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Cold Water Streamer Fishing // How to Properly Swing Streamers for Trout

Cold Water Streamer Fishing // How to Properly Swing Streamers for Trout

Extending your season. This will be the first installment on "Cold Water" strategies for trout. We'll put up a long-form video for each of these (3) techniques, with a focus on how to strategize for water temps that are say... freezing cold haha. When water temps hover at or near 40 degrees, trout still feed but they are more selective with their movements. Adjusting your game is important.

Most of the tactical information is available in this video, it's quite detailed, but I wanted to outline some of the key points and offer some advice on setting up your rig, with more pro's and con's on gear. Watch the video, and check out some of the information below. Good luck and remember to.... cast, mend, swing.... step.  Cast, mend, swing, step. 

Fly Lines for Streamer Fishing

The most important piece of specialty gear you'll need is a good sink tip line. A sink tip line is integral. You can cheat the system a bit by putting a "sinking polyleader" on the end of your general purpose floating line but... it's just not the same. Chances are you'll be frustrated by how lame it casts, it hinges, and the loops will come into your rod eyelets every time you reel in or land a fish. Clunk clunk clunk. This "modular" system of multi-tips is very popular for spey setups, or on a rig you might exclusively swing or spey cast but all in all, if you are single hand angler... get an integrated sink tip line.

How fast should it sink?

My suggestion is that if you are somewhat new to streamer fishing, start with a line that sinks 3-4 inches per second.

The Common Single Hand Tackle Set

  • Fast Action 6 Weight Rod (use what you have, but these make casting sink tips and streamers more fun).
  • Sink Tip Line (3-4 inch per second sink rate for beginners, 5-6 ips for more experienced casters/anglers).
  • +/- 4 feet of 1X-3X Fluorcarbon Tippet (stiffer tippet is better for streamers)
  • Streamers - Emphasis on smaller lightly weighted flies for winter fishing. You can simply run a straight piece of tippet, at this short length no need to use a tapered leader.

Popular Sink Tip Lines

  • SA Trout Express (5 ips, 15' of effective sink tip)
  • RIO Streamer Tip (1.5 ips, or 6 ips. 10' of effective sink tip) - good from a boat due to the short sink tip, not as good on the swing.
  • RIO Elite Predator (Triple Density, the S3 is a GREAT choice especially for swinging)

Trout Spey Swinging Setup

  • 3-4 Weight Trout Spey Rod
  • Skagit Shooting Head (likely 250-275 grains), and an Intermediate Head like the OPST Commando Groove for cold winter water is the best. This head swings lower, slower.
  • 10' sink tips, minimum of 3/4 ips.

Streamer Fly Selection

Flies are important. I personally prefer much more natural colors in the winter like olives, blacks, and browns. Over the years I've just had more success on darker colors on the shorter, darker, days of winter. I believe all the fish are darker, even the trout.  Below are a list of my favorite winter streamers and typically I fish smaller flies in the winter. Most often the water is more clear (not much thaw action happening), and I may be working a pool over more thoroughly than I would other times of the year. Bigger flies tend to disturb the peace. Smaller flies if gone unmolested, might not disturb the vibe.  Often times after I've stepped through a run with a small fly, I'll scurry back up with a #4 or big streamer 2x the size of the first. Start small, then go big.

Favorite Winter Swinging Streamers and Thoughts

  • RIO's Gold Jigger - Great fly for smaller water where the trout won't tolerate a streamer splash the size of a cannon ball. Great "first pass" pattern which I'll then follow with a much larger fly. 
  • Wounded Sculpin - Great for swing, strip, or even a soft drift. It's a relatively small fly and very sneaky even in small water. 
  • Tube Steak - Big fly, but relatively easy to cast. Actually casts well on a trout spey rod due to being quite sparse. 
  • Meat Sweats #8 - Great fly if you are fishing deep and snagging with other flies, this fly rides belly down, hook up so it bounces and slides off the bottom very well. 
  • Meat Sweats #4 - Same "snag free" idea, just a bigger fly. Good if you are covering lots of water, OR fish it through after a small fly.
  • Hibernator - Lightweight, doesn't snag. Great fishing with a very fast sinking tip. Does not sink fast, so it will hover over boulders and is relatively snag free.
  • Bouface - Bunny. It swims, slithers, and looks alive. Slow sinking, best with a fast sinking tip.
  • Sculpzilla #8 - Fairly fast sinking, can be used with a mid range sink tip or slow sink tip. Avoid the #4 for swinging in the winter, that fly is best stripped. It's too heavy to swing through in soft winter water.



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Joe Rotter - February 8, 2023

Thanks John, really appreciate it. I’m fortunate to have put in a lot of trial and error and love to share what I’ve learned. Mickey, you might recognize that box haha. It’s Hector’s, that came up in my stock photos when I searched my library for “streamer box”.

John Giacomelli - February 8, 2023

Keep making the videos I enjoy watching and learning!

Mickey Brislin - February 7, 2023

Joes streamer box looks like s…..

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