Tom Travis - October 12, 2009

In the West, talk of streamer fishing often brings to mind fall, large flies, big rivers and brown trout. But, is this the only time and place that the angler can use streamers? On spring creek waters there are times that streamer imitations can be very effective. I will cover a few of the situations where I use streamers and the various methods and tackle I employ to allow for proper presentation.


My personal favorite rod for this situation is a medium to medium fast rod. I prefer an Orvis PM-10 844, which is an 8'4" for a 4 weight. This allows for easier  casting with  larger flies and the line control needed on spring  creek water types like the Firehole, DePuy's, and Armstrong's. I also enjoy using my Orvis Madison Bamboo 7‑1/2' for a 5, as I think that  cane rods allow the angler a subtle feel and fine fly manipulation when fishing smaller imitations on fine tippets. Some of the new hi-tech rods are great casting tools but the angler loses a lot in feel, which greatly affects the hooking, fighting, and landing success rate.  

For reels I prefer SA System Two 5/6 or Orvis Battenkill 5/6. These reels are lightweight yet will hold 110 yards of backing plus a full line, which is more than adequate. Both reels feature a smooth, stainless steel disc drag, which is needed if the angler wishes to remain hooked up to the trout on a long run with fairly light tippets. For lines, the angler should have three to effectively cover the angling situations encountered. I use a Mastery XPS Weight Forward 4 Floating, a Mastery Clear Stillwater WF4S and a Mastery Wet Tip III, WF4F/S. These lines, along with the proper leaders and patterns, will allow me to effectively present the imitation at the proper angle and depth. 

As for pattern selection be as complete as possible, because having a poor pattern selection will cause as much frustration as having the wrong lines. Now, I will break down these systems and explain how, where and why I use them on spring creek water types, along with some important information on leaders.


During the months of summer my streamer fishing on spring creek waters is limited to very early morning or very late evening. During this time period I use floating lines and 10' 4X tapered leaders. I call this method, Cast & Walk Streamer fishing. I pick a bank or go side to side if the stream is small. I cast down and across to the bank, drop my rod tip and follow the fly off the bank as it swings. The retrieve is two 2" strips pause, and so on. My favorite patterns for this are the Muddler Minnow, Lite Spruce Streamer, Dark Olive Woolly Bugger and the Travis Dark Olive Sculpin Bugger in size 8 or 10.

What the angler is trying to do with this method is to excite the trout into striking as the fly sweeps right into its face, or excite a strike because the imitation has invaded its territory, which is often the case with brown trout. This method will reward the angler who goes early or stays late.


It is during these times that I do the bulk of my streamer fishing on spring creek water. During the fall, the brown trout are spawning. During the winter insect hatches are sparse, and during the spring the rainbow trout are spawning. All of these factors add up to some excellent streamer fishing opportunities. Many times I find angling situations on spring creek waters that demand that I use lines other than floating if I am going to be successful.


With a sink rate of only 1.25 inches per second the angler will often find that riffle waters and runs can be more effectively fished with this line as it will keep the streamer in the probable strike zone for a longer period of time during each cast. When using this line, I will take a 6', 4X leader and cut it down to 4 feet. This will keep the fly moving through the same plane as the line, thus allowing for more consistent takes and better control during the fly manipulation or retrieve. This line is also excellent for fishing unweighted egg patterns in riffle water.


With a sink rate of 2.50 inches per second, this line allows me to effectively fish heavy fast riffles, and slow deep sloughs, but still have the line control for proper drift and pattern manipulation. The sinking tip portion of this line is 13'. I often trim mine back to 8 or 10'. Here, again, I trim down a 6' tapered leader to 4'. The retrieve will depend on what I want the pattern to appear to be doing. I may dead‑drift the pattern, or retrieve a slow steady strip, or I may dart it with a strip‑pause retrieve. This will depend on year it is. Are the browns spawning? If so, they will be very aggressive to anything that comes near the redd (nest). Or is it mid‑winter with sparse hatches? Then any trout may fall prey to a slow swimming or dead‑drifting minnow imitation.

One of the  keys  to fishing the streamers during the fall, winter, and spring period is to cast up and across and to keep the fly moving broadside through  the water. Now, if I am dead‑drifting I will often cast upstream. This will allow the sink tip and pattern to get down deeper in heavier water.


Many of the presentation methods and patterns used on the larger rivers can be used on spring creek waters--all the angler has to do is scale them down. The one nice thing about fishing spring creek water types is that the trout are easy to locate and the angler is often sight fishing. Where, on larger rivers, the angler is almost never sight fishing and must rely on the knowledge of where the trout will be during a given season.

Editor’s Note: Since this material was prepared several years ago the rods and line types mentioned may not still be available, but similar items may be substituted.


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