to get the streamer down into the trout’s line of sight faster. I have tried so many different types of sinking lines and have come to rely on sink tip lines. A sink tip line can have a sinking tip that range in 8 -15Ft. lengths. The rest of the line is floating. Personally any sink tip longer then 10 feet is harder to cast and requires you to have way more line outside the rod then most anglers ore comfortable casting with any accuracy. The best lines that I have found are the Orvis Bank Shot Sink Tip/Intermediate sink, Scientific Anglers new Sonar Titan Sink tip, Monic’s Henley Intermediate Clear and the Airflo Superflo Ridge 2.0 Streamer Max short or long are all extremely good sink tip lines.

Leader? You Don’t need no Stinking Leader!: Forget the leader and tie off about 5 Ft. of some 10Lbs. Maxima Chameleon directly to the flyline.

Vary the Retrieve: Experiment with different retrieval techniques. In the cooler water of fall, trout may not be as aggressive, so a slow, steady retrieve can be effective. However, don’t be afraid to try stripping the streamer quickly or incorporating pauses to imitate wounded prey. I have experimented with my retrieve more then anything when it comes to streamer fishing. It does depend on the structure and depth of the water so take this with a grain of salt. I use a fast strip to a painfully long pause. A streamer that’s sinking between strips appears to be a distressed prey to a trout. Remember we are keying on the trout’s territorial and predatorial instincts. Mending the line downstream in a slack seam will keep your fly in the strike zone longer. Always be ready for a huge splashy strike when casting a streamer behind a rock…

Rod Tip Down and Strip Set: When stripping Streamers my rod tip is pretty much on/in the water. I want to have a little slack as possible between the rod and fly. Always expect a fish to be on the Streamer when you start your next strip and foe God sake don’t lift your rod tip to set the hook! 28 years as a guide and one thing that I always see is that anglers will start stripping faster when they see a trout chasing their fly. I don’t know what makes people do that, but stop stripping and let the fish have it! He want’s it so let him have it.

Sometimes 2 Flies are better then 1: If conditions allow it I will always fish 2 Streamers tied about 2 feet apart. My twisted school of thought is that a trout sees a fish chasing another fish and can’t resist getting in on the fun. We actually have a guide in our shop who will fish 3 streamer at once!

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