Plain and simple, a streamer is a lure and fishing a streamer is the closest thing that a fly fisherman does to spin fishing. Throw the lure out, reel it in. Well, in the case of the fly fisherman strip it in.
A streamer is nothing more than a long wet fly that is tied to be an attractor or imitator. They can look like nothing, the woolly bugger fly, or look exactly like something, like Dave Whitlock’s crayfish jig-fly. Either way, they are effective and a must have in any fisherman’s fly box.
Streamers are generally weighted either with the line, a weight attached to the line or weight added to the fly during the tying process. They are fished by casting the fly and then giving it action or life back to the rod. Generally streamers are used in deep holes in creeks or in rivers and lakes that have some depth. They are not generally thought of as a go-to fly in small streams, as dry flies and nymphs reign supreme in those kinds of waters.
I learned a technique from a fly fisherman whose main purpose for fishing is to catch fish, big fish. He could care less about the fly, its history, or how romantic it might be to fool a trout on a complex dry fly. When he fishes, it reminds me of the professional bass guys hooking and landing the fish in record time and not really spending much time enjoying the fight or the run of the fish. He has perfected dead drifting streamers for inactive fish and has more than once shown me the biggest fish in the run off of his streamer rig.
The term dead drift means to cast the fly in the water and simply let it float along with the current. No fancy stripping or jigging the fly is required. It is a very common technique mastered by nymph fisherman, but not at all common with streamer fisherman. The rig is comprised of a streamer of your choice, weighted, and then a strike indicator attached to your leader. The strike indicator is nothing more than a piece of foam, yarn, or cork that shows the fisherman when movement occurs with the fly. The strike indicator floats along the surface and when a trout hits the fly, it moves in a direction generally opposite of the current letting the angler know a strike has occurred.
I went fishing again with my fish-catching-machine friend. The water was low and gin clear. I was expecting him to use a dry fly with a dropper but to my surprise he tied on a streamer dead drift rig. I watched as he skipped some shallow fast moving water and went to the head of the run to find the deepest current.
The first cast in the run produced a nice brown trout. The remainder of the fishing morning was filled with more walking than fishing but his fish tally was adding up quickly and the size of the late summertime browns was impressive. He had read the creek and determined that the fish were not actively feeding. They were not in the feeding lanes of the runs, but were tucked in the deeper water relaxing and staying cool.
The big streamer floating past their nose slowly was just too much for a brown trout to handle and they hit out of reaction, not necessarily hunger. I saw the scene unfold first hand and once again learned a valuable tool to catch trout in the heat of the summer when fish activity can be slow by dead drifting a streamer.