For big fish, drag a streamer this fall

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Fly fishermen, don’t put away those fly rods yet.

The hatches may have slowed down a bunch but dragging streamers in fall can serve up some of best “big fish” fishing of the year.

Common explanation is that the fish are “beefing up” for the winter.

As mentioned several times previously in this space, I don’t know whether to buy into this explanation or blow it off as anthropromorphism.

Regardless, if you can cast a streamer without hitting yourself in the back of the head and handle some of fall’s nastiest days on the river, you will be rewarded with the pull of some very nice trout.

Here’s some tips:

• Shade. Overcast days and shade behind rocks and cliffs, especially in the morning, offer your best opportunities to find nice trout.

• Water depth. The darker(deeper) the water, the more likely fish are present.

In two recent trips to fish streams near Missoula, almost all of the fish we caught came from deeper holes.

• Edges. No new revelation here. Cast streamers so they travel through areas with differing water speeds.

• Fly line. Sink tip. Sink tip. Sink tip. If you’re not dragging on the bottom, you should be.

• Leader. Fall trout chasing big streamers are not leader-shy. No need for a tapered leader, just tie in a 5-foot section of 2X or 3X.

The fly will sink more quickly and, therefore, travel through the “fishy” zone longer.

• Retrieval. You’ll have to figure this one out for yourself. Sometimes short twitches; sometimes longer pulls. Fish can hit at any time, from splashdown to nearly at the rod tip. Be prepared for quick hitting fish by letting your line hand This is the so-called “strip-strike”, popular in saltwater fly fishing.

• Flies. The Sparkle Minnow is very popular, but just about any concoction of hair, feathers, and tinsel-type material will entice fall trout when dragged in front of their face.

And don’t forget to wear a stocking cap!

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News

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