What Are Fly Fishing Streamers?

What Are Fly Fishing Streamers?

If you’ve just purchased a standard fly fishing kit, chances are you would have a tiny tackle box with a set of the basic lures or “flies” you need to get started.

Going through those lures as a beginner may seem quite daunting at first but at the end of this article. You will finally know the different types of flies as well as the techniques incorporated when using streamers.

So when someone asks you what are fly fishing streamers You will be able to answer that question.

Streamers are bigger flies that are meant to represent larger insects or bait. They are often made to look like leeches, minnows, crayfish or other forms of food. Streamers are often compared to conventional lures but have a more fluid and more realistic motion compared to the others.

Types of Fly Fishing Flies:

You would have probably noticed a whole series of lures in your tackle box and may not know how to differentiate or categorize them. Here’s what you need to know:

Dry Fly:

Flies that fall under this category are often similar to terrestrial insects and adult aquatic insects. These flies are lightweight. They easily float on water, resting on the surface tension mimicking the very action of the insects they represent. This is the most commonly used fly by beginners.

Dry Flies
Dry Flies

Wet Fly:

It is also known as a Nymph because it is made to look like the immature form of the aquatic insects. This type of fly sinks below the surface tension into the bottom of the stream, like most insects in their larvae stage. This is where more fish encounter this type of insect.


These variants are the more bulky types of flies meant to represent larger insects, small animals, and even fish bait. These flies are even able to imitate the swimming motions of these critters making it quite believable for the fish. It is best to use in gloomy days or when there is less sun. Since most animals that fish do prey upon are more active in darker settings, it makes it easier for you to fool them into taking a bite. There are two kinds of streamers:


These streamers represent food sources of specific fish. It could literally imitate smaller fish, larger insects and even other kinds of marine life. Most saltwater fly fishers use streamers that represent shrimp, shellfish and squid.


Fish are always attracted to things that are shiny and bright, with neon streamers fish are quite frantic. Either they become territorial thinking that the streamers are invading their space or they find it attractive enough to eat.

When Do We Use Streamers?

Although streamers are quite effective for catching large fish, using it at the wrong time would be a complete waste. Ideally, there are two main scenarios where using streamers would be best for:

High Flow:

When the water level is high, it influences fish to move farther below. During this time, it is more effective to use heavy flies than dry flies that will just float on the surface. Streamers are less likely to disrupt the fish and would camouflage well in the environment.

 Cloudy Water:

No matter how much the water flows, cloudiness can lessen your chances at a good catch. Using streamers can be quite productive since bigger flies are easier for fish to see. Streamers sink in without creating more murk.

Basic Techniques in Fly Fishing with Streamers:

If you are quite new in fly fishing, the basic techniques would definitely help you understand the special methods that are used when streamers are cast.


The swing is one of the most effective ways to run over the water. You can cast across downstream and allow the streamer to flow through the dead drift, and with minimal effort as possible, you can definitely catch a bite.

Banging the Banks:

Through quick strips, you can control the length of the reel you cast. By pinching the line on the shoot, this allows you to gain more control.

Drift and Jig:

When the streamers drift below the surface tension, making quick lifts using the rod’s tip will create “jigging” action that mimics a struggling motion by fish.

Jerk and Twitch:

Instead of using long strips all throughout, you can make a variation and use short and long ones simultaneously. Add some realistic movement by using quick twitches followed by long slow strips.

Special Techniques Used for Fly Fishing with Streamers:

Through the proper techniques in casting and movements, you will be able to optimize the use of your flies. For the use of streamers, here are a few techniques you may want to try:

Small Fish:

One thing to remember when fishing and choosing flies is that all fish will eat other fish especially those that are smaller in size compared to them. For this technique what you can do is:

Cast Your Streamer Far From Your Position:

You are trying to imitate a smaller fish, and by lessening the distance from yourself and the streamer, you are able to do so by reducing added vibration and disturbances that will spook the fish.

Mend Downstream:

By moving downstream in a delicate manner, you will be able to drag your line and pull your streamer slowly through the water mimicking how a fish would swim.

Follow Through:

As soon as you feel a pull after a couple of feet, give it a few strips and quicks, making it look like the streamer is frantic and scared – this will, in turn, provoke a reaction causing the fish you are trying to catch. Once the fish has bought the whole show and has taken the bite. It’s time to reel it in.

Struggling Insect:

This technique is best executed from the top of a hole. Most people would discourage fly fishing in winter, but some people actually enjoy the cold weather and the exhilaration of the catch.

Find a Heavy Streamer:

By using the heaviest streamer in your tackle box, you can be almost assured that it will get to the bottom very quickly and you can actually jig it off.

Pull Out Enough Line:

First, you need to pull out enough line to reach the bottom of the hole you have picked and then allow your fly to cast out at least 3 yards away from you. The dead current will pull your streamer through.

Mend Your Line:

Mend your line to the left and right to allow the current to move your streamer in a drifting motion. Be sure to give it a couple of short strips to make sure that the streamer seems realistic enough for the fish to take it.

The Struggle:

Once your streamer and your line have completely straightened out, you would need to let the line you just stripped get back out so that the streamer sinks or looks like a small animal or fish struggling.

Hungry Leech:

With this technique, you would need two flies. Use one streamer that looks like a leach and a smaller one that looks like an egg.

The idea is to imitate a leech chasing an egg. This technique has been quite effective especially during the breeding season.


Stay in the middle of the water and allow yourself to have access to cast upstream. This allows your streamer to be stripped and dead drifted through the whole process.

Setting-Up Your Flies:

Choose a small egg-like fly as your lead fly, and right below it, attach your streamer. This gives the fish the illusion that a larger insect is after a smaller or more vulnerable one.

Short Quick Strips:

Through short quick strips, the streamer mimics the act of leeches chasing down a nymph, larvae or egg. The fish will buy into this and eventually get caught. Definitely one of the easiest and most effective techniques used today.

Top Streamers:

Streamer fishing has become quite popular in the world of fly fishing due to its effectivity especially with larger fish. Going back to what we have mentioned earlier, all fish will eat other fish.

There are tons of streamer patterns to choose from, while stores may be biased towards high priced ones, here is a compilation of the more efficient streamers used today:


This streamer is excellent for fly fishing in Montana where Sculpins are a major food source. The cone-shaped head of this fly allows the fly fisher to manipulate the streamer through jigging completely replicating the swimming pattern an actual Sculpin.

Skiddish Smolt:

Jeff Hickman developed the Skiddish Smolt. It comes in a variety of colors and is quite easy to maneuver in a zigzag motion through the stream.

Sex Dungeon:

Kelly Galloup developed the Sex Dungeon and is known as the fish-catching machine among the season pros. The very design of the streamer was made to represent a Sculpin, but due to its articulate pattern and color variety, it passes well as any baitfish.

 Sparkle Minnow:

One of the newer streamers, the Sparkle Minnow has gained popularity quite fast especially for beginners. They come in two variants and have been quite efficient in use.

JJ Special:

Jim Jones developed the JJ Special by fusing two streamers together; the Big Horn Special and the Yuk Bug. It quickly gained popularity and has been one of the fly fishers favorites.

Complex Twist Bugger:

Clark Pierce developed the Complex Twist Bugger with a simple dubbing loop. It is quite heavy and definitely works great as a streamer. It comes in a fusion of colors like yellow and brown, black and olive, or white and grey.

T&A Conehead Leech:

Another creation by Kelly Galloup, this fly is quite simple and is favored by many because of its versatile color and pattern.

McCune’s Sculpin:

From most streamers that are made to look like Sculpins, McCune’s has definitely been the closest. With its simple Sculpin pattern, it is best used with a dead drift of a strip underneath an indicator.

Beadhead Wooly Bugger:

These are one of the first streamers made, and it is available in every starter fly fishing kit on the market. It works excellently as a leech or crayfish.

 Barr’s Meat Whistle:

John Barr developed the Meat Whistle. The design is quite unique since the fly is tied onto the jig hook making the motions while stripping very convincing.

It’s all about preference when it comes to choosing the perfect streamer for your needs. At the end of the day, practicing your technique with the streamer of your choice will take time and patience.

Benefits of Using Streamers:

We know by using the right flies, we are able to attract more fish, but with the proper technique and know-how, we are able to maximize their potential as a whole. Using streamers can be quite hard at the start, but are equally as beneficial on certain conditions.

Bigger Fish Will Always Eat Streamers:

Going back to the age-old rule; fish will always eat other fish. Using a streamer means that we are attracting bigger fish to catch the fly we set out compared to using small dry or wet flies.

Leads You To Trout:

Regardless of the weather condition or water levels, using streamers will eventually lead you right to where the fish are.

Show How Aggressive Trout Are:

Through streamer fishing, you are able to appreciate the strength of the trout. Using these types of flies will promote the game of fishing and encourage you more to practice your method to make the catch.

Improves Your Technique:

Streamers are not as easy to use as wet and dry flies. Due to the weight as well as the variety of techniques you would have to apply to use it effectively. It needs quite a lot of practice.

Using Streamers Guarantee a Catch:

Various pro fly fishers can swear by the use of streamers at any time at any weather conditions. It is highly dependable and quite efficient to use.

By learning and practicing the various techniques employed when using steamers, you are sure to make the most of your day in the water.

Dean Jensen

I started fly fishing in 1972 and I have learned quite a bit about this wonderful sport called fly fishing and I want to share some of the things that I have learned.

Recent Content