This is a piece of technical advice that can be applied year round but can make a particularly large difference when trout fishing during the cooler months of the year. This is a time of year when trout become a little less active in regards to their feeding habits and more interested in the coming spawn. Often trout are going to be on the move or volleying for position or partner so you need to be able to get their attention and give them a reason to move to your fly. They are not nearly as focused as they are during the bulk of the season when dinner is priority number one. This is why I choose big, obnoxious streamers. Streamers are highly visible and cover a lot of water and are often what is required to get a response out of otherwise disinterested trout.
Angeli's Foxy Swinger
Tying on a streamer is only half of the battle. I have found that take to hook up ratios aren’t always the best when it comes to streamer fishing and even less so in the late season and winter months. Trout are a lot slower this time of year and will often lift and follow your fly, sometimes for great distances and repeatedly just nip at the tail of it. This can be extremely frustrating if you are fishing a streamer tied on a full shank hook or where the hook placement is near the head of the fly as you will often feel the pull or watch the take but continually come up empty handed when you set the hook. It’s as obvious as it sounds, all they are grabbing is the material at the tail of the fly. This is where the stinger hook comes into play. A stinger is a style of hook that doesn’t have much of a shank and is designed to be placed at the very back of the fly, right where these fickle trout have the tendency to grab. This simple change of hook placement will go a long way to increase your hook up ratios. Even if they take they fly from the head - when you set the hook it should pull the stinger into the corner of the mouth.
Berry's Fish Mover
Aside from more hook ups there are a few more advantages to fishing a stinger. You’re landing ratio should also improve. With a stinger hook there is no shank for the fly to leverage off of. I have found that streamers on shanks often get thrown because they pry out of the mouth during a head shake or prolonged stress on the shank. Stingers will move freely with the movement of the fish. This movement will also protect the fly itself from damage. Thus, your flies will last longer. Not only that but if your stinger is on a loop or integrated into a tube fly you will be able to replace the hook in the event that it becomes dull or damaged. Control the controllables and never fish with a dull hook!
This is a technique that can be applied year round and across many fisheries. Outside of cold weather trout fishing I have also found it useful when fishing for Chinook salmon who also have the tendency to grab the tip of the fly. The boys at Manic have a great variety of tube flies and streamers with stinger hooks. Check your local fly shop and see what they have in stock and check the full range out HERE.