By now we will all have noticed subtle changes in brown trout behaviour as autumn gets on - new fish in the upper reaches, territorial / aggressive behaviour or fish just sitting there, dormant, impervious to our offerings. Some throw a cast or two and move on when the fish fails to react. Some understand how to key in on, and take advantage of this behaviour.
There's more to streamer fishing than just chucking and retrieving. To be consistently successful there are a number of nuances the thinking angler employs to control every inch of the swing, or retrieve, however here is an overview of three basic tactics to help put more fish in your net this Autumn...
1: The swing: The most often employed tactic. Cast across / on an angle downstream and simply swing your streamer across the current below, either leading or following with the rod tip to slow, or speed up the swing. Begin to strip as the swing slows / fly approaches the bank to excite any lazy followers. Swinging is suited to a variety of water, especially slow, deep pools so as not to spook fish by casting over them and to cover maximum water slowly on bigger rivers. Floating line, sink tip or full sink lines can be used depending on depth and speed, and the new Airflo Scout single hand Skagit head is perfect for this.
2: Cast upstream: strip it back down. Very active style of fishing where you identify a hole, lip, drop off or seam and cast upstream above it from a downstream position, and strip your fly back down into the likely lie. With larger, articulated flies with loads of built in material I simply strip to maintain contact as the fly tumbles downstream, whereas with Matuka style patterns I strip faster and more aggressively to add life / movement. You are pulling your fly right into the trout’s territory, challenging them, and so be prepared for an often violent, aggressive hit.
3: Bang the bank: A tactic for days when the fish just aren't out and a quick way to cover the best of the water. Fish will generally engage within the first few metres of the chase and so this tactic takes advantage of this. I like to cast across stream, or angled down and land a big streamer a metre or two from the bank, then strip fast... very fast to imitate prey escaping. Strip 3 or 4 times, then pick up and recast to the next Likely lie. I find fish will usually engage within the first couple of strips if they want it, and you can’t strip faster than a fish can charge it down. Target drop offs, undercut banks, fallen clods and log jams: places big 'ole browns and angry rainbows like to sit when they’re not on the chomp.
If they're not going to eat, make them attack!
Bonus tip from Chris: Consider your presentation. Can a reach mend, or reach curve present your fly at a different angle (i.e. broadside) to excite the fish and maybe hasten, or slow your swing or give your fly a more intriguing path as its stripped through the water? Better than the boring straight line presentation and straight line retrieve. Would a loop knot give your streamer more action, or a riffle hitch present a longer, broadside offering to the fish? Play around and see what works for your situation.