Stripping Streamers for Patagonia’s Big Trout
It’s not exactly a profound revelation to say that stripping streamers is a great way to catch large trout. Many anglers know this to be true, but still fall prey to the idea that somehow dry fly fishing is better or more desirable. As my 87-year-old neighbor likes to say, à chacun son gout, to each his own. For me, it’s a bit more complicated in a way. Some days I want nothing more than watching a trout sip a dry off the surface, or slam a hopper drifting along a bank. Some days I’ll commit to chasing one difficult fish, while others I want the pleasure of continuous action. Sometimes I even (shudder) turn to nymphing since I know how effective it can be when surface activity is non-existent. But what I am really most likely to do when a hatch doesn’t call my attention to the surface, is strip a streamer. And by stripping, I mean any of the multiple ways you can fish a fly made to imitate baitfish, or other large underwater prey items.
Streamers cancreate action on their own. Trout constantly calculate the amount of energy expended against the gain of calories consumed. That’s why some days plenty of bugs are coming off, but nothing seems to want to eat them. It might be the current is too strong and requires too much energy to negotiate in the course of rising to eat a small insect. The same calculation takes place fishing streamers, but the caloric reward becomes obvious. Big caloric rewards attract big fish.
In Patagonia, the abundance of baitfish mean trout have learned over the last hundred years to spend a good deal of their time looking for meals under the surface. In the lakes surrounding Rio Manso Lodge, we imitate several primary food sources with streamers. The first, and most obvious is the puyen, a small baitfish found through the drainage. Not large in size in this area, small to mid-size streamers are particularly effective in imitating these fish. Throughout the season, and especially in the fall, trout herd and ambush these fish along the shoreline and chase them even in the middle of the lakes. If you can imitate this food accurately, you’ll have a lot of success. If you can’t, the feeding fish will just drive you crazy! I’m still on the hunt for the perfect puyen fly, although I’ve found a couple that work pretty well.
Another food source of importance are the various species of dragonfly. While the dry dragonflies have their own attraction for several weeks at certain times of the year, the nymphs are present and active for several years under water before they hatch. Fishing a small streamer can be very effective when the nymphs begin their migration into shallow wat to hatch. Watching big trout cruise the shallow shoreline and reed beds of the Patagonian lakes looking for these tasty treats is enough to stop your heart.
Finally, big streamers work very well for other reasons in some of these waters. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s hard for a big trout to ignore an easy meal. Articulated patterns, bunnies, and weighted muddlers and wooly buggers all have their devotees.There are few predators in the ecosystem, so trout find themselves at the top of the pyramid when it comes to hunters. As such, they can hunt with impunity. And let’s face it. Stripping streamers is just plain fun. Casting a streamer involves more active manipulation than dead drifting a dry fly or nymph, and most takes are pretty spectacular. Often fish will move great distances to chase and eat a streamer. So the next time you find yourself without any clear-cut signs from the fishing gods as to what to use, try a streamer. You won’t be disappointed.