Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Eat

I have spent the last three years doing mostly streamer fishing on big rivers, and it has showed me, often in a very brutal way, some of the intricate details of how and why a large trout eats a streamer. This post is not a how-to. It will not attempt to come to any sort of conclusion. And none of what I'm about to tell you and show you is an end all be all of ways trout eat streamers... I have not seen nearly enough for that to be the case, and I don't think anyone has to be honest. Rather, this is meant to be an interesting look at some of the biggest trout I've caught (or, in some cases, lost), the methods I was using at the time, and those awesome brutal details of how they ate my streamers. Or in some cases, the lazy details about how apathetic a big fish can be in eating a big fly.

So let's go back in time, shall we? Sunday, December 28th, 2014 to be exact. It has rained that night and into the morning. I got on the river later in the day than I would normally like. It was warm and foggy and the flows were moderate with some stain. The fly I had on was a single hook "Kill Whitey" with an olive back. The pool I was fishing had a steep drop on the near side, a few big subsurface boulders in the deep parts, and a big ledge at the tailout forming sort of a natural dam. Because the water was too high for me to get into the optimal position I had to make a downstream presentation. I cast out and gave a quick mend that left my line bowed so the fly would face across stream I dumped line out until the distance between the end of my fly line and the wash over was about twice that of my leader, than I held on tight. The fly went from drifting down river perpendicularly to rising in the water column and turning to face upstream. At this point, a large brown, likely sitting in from of one of the many boulders on that natural dam, took notice and t-bone the fly. Since I was pointing the rod downstream, I did not feel or see anything to signal this take. The fish turned down on the streamer and, in doing so, set the hook deeply in its jaw. That's when I felt the it, and all I had to do was lift the rod. At the time that was my second biggest trout on a streamer at 20 inches.

I think the most benign big streamer eat I've ever had was from earlier that same year, on another rainy day. August 22nd. These are my own words from that day: "Of course, what is the next best option? An articulated streamer the size of the bass I had caught not a 30 minutes ago. I chucked it in front of that fish three times. I checked the time. It was about time to leave. It started to rain. The swing passed the big fish. He turned. My heart stopped. There was a big white flash of trout mouth. Then all hell broke loose."
I have since described it as a nymph take. That big brown trout ate a 4 inch articulated streamer as though it were a little caddis pupa drifting down with the currant. And it was a 26 inch fish no less, in AUGUST.

Now, on rivers with lots of baitfish where brown trout are just as likely to hit a streamer out of hunger as they are anger, there is a very specific kind of eat. If you are not careful,you might hit it. I call it the kill shot: the fish pounds the fly with its nose to stun or kill it, then swims downstream and waits for the fly to come to it. I had a 24 inch hen brown trout do exactly that to a 6 inch double deciever in the Farmington last fall in plain view. I saw it bump the fly hard, than I watched it quickly slide downstream and carefully follow the drift of the fly before actually closing its jaws around it. I would have very much loved to have hooked that fish and been able to show her to you, but the eat itself was just so awesome that it makes up for it! I had another fish do the same thing on my last trip to the Farmington though it was far less visually impressive.

On the other end of the spectrum are territorial eats. These are by far the most shocking and brutal streamer eats, and definitely the most fun to watch. I've had lots of large browns on the Farmington come up under the streamer and throw spray just like a big bass eating a popper. Unfortunately these takes are often missed, but on the Salmon River, where the trout are all stockers, I have had some very territorial brook trout absolutely wreck big streamers. One big brookie I caught on April 15th, 2015 stands out in my mind. It was holding in front of a large free standing rock. I cast a grey Circus Peanut past the rock and downstream and quickly stripped it around the corner. As soon as the fly was in sight out came the brook trout with bad intentions. He hit that fly with all the vigor and aggression of a pike.

By far my favorite streamer caught trout was the wild brown I caught on the Farmington two days after my birthday in 2015. The flows were normal and the clarity also typical for the Farmi. I had worked through a good stretch of bank water with a few missed takes and as on the way back up through it, casting my olive Sex Dungeon upstream and pulsing it back at a quick pace. In about to and a half feet of rippled water I saw a big trout move for the streamer. It came from about five feet away, upstream and to the left. At the last possible second it went full gator, picked up speed and did a take that has been burned into my mind ever  since. I mean that fish went full out Esox on that little Dungeon. A big, sweeping take that caught the fly right in its midsection. The boil it left as it turned upstream, even in that fast water, was like that of a large striped bass.

The biggest trout I caught this year, a 10lb male brown trout in the Salmon River, was very similar to that Farmington river brown. It was in deeper water but the actions the fish made were very nearly the same. The fly was a conehead muddler, once again pulsed quickly downstream. Once again it was that last minute acceleration with mouth open... brown trout are not the fastest fish by any means but they can go from sedentary to gator mode very quickly. 


  1. Thanks for the info. You have given us things to think about and use when fishing streamers.
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...