October Fly Selection-Big Streamers for Big Trout
Platte River Spider
|Of all the types of fly fishing available, I think streamer
fishing is what most people know least about. For one reason or another,
it is always the last thing most people think to use when they are out on
the water. However, year after year, streamer flies produce the biggest
fish on almost every river in the Rockies. That is why October's fly selection
features four streamers designed to draw lunker trout out of the depths
and onto your line!
Streamer flies fall into two categories: Imitative and Attractor. Imitative flies are tied to more closely imitate some sort of food source familiar to trout: Crawfish, Sculpins, Minnows, and other trout are a few of the most common. Attractor Style streamers are not designed to imitate anything in particular; instead they are tied to invoke the "predatory" instinct in large trout. Flies tied in with colors not found in nature like chartreuse and purple with lots of action and movement fall into this category.
When fishing streamers, you need to keep two things in mind. First, use heavy tippet. 3x is about the lightest I ever go-using 0x is not uncommon at all. These flies draw large trout and voracious strikes so heavy leaders/tippets will allow you to handle them well. Second you need to keep these flies in the strike zone, which usually means on or near the bottom of the river. That means either using LOTS of split shot or fishing with a sink tip or full sinking line. I like to use an extra-fast sink tip line because it's not too hard to cast all day yet still gets the flies down quickly into the strike zone. If you don't want to buy a whole new fly line, try one of the sinking leaders from Airflo or Rio Products. These leaders are usually 7'-9' long and are lead coated so they turn your floating fly line into a sink tip line. Because of the big flies and heavy lines, I like to use a fast action 6wt or 7wt when fishing streamers. The heavier rod will make the casting a little easier on your arm, especially if you do it all day.
Streamers can be fished a variety of ways, from directly upstream to dead drift to the traditional down-and-across swing method. I like to start by casting the fly upstream at a 45 degree angle and letting the current put a downstream belly in my line. I then let the current pull my fly downstream while I strip just fast enough to keep my line tight. The strikes usually come just as the fly goes into its swing, but be prepared to have a hit anytime during the drift. I also like to cast the fly directly across from me and retrieve in with short, erratic jerks as the fly is pulled downstream. The key to success is to vary your retrieve and the way you fish the fly (upstream, on the swing, etc) until you find what the fish are looking for.
The most overlooked, yet most important, part of streamer fishing is the hook set. I like to use the "strip set" or SS method and it hasn't let me down yet. The SS method was first developed for bonefish fishing on the flats of the Florida Keys. The idea is to pull down HARD on the line with your non-rod holding hand when you feel the tug of a fish. What this method allows you to do is set the hook on the fish without pulling it out of the strike zone. If you lift the rod tip to set the hook, you pull the fly in an unnatural way that will scare the fish off if you don't get the hook set the first time. With the strip set, you will keep the fly in the strike zone and moving it naturally so the fish will often chase it down a second time if he misses the take on the first pass. Once you feel the solid weight of the fish on your strip set, then you can raise the rod tip and set the hook again to make sure it is secure inside the fish's mouth.
This month's featured fly is the Platte River Spider, designed by Chris Schrantz of Loveland, CO. Chris originally designed this fly for the North Platte River near Casper, WY but it has worked well for me on the Bighorn, Colorado, Gunnison, and Yellowstone Rivers as well. I like to fish this fly with a down-and-across swing technique in riffles 1'-4' deep. Cast the fly downstream at a 45 degree angle and make small, upstream mends as the fly swings through the riffle. The key is to mend just enough to keep the fly line tight so you can detect strikes as the fly swings. Most often the strikes will be hard and the fish will set the hook themselves when they take the fly.
Streamers are an enjoyable way to fish, especially if you want to chase
after the true hogs in the river. They work best early/late in the day
or when it is overcast and dark during the day. Streamers will catch fish
on any river you fish, but if you want to target the truly large fish
this month check out the South Platte River between Spinney Mountain and
11 Mile Reservoirs. Also try the Gunnison River above Blue Mesa Reservoir
and the Colorado River downstream from its confluence with the Roaring
Fork near Glenwood Springs.