Streamer fishing is an effective way to fish the river all year, and consistent success can be found in the spring, summer, and fall months. That said, it is crucial to learn to adapt tactics to be successful in both high and low water conditions. There are a couple key considerations for streamer fishing on the Bow.
The first consideration is your rod and line selection. A 6 to 8 weight, medium-fast to fast rod will cover just about any streamer situation on the Bow. Most anglers tend to rely on 7 weights to provide ample power without being overbearing to cast all day. Most anglers pair their sstreamer rodd with an intergrated sink tip line. These lines do a better job at getting flies down and into the “zone” where fish are feeding. As such, they are especially useful in fast water or in the deeper pockets. Sink tip lines also allow you to cast with relative ease and minimal false casts; this is crucial when fishing from a moving boat. Another thing to consider is that many streamers are unweighted and designed to be fished with sinking lines. These unweighted flies are lighter, easier to cast, and often have a tantalizing movement in the water. When using a sink tip line, the best way to create a leader is to use a short, heavy section of level fluorocarbon. We recommend using a perfection loop to attach your leader to your line, and non-slip loop knots to attach streamers. Generally, 10-15lb tippet is used depending on the conditions.
During high water, fish will push up closer to the banks and around the edges that create what we call “soft” water. When fish are concentrated, and feeding in these areas, streamer fishing is extremely effective. Here are a few tips, tactics, and things to keep in mind when streamer fishing high water.
When fishing from the bank during high water, you typically won’t have to cast long distances. Fish will be in tight to the banks and off-coloured water will mean that you can get relatively close to fish without spooking them. Try casting into deep pockets, cuts, seamlines, and edges of structure. Vary your retrieve and see what works. Remember, sink tips make it easier to get snagged in submerged rocks, roots, and debris. This means you must be focused on your fly and work to keep it away from snags.
Fly selection during high water is relatively simple. There are a few key points to keep in mind. First off, high water often means lower visibility. On bright days, most will opt for lighter coloured, flashier flies. Dark flies are typically more effective in overcast conditions. Colours like olive tend to standout and perform well in all conditions. While larger, articulated patterns can be productive, it is not necessary to throw excessively large streamers. Focus on selecting flies that you can cast well, the fish can see, and have good movement in the water.
Later in the summer, as the water clears up and begins to drop, fish will move into different water. As water temperatures rise, trout will move into faster riffles that are more oxygenated. They will often sit behind rocks, stumps, and deflections that create small riffles. Many bank anglers will have success wading onto gravel bars and ledges, stripping streamers through faster riffles and buckets. Those fishing from a drift boat will be able to more effectively fish the banks, casting towards likely holding water and stripping back to the boat. They can also fish the mid-river buckets, and boats will often anchor near these spots. During this time of year, fish are often caught on a quick strip. Summer streamer fishing is usually a fast-paced game where trout can be very aggressive.
During the low water of mid to late summer, it is common to fish smaller flies, often in tandem. Small flashy flies trailed by a small muddler or leech can be extremely effective. Small articulated flies and sculpins also fish well during the summer months. In late summer and into autumn, fish key into backswimmers and boatmen, so try swapping a leech or muddler for a trailing boatman. As the leaves begin to change colour and the first frost takes hold, trout will look for large meals to intake enough calories for the long winter ahead. This can be a great time to chuck larger, articulated streamers.
While you can get away with some of the same techniques all season, switching up your streamer game depending on conditions will greatly increase your success and enjoyment on the water. Streamer fishing is one of the most exciting ways to fish the Bow (or any river, for that matter), making it a skill that all anglers should hone.