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Classic Streamer Flies

Streamer Flies for Steelhead and Salmon

Streamer flies are made to be fished with plenty of movement in order to trigger aggressive or predatory behavior from larger adult trout, salmon and steelhead. As such they can mimic minnows, smelt and other species of small ‘baitfish’, as well as leeches, crayfish, and the larger aquatic insects like the Dobsonfly nymph (or Hellgrammite). However, some of the most successful streamer flies pass for many different types of fish food.

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More about Salmon & Steelhead, and why Streamer Flies work

Steelhead and salmon are different families of fish with a similar life cycle: both hatch in freshwater, move to saltwater as adults, and return to their birthplace to make the next generation. They also share behavioral traits. Even though adults making a run inland in order to breed no longer need to eat (indeed, the stomachs of salmon shrink), their predatory nature means they can be tempted to attack if presented with the right fly pattern in the correct manner.

It is not always necessary to fish an accurate representation of any one food source. Bright colors and the right movement are usually key when it comes to getting the largest fish in the water to take notice and give chase, and strikes can be swift and exhilarating.

What to use, when, and how to fish them

In the US, the annual salmon run takes place September through November. Depending on location, you could see steelhead runs at any time of year (although Summer and Winter steelhead do not always share the same rivers). Classic saltwater streamer flies and techniques are generally effective on any predatory fish in rivers and streams too, but might need a little adjustment depending on visibility and water temperature. Murkier waters call for more gaudy and attention-grabbing patterns; colder waters will mean that ‘over-Wintering’ steelhead are unlikely to give chase over any distance, and need to almost be pestered into striking at an unwelcome disturbance right in front of their noses.

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