By Zach Lazzari
Brace yourself. Literally. Fishing streamers from a drift boat or raft is fast, furious and a ton of fun. The techniques are not overwhelming complex and the style is typically aggressive. Use your lean bar and get a stable position so you can focus the fishing without tumbling overboard.
The elevated vantage point also provides a cool visual perspective. You will see fish chase, swipe and attack your streamer. Don’t set the hook until they actually eat and clamp down on your fly. In some cases, fish will actually knock it down before turning back to eat.
Rod and Line Choices
You could get away with a 5-weight but a 6-7 is ideal. An 8-weight is overkill for most trout waters in the lower 48 states but there are places where it remains a good option. I’ve run a 6 and 7 weight from Alaska to Patagonia successfully.
Floating lines work well from the boat when combined with a weighted streamer. You want the fly to drop 6-inches in a hurry and bugs tied with dumbell eyes and coneheads are a good fit for the floating line. The floater is ideal for hitting the banks on a fast retrieve. It’s also nice when you plan on transitioning between nymph and dry fly rigs throughout the day.
I like to keep one dedicated streamer rod in my boat with a sinking line. It’s always setup and rigged to fish streamers only. I use one of two sinking line types for this rod.
The first is RIO’s InTouch StreamerTip. The line is nice and stiff and the sink rate is perfect for most boat situations. It penetrates the surface quickly but doesn’t drop like a rock. The sink rate is nice for getting in the zone without dropping out of the zone and hanging on bottom too quickly. This makes it easy to fish fast and moderate pace retrieves off the banks.
The second is Cortland’s Compact Sink series. This one drops a little quicker, making it the perfect line for aggressive retrieves, deeper water and water resistant flies like those with a deer hair head. I have a 240 grain paired with a fast action 6-weight and it’s an all around awesome setup. The running line is especially nice. It doesn’t kink and shoots smoothly.
Working verbally with the rower
Working as a team makes you a more effective angler from the boat. It’s not uncommon for the rower and angler to butt heads and become frustrated when they are not communicating. Let the rower know how you want to fish the streamer so they can make adjustments and compensate for the style of fishing. If you are not sure, ask them to put you in position and coach you on the following common approaches to streamer fishing.
When the fishing is hot, beating the banks is a killer technique. You will know within 20 minutes if this style is suited to the conditions as fish will visually chase and slash at your flies. The technique is simple. Smack your streamer against the bank and retrieve. Sometimes waiting 1-3 seconds for the fly to drop helps. Experiment with the retrieve speed until it clicks. Typically you will cast perpendicular or slightly behind the boat for this style.
Swinging in Front
Swinging from a boat works well when you have a well defined run and seamline. The rower can hug the slower inside of the upper seam to hold a steady line while the angler casts into the heavy current and swings into the seam. The faster sinking line is ideal for getting down in this situation. You can let the fly hover and essentially backtroll or retrieve and re-cast.
Fishing Behind the Boat
Running behind the boat is extremely effective. I will actually have a single angler sit on the back seat while leaving the front empty to really work tight against deep, undercut banks. This requires advanced rowing skills as you stay tight to the banks while looking far ahead to plan for sweepers and danger.
The fast sinking lines work well here as you want to get deep in a hurry. Plan on losing flies, it’s part of the game. I run a 2-3 feet of 8-10 pound fluorocarbon off the sink tip. Cast directly behind the boat, let it sink and pack the boat slightly faster than the current to run the fly right against the deep bank. The angler should bump the rod tip and retrieve intermittently to add action while maintaining contact. Keep the fly down in the zone for as long as possible. Half your hook set will be on logs and rocks but you have a good chance to connect with a big trout as well.
Mystic Rods offers some killer options for throwing streamers from a boat. Check out our new Reaper X 6-Weight, or the ever-popular M Series 10' 3" 6-weight rod. You may even check out our 7-Weight Tremor saltwater fly rod, an incredibly versatile option that performs just as well from a drift boat as it does on a skiff.