Tips For Fly Fishing With Streamers
Looks like we are in for some mild fall weather for the foreseeable forecast here in Southwest Montana. Here in Bozeman, our heads are stuck on the idea of cloudy skies and Brown Trout on the move. There’s nothing like 2 feet of buttery-gold explosion on a light-colored wiggler just feet from the bank this time of year.
Around Bozeman, our fly fishing opportunities are almost endless and each river/situation is somewhat unique. If you are new to streamer fishing in Southwest Montana - or perpetually confused by it along with the rest of us – here are a couple of scenarios that you are likely to find yourself in on the waters around Bozeman, along with some quick tips that I rely on to help my days be more productive.
Wading Small Rivers
Smaller rivers like the Boulder, middle Gallatin (in the fall), Shields, Ruby, etc. are great for easy exploration and covering a lot of water on foot. I like to fish these with a 6-weight rod and a Rio Streamer Tip Line with the 10’ fast sink tip. This is the perfect line for fishing quick retrieves in shallow tailouts, thigh deep runs, and deeper pools that one can typically cover in a few casts.
I load up on lightweight or small streamers for these spots and gravitate towards whites, yellows, and olives this time of year on these streams. Some of my favorites in for these streams right now include Sculpzilla’s (small size), JJ Specials, RIO’s Precious Metal and the Laser Legal series.
Having the right line for each situation is the best way to increase your success on the water when fishing streamers these days. There are a ton of fly choices, some of which are small and heavy while others are 6” long and hardly weigh anything at all. I tend to prefer the smaller to medium sized streamers for these smaller waters (big ones work great too), as I feel like I can cover more water without spooking as many fish in the slower pools.
Floating Large Rivers
The larger rivers like the Madison, Jefferson, and Yellowstone are ideal choices for the angler with a boat during the fall months. Flows are generally low and the myriad holding water types include bankside buckets, brush piles, downed trees, boulder pockets, and mid-river runs are easy to identify for the drifting angler.
A 7-weight with a long, sinking head, is typically my choice for fishing these rivers from the boat. I have been fishing the RIO Predator fly lines find myself settling on the faster sink rate (F/S5/S7). The line is available in a lighter density as well and is one that I prefer in shallower rivers. The Predator line is perfect for easily shooting line at mid-long range distances while reducing “hang” between the running line and the sink tip. These are easy casting, performance sinking lines that are uniquely designed for the modern streamer angler.
Again, I tend to pick flies that are white or yellow this time of year when covering water from the drift boat. I like to be able to see the fly so that I am certain that it is moving the way I’m intending. Once that confidence settles in, I move to darker colors including olives and blacks if I cant move fish with the lighter colored flies. Articulated streamers that have weighted heads (leadeyes or cones) and unweighted rear sections move really well when fished on the proper lines and allow the angler to cover more water than every before. The movement of the fly is achieved with steady strips, tip-jigs, or variable rates of retrieve and somedays fish prefer one type of movement over the other.
The way these flies move - when coupled with the right fly line – can elicit some of the most memorable strikes of the year during the autumn months. Floating the larger rivers this time of year is a great experience as the crowds start to diminish and the vast selection of rivers around Bozeman is second to none meaning it can be difficult to find other anglers. It’s rare to put up the numbers that we sometime take for granted when fishing under an indicator this time of year, but there is a certain satisfaction that comes in finding a few good fish that become uncharacteristically aggressive as they head into the spawning season.
Our Bozeman fly shop stocks a wide range of sinking fly lines to cover just about any scenario one is likely to encounter on the waters around Bozeman. Stop in and see us out at 4-Corners the next time you are in the area and we will be happy to walk you through all of the different types of lines out there today to help ensure you have the best setup for your next day on the water this fall.
Two Rods to Checkout
A couple of great streamer rod choices that have proven their worth over the past few years include the Sage Foundation or the Sage Igniter. They are both American Made rods featuring fast-actions. The Foundation runs $425 and is a surprising stick to most anglers once they give them a test-cast. The Igniter series consist of lightweight, high-performance rods featuring ultra-crisp recoveries for accurate casting in the most technical of angling situations. I dig both of these in a 6wt. or 7wt. for streamer casting around Bozeman.