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Streamers and Stillwater: How to Fish Wet Flies Effectively

Just as the artists possess their paintbrush and the musicians their instruments, the fly fisherman has their collection of flies. It's in this variety and adaptability where the magic of fly fishing truly lies.

At Orvis, we believe understanding the different types of flies and learning the techniques to fish them properly will allow you to truly master the art of fly fishing. In this article, we're going to focus on the techniques of how to fish streamer flies and how to fish wet flies on stillwater.

Understanding Streamer Flies

Streamer flies are designed to mimic small fish and other aquatic life in the water. They can be fished at any depth, and are typically larger than other types of flies. Streamers are often used when targeting larger, predatory fish that feed on smaller fish in the water.

How to Fish Streamer Flies

Learning how to fish streamer flies effectively is about understanding the behaviours of the prey you're imitating. Streamers are designed to look like small baitfish, so make your fly act like one.

  1. Present the Fly: Cast the streamer upstream and across the river, allowing it to sink into the water column.
  2. Retrieve: Retrieve the streamer in a way that mimics a baitfish. This can involve a combination of slow and fast, jerky and smooth retrieves.
  3. Cover Water: Cast in a fan-like pattern across the stream, and take a step downstream after several casts. This allows you to cover a lot of water and increases your chances of finding fish.

The key is to experiment. Watch the water, read the conditions, and adapt your strategy accordingly.

Wet Flies and Stillwater Techniques

Wet flies are designed to sink below the water's surface, simulating emerging insects or aquatic life. These flies are perfect for stillwater bodies, where they can lure fish out of the depths. So, how do you fish wet flies on stillwater?

How to Use Wet Flies on Stillwater

The stillness of a lake or reservoir may seem tranquil, but below the surface, it teems with life. Wet flies are the go-to tool for replicating this underwater activity, providing a versatile and effective approach to stillwater fly fishing.

Selecting the Right Wet Fly

Before you cast your line, take a moment to observe the environment. What insects are in the area? If you can see fish rising, what might they be feeding on? Matching your wet fly to the natural food sources in the water can greatly increase your chances of success.

Casting and Presentation

The technique you use to cast your wet fly will depend on the behaviour of the fish and the conditions of the day. You may wish to cast straight and let the fly sink, imitating a sinking or drowned insect. Alternatively, a cast across the wind can allow your fly to drift naturally, mimicking an insect struggling in the surface film.

The Retrieve

When fishing wet flies on stillwater, the retrieve can make all the difference. A slow, steady retrieve may be effective on some days, while on others, a quicker, more erratic retrieve may trigger a strike. Always be ready to adjust your approach based on the behaviour of the fish and the conditions of the day.

Fly fishing with wet flies on stillwater can offer an exciting and rewarding experience. By understanding the behaviour of your target fish and the environment, you can utilise these techniques to maximise your chances of a successful day on the water.

Techniques for Fishing Wet Flies in Stillwater

  1. The Slow and Steady Retrieve: Once your fly has sunk to the desired depth, begin a slow, steady retrieve. This is often effective in cooler weather when fish are less active.
  2. The Figure-Eight Retrieve: For closer distances, use your rod to guide the line in a figure-eight motion. This technique can often provoke a strike from a following fish.
  3. The Intermediate Line: Using an intermediate line can keep your wet fly in the feeding zone for a longer period of time, increasing your chances of attracting a fish.

Advanced Techniques for Streamer and Wet Fly Fishing

Both streamer and wet fly fishing have their own set of advanced techniques that can help enhance your fly fishing experience.

Streamer Fishing

Beyond the standard approach of casting and retrieving, there are a number of advanced techniques you can use to elevate your streamer fishing game.

Switch Up Your Retrieval Speed

Varying the speed at which you retrieve your streamer can trigger a predatory response from fish.

The Swing and Dangle

When your streamer reaches the end of its drift, don't be too hasty to pull it out of the water. Let it 'swing' across the current. This swing, followed by a pause or 'dangle' at the end of the drift, can often trigger a take from a following fish.

The Dead Drift

This technique involves casting your streamer upstream and letting it drift naturally with the current, much like you would a dry fly or nymph. This can be particularly effective in slower pools or where fish are less aggressive.

The Stripping Technique

After casting the streamer, you can use quick hand movements to 'strip' the line, making the fly dart through the water like a scared or injured baitfish. Vary the speed and length of your strips to mimic different types of prey.

Double Streamer Technique

Why fish with one streamer when you can use two? Tying two streamers on your line can increase your chances of attracting a fish, and the varied movement can mimic a small school of baitfish. However, be aware that casting with two streamers requires more skill and attention to prevent tangles.

Wet Fly Fishing

Once you've mastered the basics of wet fly fishing, it's time to explore some of the advanced techniques that can add depth to your skills and success on stillwater.

Induced Take

By suddenly speeding up your retrieve or lifting your fly to the surface, you can provoke a reaction strike from a trailing fish.

The Sink and Draw

This involves casting your wet fly out and letting it sink deep into the water. Once the fly has sunk, draw it back towards the surface at a steady pace, then let it sink again. This up-and-down motion can mimic emerging aquatic life and trigger a strike.

The Wet Fly Swing

Often used in moving waters, this technique can also be effective on stillwaters. Cast across and slightly downwind, then let the fly swing in the current. This movement imitates the natural path of emerging insects and can be very enticing to fish.

The Washing Line Technique

This is a method whereby you use a buoyant fly, like a booby or popper, on the point (end) of your leader, and one or two wet flies on droppers up the line. The buoyant fly helps keep the wet flies at a constant depth during the retrieve. This setup can be particularly effective when trout are feeding on emergers.

The Tandem Rig

In this technique, you use two wet flies at once. The lead fly is usually a more visible attractor pattern, while the trailing fly is a more natural imitation. This can often provoke a response from fish even when they are not actively feeding.

Remember, while these techniques can certainly enhance your wet fly fishing game, the best strategy will always depend on the specific conditions and behaviours of the fish on the day. Being adaptable and willing to experiment is an important part of becoming a skilled and successful fly fisher.

Get All Your Fly Fishing Gear At Orvis

Understanding how to fish streamer flies and how to fish wet flies on stillwater can open up a whole new world of fly fishing opportunities. By using these techniques and strategies, you can become a more adaptable and successful fly fisher.

At Orvis, we're passionate about helping you take your fly fishing to the next level. Join us on the water, and let's cast into the future of fly fishing together.

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