Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Small Stream Fly Fishing with Streamers

A beautiful small stream brookie that was in a plunge pool with fast moving water.
I have noticed that streamer fishing is gaining popularity with fly fishers in recent years. The act of chucking large streamers and feeling the violent take of a large trout is becoming an obsession to many of today's fly anglers.  These anglers may fish all day for just one or two takes, or only moving one or two fish. What if I told you that you could experience the same violent takes and witness aggressive trout behavior as they hunt down your streamer, but on a smaller scale? Would you give this style of fly fishing a try if you could turn those one to two fish days into double digits?  

A fire belly male brook trout that ate my "Go To Brookie Streamer."
The type of streamer fishing I am going to discuss is small stream streamer fishing. In this style of streamer fishing you don’t need to worry about double hauling, and sometimes you don’t even need to put on your waders. Seeing a nine to ten inch native brook trout hunting my streamer like a mako shark fuels my fly fishing fire. This style of fly fishing may not appeal to everyone but I would like to see you give it a chance before you write it off.  It is all about the beauty of the location your are fishing and the colors of the native/wild trout you catch that is the real driver with small stream streamer fishing.  Let’s take a deeper looking into the terminal tackle, fly design & selection, and a few tips and tricks that I use while fishing streamers on small streams.

A stream side photo of my 10' 2 weight Syndicate Fly Rod and Allen Trout II Reel


I have two rod preferences for small stream streamer fishing. The canopy of the stream I am going to fish dictates what rod I will take with me when I get out of my vehicle.  I take both rod lengths with me on my ventures.  You don’t really need a super expensive or eloquent fly rod for this style of fly fishing.  Most of your casts will be either roll casts, or dapping. You are merely swinging the streamer in front of you and landing it in your desired spot.
  •          10’ 2 WEIGHT
    •  more reach and spook less fish
    •  tougher to land fish due to the rod hitting the trees
  •          8’ 3 WEIGHT
    • Easier to cast on streams with tighter canopies
    • Less reach requires you to be closer to the fish and increases the risk of spooking them
The reel is the least important item on your small stream streamer outfit. The reel’s only real function is to hold your fly line and leader. Most of the fish you will catch will not be pulling much drag or taking you into your backing.

A fine specimen of a "Mountain Mako" this buck brookie hammered one of my small  "Go Too Brookie Streamers."


My small stream leaders are nothing more than a butt section of Maxima Chameleon connected to three to four feet of Umpqua Bi-Color Indicator with a small barrel swivel attached to end with a small section of flourocarbon for tippet. You are going to be using heavier flies so you can use the weight of the fly to cast your line. I like these longer leaders as you experience no drag and it is easier to stay connected to your small streamer. This is important as some of the smaller fish may be hard to detect when they hit the fly.

  • 10-15’ of Maxima Chameleon, 3-4’ of Umpqua Bi-Color Indicator, 2-3’ of 4 pound flourocarbon, small swivel
    • Butt section determined by length of rod
      • Add 2-5’ to the rod length to determine butt section length
    • Length of tippet determined by the average water depth of stream
      • 2-3’ on shallow streams
      • 3-4’ on streams with more pools or a 3-4’ average depth

An example of utilizing the different sized dumbell eyes on your streamers in your fly box.


I mainly stick to three main flies when I am streamer fishing on small streams. I like to use lead eye or tungsten bead streamers.  I stick to my "Go To Brookie Streamer" (white crystal buggers), coyote clouser minnow, and crayfish patterns. I have never had any issues catching fish on these three flies. The biggest key to fly selection for fishing streamers on small streams is having a few weight options to cover the different water depths and speeds you will come across on the streams. I stick to size 12-8 for my small stream streamers with size 10 being my favorite.

  •          COYOTE CLOUSER
  •          LEAD EYE CRAYFISH
  •          JIGGY CRAYFISH

I keep my lead eye selection to x-small, small, and medium. If I am using jig hooks, I will use a few different sized slotted tungsten beads from 3.0-4.0mm.  I don’t like to add any form of split shot to my streamers as I feel it does not allow for the right presentation and alters the drift of the streamer.

  • X-SMALL, Used most often, most versatile
  • SMALL- Used in faster shallower riffles
  • MEDIUM- Used in deep fast plunge pools

A winter wild brown trout that ate one of my "Go To Brookie Streamers."


Fishing these streamers is very similar to euro nymphing. You are casting upstream and drifting the streamer toward you. You want to twitch the streamer as it drifts towards you. On small streams that are a bit wider you can cast up stream and twitch the streamer down through the hole and then strip and pause the streamer back towards you. Often a fish will hunt the streamer through the hole and hit the streamer when you pause it, while working it back to you. In winter I often use my small streamers as anchor nymph on streams with a bit more depth . You can dead drift your presentation just as you would while euro nymphing then strip the streamer at the end of your drift. This is a very effective method.

I missed this beautiful buck brookie a few times and came back to him around 20 minutes later. He took a swipe at my "Go To Brookie Streamer" but would not commit. I switched to my "Jiggy Crayfish" and caught him on the first drift.


Small stream streamer fishing may not be as exciting to some as “Chucking Meat” from a drift boat on a river, but it has its own unique exhilarating moments. You get to experience the wildness of nature and see fish that have colors so rich that they almost look like they would hurt. You get to witness an up close look at native and wild trout hunting down your streamer and violently attacking it. Out of all the ways to catch native and wild trout on a fly rod, nothing compares to fishing small streamers to me.

Please take a moment to watch this video I did covering the tips and tricks discussed above.

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