I’m a complete streamer addict. I spend all season long throwing big flies in the hope of catching a monster Irish river trout. A lot of people who ask me about streamer fishing have the early part of the season in mind as prime time for this method. It’s true that trout can be hungry and willing after the winter, but streamer fishing in the Irish spring can be very hit and miss! There can be no doubt that the fish are reluctant to move and give chase to a streamer due to lower water temperatures. Temperature also governs smaller prey fish activity and the organisms that they feed on. However, the trout still have to feed!
Early spring on the river Liffey. Tough conditions for the angler.
This season just passed, my friend Ciaran O’Kelly who is a seriously accomplished streamer fisherman managed an amazing trout of 7lbs on St. Patrick’s day. Ciaran hooked the fish in softer water mid-way down a pool using a fast sinking line and 5 inch long fly. His success was no accident. Ciaran who has fish over 9 lbs to his credit, catches more big trout on Irish rivers than anyone I know. His approach to streamer fishing is based on covering lies that he knows from experience hold big fish rather than blindly covering a lot of water. One of the main difficulties with streamer fishing is locating a big fish. If you know where the fish lives then that is half the battle.
Ciaran O’Kelly’s magnificent St Patrick’s day 7lber!
Another often overlooked issue with spring fishing is that weather conditions can be really uncomfortable for the angler to fish in for long periods of time. It may be better to target hotspots for an hour or two but to do so on a very regular basis.
Master Streamer angler Ciaran O’Kelly wrapped up warm for spring fishing. Note the use of a line tray
Spring time on the river Boyne. Targeting soft water off the main flow.
A lot of streamer anglers like to fish a smaller fly in colder water but in general I’ve found that smaller fish are the end result. I like to throw flies in the 4-5 inch range for most of the year. A bigger fly moves more water and allows the fish to feel that movement as well as see it. I believe that in general a big fly is required to trigger a response from larger predatory trout and I don’t have the same confidence with a small fly.
Predominantly white flies help the angler to see the fly in the water
A 4lber that was eating rising trout! This is why large flies are required to tempt predatory trout
I recently came back from a November trip to Slovenia where I had a couple of days to target the famous Hucho Hucho (often incorrectly called Danube Salmon). This is a really interesting fish, a very large predatory salmonid that is a close relative of the Taimen (if not the same fish). As with predatory brown trout, it predominantly feeds at night so we are often targeting a resting fish. In Slovenia the water is really clear, fast flowing and cold and the Hucho are sitting on the bottom. The clear water allows the angler to spot the fish and cast to it.
Clear, powerful water in Slovenia is a challenge to get the fly down near the fish!
The tackle is heavy, I was using a 9.0 ips sinking line on a 10 weight rod! The 10 weight is used to comfortably manage the weight of the heavy line and fly. The technique was to cast a large weighted streamer above the fish and strip it close enough so that the fish would see it at its level in the water column. It was noticeable to me that even though these rivers aren’t particularly deep, it required very accurate casting and line control to get the fly close to the level of the fish quickly.
The clarity of the water allowed me to see very clearly when I had misjudged a cast. On a number of occasions I made many casts to a fish before I got the presentation right and the fish reacted. This experience had me wondering about how often I am not presenting the fly correctly to the fish at home in the higher cold water of spring.
I really am looking forward to applying some of the principles of Hucho streamer fishing to my own fishing this coming season in Ireland, although the 10 weight would be a little overkill!
My first Hucho Hucho on Streamer in Slovenia. A lot of work to get one so I was a happy man!
In summer, my fly is fishing quite close to the surface fishing and my approach has been to cover a lot of water quickly. One of the joys of streamer fishing is being able to see what’s going on with the fly and hopefully see the fish when it reacts.
In spring, when fishing closer to the bottom, I will slow down and use a bright highly visible fly. For the same reasons trout won’t chase streamers in cold water, they won’t often move to the surface to take your fly. Therefore, upstream casting to allow the fly to sink before retrieving will give an advantage.
My best fish of 2017 caught on a dropping flood in August. Fish at this time of year will often chase a long distance but is rarely the case in spring!
If you are setting out next spring for the first time to throw some streamers. A suggestion would be to try tying a smaller streamer two feet behind the big fly in a tandem rig. The smaller fly will help build your overall confidence in the method as you will then be targeting the general trout population rather than just the bigger fish.
Just like everything else in fly fishing, it’s all about experimentation, putting in alot of time and making regular thoughtful changes until the fish let us know that we are on the right track.
The reward for hard work and perseverance. A stunning wild Irish predatory Trout