Three Ways to Fish Streamers on Large Rivers Blog- Murray’s Fly Shop
When Ray Hurley, my Yellowstone River Guide of 17 years, and I fished the Yellowstone, he encouraged fishing streamers in order to catch large trout. Here are our most effective tactics: (1) When we are floating the river with Ray, with the oars of his Hyde Drift Boat, he had me pound the banks with a Sculpin Streamer. When we beached the boat (2) Ray fished the heads of the pools with a Sculpin Streamer and (3) I fished the tails of the pools with a Sculpin Streamer.
Jeff and I have been using our Scott Switch Rods for bass fishing in the the rivers for many years. Here are a few of the great angling features the switch rods help us with. If I am wading a river where there is a solid line of trees behind me that would prevent a regular back cast with my regular, single hand, smallmouth bass rod, the switch rod easily lets me roll out long casts.
When I am fishing nymphs and streamers across fast currents the extra length of my switch rod easily helps me reach high in order to negate the fast currents before me that would rob me of depth. Also in similar situations I can use long controlled mends in order to swim my flies deeply.
Making long casts is easy with a switch rod so I can fish poppers along the far shaded banks when the river before me is too deep to wade.
Fishing Nymphs and Streamers Deeply- Murray’s Fly Shop
We have many excellent sinking head and sinking tip fly lines that are a great help in fishing our nymphs and streamers deeply along the streambottom. However, I find that in order to take full advantage of these fly lines it helps to use a Murray’s Fluorocarbon 6 foot Sinking Line Leaders. Longer leaders negate the forward sinking portions of these fly lines. They also prevent the flies from swimming as deeply as desired.
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Streamer Fly Fishing Blog- Murray’s Fly Shop- Edinburg, Virginia
Streamers normally imitate minnows and bait fish. A very effective tactic is to cast these across stream and swim them back across stream so the fly is broadside to the current. As the current plays on the fly and fly line it is pulled downstream as it swings across stream. It is very important to keep the rod tip pointed where the fly line enters the stream. Then you can feel the strike the instant the fish take it. In this way you can set the hook quickly with a combination line-hand strike. You can also use a rod lifting motion before the fish detects it as a phony and ejects it. I find that by rotating my body downstream at the same rate the streamer is swinging, I can easily apply this technique.
I used to make these out of lead core trolling line in many lengths from four inches to ten feet long. I whipped a loop on both ends. Today I have settled for a four foot model. By inserting these into a regular leader with a loop-to-loop connection, you can fish streamers and nymphs to extra depths. These do not work as well nor cast as well as the Scientific Anglers Sonar Sink Tip III Fly Lines but they are an inexpensive substitute.
For me fly tying cement has two main purposes. One is to hold the fly together and the second is to coat a pretty head on the flies. I make my own head cement so since I want the flies I tie to be durable I use a vehicle which enhances its ability to penetrate deeply into the materials and thread. This produces a fly which is almost indestructible. In order to coat a pretty head on my streamers I use my thicker head cement.
Many years ago two elderly gentlemen in my advanced fly tying college class made a simple request: Teach us to tie a dry fly that floats like a cork, that we can easily see on the water and that matches many of the early season natural insects. I thought this was a reasonable request and the Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly was born. Today this is my favorite dry fly on the Epeorus pleuralis hatch in size 14, for the Stenomena vicarium hatch in size 14, for the Stenomena fuscum hatch in size 16 and for the Beatis hatch in sizes 18 and 20.
I have now expanded the Mr. Rapidan series to match three different adult caddisflies, two different caddis pupa, two mayfly nymphs, two mayfly emergers, midges, two different soft hackles, terrestrials, streamers and even smallmouth dry flies.
Those two gentlemen had an outstanding idea which has helped hundreds of anglers catch thousands of fish all across the country.
When you are designing a new streamer to match a specific minnow it is great to tie one that looks so much like the real minnow that it impresses your friends. However, when you are on the river fishing the fish appear to take the streamers which ACT like the real minnow they are accustomed to feeding on in that area. It is great when your new streamer looks like that specific minnow but for consistent success it is a must that your new fly ACT like the real minnow in the way it swims through the currents and darts for cover when it is chased by a fish. After a great deal of experimenting with materials and tying techniques, the Murray’s Madtom Sculpin Streamer evolved into a streamer which acts like a real minnow and the fish take quickly. Check the prevalent minnows in your streams and see if you can developed an effective streamer.
Great sections of smallmouth bass rivers to fish are the areas just upstream of the public access areas. These receive much less serious fishing pressure than you would expect, even though many boats take out here everyday. I suspect that this is because by the time most anglers get to the take-out-spot they are either running late, or they are tired or they are drunk! Often I wade into these areas and fish surface bugs such as the Shenandoah Blue Popper right against the bank as I wade upstream for several hundred yards then wade further out into the river or even to the far bank then fish streamers back downstream to the access point.
About two hours before dark on a beautiful August evening I waded across the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, intending to fish one of my favorite riffles fifty yards downstream. The water along the bank right in front of me was only two feet deep and the aquatic grassbed reached twenty feet out into the river. A large smallmouth bass crashed into the grass to catch a shiner minnow just upstream of me. A few seconds later he captured another shiner minnow as he swam upstream along the edge of the grassbed. I felt this was too good for me to pass up! I cast a Silver Outcast Streamer upstream ahead of his path and he took it solidly. As I landed the large bass I noticed more bass chasing shiner minnows upstream through the grassbeds. By wading slowly upstream I caught many more large bass by going one on one with them as I spotted them chasing shiner minnows.
When you are on the water at dusk keep an eye out for this type action because it is very exciting.
There are days when the smallmouth bass feed heavily on minnows and fishing streamers catches these fish. However, there are days when they feed mostly on natural nymphs and we catch these smallmouth bass on “artificial nymphs”. Realizing this, I decided to develop one fly to be fished as a Streamer to catch the minnow feeders as well as matching the natural nymphs which could be fished as a Nymph. I developed the Strymph drawing on Ron Kommer’s idea of using ostrich herl in the tail and Charlie Brooks concept of tying underwater flies “in the round”.
Thus the Strymph can be fished upstream dead drift and across the current in a swing nymphing method both of which match our natural nymphs.
The Strymph can easily be fished across stream with a deep swimming action which matches all of our minnows. Simply stated, there is no wrong way to fish the Murray’s Strymph, and it is equally effective for both smallmouth bass and trout.
If you are interested in learning how to tie the Murray’s Strymph, here is the tying kit or you can just purchase the tying instructions recipe sheet.
There are times when fishing streamers along the banks when floating smallmouth bass rivers can be very effective. However, some anglers on our guided float trips believe they are slow in detecting these strikes. We solve this problem by attaching a Shenandoah Blue Popper size 4 to our Bright Butt 9 foot 2X Compound Knotted Leader and attach twenty four inches of 2X tippet material to the bend of the popper hook with an improved clinch knot. I attach a Murray’s Pearl Marauder size 10 to this as a dropper. When floating the river this combination popper and dropper is cast down and across stream at a twenty degree angle so it lands close to the river bank. A slow strip-pause-strip retrieve will bring many strikes from bass along these banks. When the bass takes the popper the strike is easy to see and the bass can be quickly hooked. If he takes the streamer it will cause a quick movement of the popper which is the signal to set the hook and you hook the bass solidly.
Several years ago I stopped in a fly shop in Montana which was owned by a good friend. One of his employees was an excellent fly tyer and the gentleman, who had never fished for smallmouth bass but knowing I fished for them often, pulled out several beautiful, well tied flies he called smallmouth streamers for me to see. I complimented him on the great appearance of his smallmouth streamers, some of which he had skillfully incorporated more than twenty different body parts. When we were outside in our car I turned to my son, Jeff, and said, “Those were some of the most beautiful smallmouth streamers I have ever seen, but I do not believe they will catch many fish because with all that material on them it will be next to impossible to sink them.”
Several years before this we had done extensive testing on new fly designs and found that in many cases the most sparsely tied nymphs and streamers caught the most bass and trout. I believe much of this success came from the facts that these flies sank well, were strongly suggestive of the natural nymphs and minnows I was striving to mimic and could easily be made to duplicate the swimming action of these naturals.
Some of our flies which fall into this classification are groups of flies in our Shenandoah Simple Streamer series for both bass and trout, the Mr. Rapidan Soft Hackle series for both bass and trout, many of flies (although they are drys) in my “Change of Pace” trout series, the Murray’s Marauders, the Murray’s Floating Minnows and the Murray’s Strymphs.
The outstanding book, Simple Flies by Morgan Lyle shows how to tie and fish fifty two flies for trout, bass and in saltwater. If you are considering tying some new flies for your personal use I believe using the simple approach I have used in many of my flies and those Morgan Lyle discusses in his great book will help you catch many fish.
Calf (Kip) Tail is a very useful material with many applications in tying dry flies, streamers and bass bugs. The yellow calf tail I show here is what I use to tie the wings of the Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly series. The space between the two pencil-pointers gives us the hair which is easiest to make nice even dry fly wings. I hold these hair fibers by the tips and brush out the short, useless hair and the fuzz with an old tooth brush. Usually these hair fibers are even enough to tie in as they are producing nice straight wings. If you like you can straighten these hair fibers in a hair evener, but I seldom find this necessary. The long hair fibers on the tip of the tail make excellent streamers, bass bug tails and even sometimes wings for Trude dry flies. These come in many dyed colors and are inexpensive. The more you experiment with these in your fly tying , the more great uses you will find for them.
The smallmouth rivers are cooling and although I am catching nice bass throughout the rivers, I am aware that some of the largest bass are moving into the deep pools. I carry both a floating line and a 200 grain fast sinking head line and use the one which helps me fish my flies deeply. Swimming them deeply and slowly is the best way to catch these large bass. Dependable flies now are the Murray’s Black Madtom Sculpin Streamer size 4, Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker Streamer size 4 and Murray’s Magnum Creek Chub Streamer size 4. These bass often strike these streamers very gently so if you feel the slightest bump set the hook quickly with both your line hand and the rod.
I had outstanding smallmouth bass fishing on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River with a method of streamer fishing I am calling, “Escape Technique”. Many of the bass are feeding heavily now on natural minnows.
This technique is easy to master and it is extremely effective. I suspect because we make our streamer act like a minnow attempting to evade the bass. Using a fly such as Shenk’s White Streamer size 6 or Murray’s Olive Marauder size 6 cast in toward the bank. After the streamer sinks deeply, strip it out ten feet with a slow strip-pause-strip action. At this point use a slow roll cast pick up motion which brings the streamer up close to the surface of the river but do not pick it up. With the streamer within inches of the surface impart several upstream and downstream slow line mends to make it look like a minnow fleeing to escape a bass which is after it. I am doing best with this method where the current is slow to medium and the water is three to four feet deep. Deadly!
When I teach my winter fly tying classes, the beginning fly tyers are amazed how quickly they learn to tie great deer hair bass bugs. I teach this with two simple rules, (1) Be sure to clean out all of the short hair and fuzz from each pinch of deer hair before you tie it on and (2) Keep a bare hook shank ahead of each pinch of deer hair you tie on.
This two hour class will teach you how to tie drys, nymphs, streamers and deer hair bass bugs. We do not supply the materials, you can purchase a fly tying kit from us or watch!
If you tie your own nymphs and streamers take a lesson from the late Charlie Brooks as I did many years ago. The previous fall Brooks, while we were fishing the Madison River, stressed the need for large stonefly nymph patterns for the large brown trout on the large rivers. He liked size 4 nymphs on 3X long hooks that were well weighted. That winter I experimented with tying some and sent them out to Brooks. In order to add extra weight to these large nymphs I tied them on 5X stout hooks. Brooks wrote me a very nice thank you letter and liked the style of my stoneflies. However, he pointed out that with wire that large in diameter we would have trouble hooking the trout so I tied some of the same patterns on Mustad 9672 hooks which is a standard weight wire and Brooks did well with them the next summer.
The smallmouth streams are cooling and many large bass are moving to the deep pools and cuts. Use a SA Mastery Sink Tip III or Teeny 200 to fish your streamers along the stream bottom. The Murray’s Black Madtom Sculpin in one of the best.