Using Streamer Flies to catch Big New Zealand Trout

When I first started to fly fish, streamer flies were it for me as they are relatively easy to fly fish with and on some of the rivers I started fly fishing on were an excellent option to use and produced good results particularly early season before the weed starts to build up in the river system of Hawkes Bay. Of course I also used to flog them in the stream mouths of the Western Bays, Lake Taupo and other areas too with great success.

As time went by and my skill level became higher I moved away from fishing streamers and used a lot more nymph and dry fly technique which I tend to enjoy the more on our crystal clear rivers down in the South Island and the streamers went by the wayside and until a few years ago this remained the case.

On one particular day I was guiding a longtime client of mine who had already landed 2 fish just over 10lbs in size on a standard nymph approach and had lost another couple of large trout. We came across another hog sitting in a small eye of a wee pool weaving from side to side occasional taking something.  I had a chat to my client who is an excellent caster and has many other very good fishing skills about our approach on this fish. I set him up with a nymph rig and told him where and how to present it but asked him to wait until I moved into a well concealed spotting position (he couldn’t see the trout from his casting position). All was set and the client put cast after cast in the right spot but no take came from the hog. I changed fly, added some weight and we started again. Same result, fish still there and undisturbed. We continued for the next hour with a similar pattern of me changing thru all my nymph boxes and most of my dry fly boxes (even tossing a mouse imitation at it) and no joy.

My levels of frustration at not getting at take were becoming  rather high and how the trout had not been spooked thru out the proceedings was quite amazing. I poked around in my jacket and found the biggest and ugliest looking streamer fly (a dark green woolly bugger on a size 2 hook with a gold tungsten bead) I had with my mind going well this is just going to spook the fish and at least we can move on to a fish that we have a chance on.

My client had a funny look on his face as I tied this monster streamer on to the end of a 14 ft leader (I think he knew that I was reaching at strings). He says to me “how do I fish this bloody thing on this leader”? My reply was “just like those hundred or so different nymphs and dries we just threw at it”. He looked very confused so I repeated that I wanted him to cast upstream from the same place where he had been standing and drop it about 3 ft in front of the fish and then fish it like a nymph and to remember that if I yelled strike to lift hard.

Still looking quizzical (and thinking I was half mad) he let me move back into my spotting posi before ripping out a beautiful cast, dropping that big streamer exactly where I had asked, the fish charged it as soon as it hit the water, smashing the fly, the guide yelled strike and about 50 minutes later we landed the 3rd fish over 10lbs for the day.

My status went from zero to hero in about the time you can say it and needless to say after one more fish about an hour later that weighed about 9lbs we went home and got a little sozzled. Well, if you catch 4 trout and the combined weight is over 40lbs you need a drink or two!

I certainly learnt a thing or two that day and I am never shy to go to a big ugly streamer fly on big trout that are proving difficult on a more standard approach – it sometimes pays huge dividends as I have found on numerous occasions since that day.

There is a time and place for everything, knowing when to use it is the trick!

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