Streamer Retrieves For Different Current Speeds

Some tips to make your streamer fishing more productive.

I’ve talked in great detail about streamer fishing since I began writing articles for Gink & Gasoline. Most of my time has been spent talking about color and pattern choice, streamer gear/rigging for both big and small water and how to locate and target prime trout water with streamers. One area of streamer fishing I’ve yet to talk about in detail is retrieve speed and candor with streamers.

I’ll never forget a trip several years ago I made down to Patagonia, Argentina, where my expert guide taught me the importance of matching my streamer retrieve speed to the speed of the water current I was fly fishing. My guide had watched me for several minutes as I stripped my streamer through a very productive looking run, loaded with buckets. Despite completing two dozen casts, I had failed to get even a single follow from a trout. About the time I was ready to give up and move on, my guide walked up to me and respectfully asked for his permission to make a few casts of his own with my rod. He claimed he could catch a fish in the same water I had just beat to death with my streamer in just a few casts. This is when he made me feel like a total schmuck and rookie. It didn’t take him a few casts to catch a big brown trout out of that hole I had just fished. It took him exactly one cast, that’s all.

Grin on his face, he told me, “The water we’re fishing is really fast.”

You don’t want to rip your streamer through that water with long quick strips, because the fish won’t feel like they’ll have a good chance at success running it down.” He went on to add that just like in nymph fishing where most of the time you want your nymphs drifting close to the bottom, you also want to keep your streamers running deep as well. Then he handed my fly rod back to me and told me to make a cast myself. This time however, he instructed me to dead drift or twitch my streamer lightly as it was drifting through the fast water, then impart a short, strip…strip..pause, strip…strip..pause, for my retrieve as I entered the areas where the water speed began to slow and the deep water buckets were located. My first cast, I missed a strike and my second, I landed a nice 18″ brown trout. I was completely blown away that I had previously had zero success on the water, and just by altering my retrieve speed and shortening my strip I had turned it all around. On the walk back to the lodge, my guide wrapped up my streamer lesson by telling me that slow moving water most of the time, you want to do the exact opposite. In situations where your streamer fishing slow moving water he recommended speeding up the retrieve and length of strip.

Years have past since that day of streamer enlightenment in Argentina. I’ve never forgotten those words of streamer wisdom my Argentine guide graced me with. I’ve learned that every day of streamer fishing is unique. It’s very important for anglers to experiment with their retrieve speed and strip length to figure out what the fish prefer over the other. And when you’re streamer fishing and catch a fish, pay attention to the exact retrieve that you were using when you caught the fish.Try to consistently copy that same retrieve as you go on fishing productive water. Doing so, you’ll often be able to identify one retrieve over the others that will trigger more bites. Be prepared to go back to experimenting with different retrieves if the fly fishing gets cold. Time of day, water temperature or type of water you’re fishing can change conditions enough that will, in turn, change how the fish will prefer to forage on food or how they will be triggered instinctively by your streamer.

Lastly, try different retrieve angles and directions with your streamers as well. Quite often, you’ll find a down and across retrieve to work the best when fishing streamers, but sometimes, a  dead-drift with a couple twitches here and there or a quartering upstream cast and retrieve back to you will bring more success. Your goal as a streamer fisherman is to always adjust and experiment with your retrieve and candor styles until you can dial-in to what the fish want. Don’t make the mistake of automatically thinking pattern choice is the only thing that drives success with streamers. It’s definitely something you want to look at if you aren’t catching fish, but quite often, it’s your retrieve and action that you put on your streamer that makes the real difference in success.

Keep it Reel,

How to Tie The Autumn Splendor

Tim Heng is a fixture on the Colorado fly-fishing scene for a quarter century, having founded Roaring Fork Anglers before moving on to manage Taylor Creek Fly Shop. He invented the Autumn Splendor early in his career after watching a client fish a doll-eyed bass fly and move a lot of fish. The problem was that the fish didn’t end up eating the pattern. So Heng sat down at his vise and concocted a trout version of that bass fly. In the twenty-plus years since, the Autumn Splendor has become a go-to streamer for anglers around the country.

In this week’s video, Tim Flagler of from Tightline Productions takes a few liberties with Heng’s pattern, but the result is clearly the child of the father. I love the way that Tim arranges the materials on the hook to ensure that all the materials work together and stay in place. With fall streamer season kicking into high gear, this is a great pattern to have in your arsenal.

          Autumn Splendor
          Hook: 4X-long streamer hook (here a Dai-Riki #700), sizes 2-10.
          Head: Gold cone, 4.5 mm.
          Weight: 16 turns of lead-free round wire, .020.
          Thread: Yellow, 6/0 or 140-denier.
          Tail: Yellow marabou.
          Flash: Gold Krystal Flash.
          Body: Yellow pearl chenille.
          Legs: Yellow round rubber legs, medium.
          Hackle: Orange grizzly.
          Adhesive: Head cement.


See the full video here.

Flutter Spoons: Everything You Need To Know

Flutter spoons are AWESOME Summer and Fall baits for targeting bass that are feeding on baitfish. The technique remains a mystery for most anglers but Tim has refined his methods for both rigging and fishing this unique style of spoon. In this video he breaks down all the details to help you become successful with a Flutter Spoon. 

Whether you want to throw a small 4″ spoon, the standard 6″ or the giant Magnum spoons, these tips will help you be more successful. Tim breaks down several different retrieves as well as the rigging you’ll need to hook more of your bites. 

Below is a breakdown of Tim’s favorite spoons. The main difference between brands of spoon is thickness and weight. You’ll want to try several of them to experiment with fall rates and figure out if the fish you’re targeting prefer a faster or slower fall. 

Nichols Lake Fork Flutter Spoon:
Strike King Sexy Spoon:
Ben Parker Magnum 8″ Spoon:
Ben Parker 6″ Spoon:

Spoon Stinger Hook Rigging…
Owner ST-36 Treble Hooks:
Hyperwire Split Rings:
Spro Power Swivels:
6th Sense Bobber Stops:

6″ Spoon Combo…
Rod- G Loomis IMX Pro 904:
Reel- Shimano Metanium 8:1 Ratio:
Line- 65 lb Maxcuatro Braid:
Leader- 20 lb Maxima Ultragreen Mono:

8″ Spoon Combo…
Rod- Dobyns 795 Swimbait:
Reel- Curado K 7:1 Ratio:
Line- 65 lb Maxcuatro Braid:
Leader-25 lb Maxima Ultragreen:

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Buffalo’s Lake Erie: The cool place (literally) for walleye to spend the summer

By T.J. Pignataro | Published August 29, 2018 | Updated August 29, 2018

DUNKIRK – The walleye around here tend to stick around, spending their whole lives on the eastern side of Lake Erie.

The walleye from Ohio?

They’re roamers. They’ll show up on the Buffalo side of the lake for the summer before heading back to their home waters to spawn in the spring.

“A lot of these fish are still around, even into the fall,” said Don Einhouse, leader of the state’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit in Dunkirk, about the fish from the Toledo side of the lake.

What scientists have learned about the comings and goings of Lake Erie walleye matters because it helps their agencies manage a vibrant walleye population – important for recreational and commercial purposes.

“When you’re trying to manage a species, you have to know the reproductive stressors,” things like pollution, habitat and overfishing, said Jeff Jondle, president of the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs.

Overfishing, for example, wiped out the blue pike and drove down populations of lake sturgeon and lake trout.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation wants walleye to remain vibrant in Lake Erie, so the information its biologists are gathering isn’t just interesting, it’s useful.

“We don’t have to guess,” Jondle said. “We can fine-tune what we know.”

Fishing for walleye on Lake Erie
Scientists from several government agencies are tracking the fish by using acoustic transmitters that have been implanted in the walleye and receivers anchored to the bottom of Lake Erie in a grid pattern across 241 miles between Toledo and Buffalo.

Tracking their movements began about five years ago with a few fish and receivers. Since then, the scientists have tagged about 1,044 fish in Ohio’s western basin and 532 in the eastern basin including the Canadian shoreline.

Here’s what biologists have found so far:

• Most walleye tagged in the western basin spawn there and then fan out over the entire lake over the summer before returning to the Ohio side in fall to spawn there again the following spring.
• Most walleye return to spawn in the same places from one year to the next.
• Many individual walleye make similar migration patterns every year – some stay close to home, while others travel across the lake.

Biologists have also learned that not all of Lake Erie’s walleye behave the same.

While the western-basin fish roam widely, walleye born closer to Buffalo tend to live their whole lives in the eastern basin. That improves their chances for survival because it reduces their vulnerability to large fisheries in the western part of the lake, biologists said.

“We wouldn’t have known that, except for this study,” Einhouse said. “This really documented that walleye do come to the same spawning sites every year.”

‘Always walleye here’

“Walleye are thriving right now,” said Jason Robinson, a fisheries biologist at the DEC’s Lake Erie Unit in Dunkirk. “They’re doing as well as they’ve done in a generation.”

Walleye reproduce in large numbers in Lake Erie, and they survive to adulthood.

Ron Duliba, a charter captain who runs a fishing boat of Dunkirk harbor, knows all about the walleye bounty.

Duliba and a companion reeled in two dozen fish last weekend in 90 minutes.

“There’s always walleye here,” Duliba said.

What’s even more remarkable is that New York’s walleye harvest is tiny – representing only about 1 percent – of all walleye taken from Lake Erie.

“In 2017, there were almost 5 million walleye harvested in Lake Erie,” Robinson said. “New York harvested 70,000 of those.”

Search and research

The technology provides biologists a unique opportunity to study fish movements and preferred locations, and to answer questions to ensure sustainable management of walleye.

It’s a golden opportunity for scientists who want to learn anything about fish movement, Einhouse said.

“Whether it be sturgeon, or muskellunge, walleye, lake trout – you name it – if you want to understand the dynamics of movement of these fish, there’s no better place than this than Lake Erie right now,” he said.

The tagged fish are surgically-implanted with telemetry devices – about the size of a AA battery – in their abdomen.

When they pass within approximately a mile of one of the more than 100 acoustic receivers anchored on the lake bottom, the receiver registers the fish by an identifying number as well as its location, and the date and time. Biologists usually retrieve each receiver once per year, download the data and install fresh batteries, Robinson said.

Using that information, biologists can track where the walleye came from, as well as its comings and goings on a computer-generated map of Lake Erie.

Collaborating on the project are the DEC, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, U.S. Geological Survey and the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System.

Agency cooperation

In New York waters, tagging focused on five spawning shoals from the state’s most westerly shoal near Ripley, to its most easterly shoal near Lackawanna, Robinson said.

Robinson said biologists also tagged walleye not associated with any particular spawning shoal.

Each tagging effort – the western basin, eastern basin and the Grand River – is a separate effort by multiple agencies, and a part of a larger overarching international study into walleye populations.

“Obviously, each agency has its own questions about local spawning stocks,” Robinson said. “There is definitely cooperation going on using our combined data to address whole-lake population dynamics questions.”

There’s still plenty to learn.

“These tags have a five-year battery life so we will be collecting data on these fish for years to come,” Robinson said.

During a recent presentation in Dunkirk, Einhouse highlighted the behaviors of two walleye in Lake Erie with very different traveling habits.

The first one, 24.5 inches long, was spawning on Toussaint Reef in western Ohio when tagged with a transmitter.

For three years in a row, the fish spawned on the Ohio reef before covering more than 200 miles over 20 days to the eastern basin – where the fish spent most of the summer. Then, the fish returned to the western basin for spring spawning.

Meanwhile, scientists tracked another fish over five years, a 28-inch-long homebody that also spawns at Toussaint Reef.

This fish never travels more than 40 miles from the reef, with most of its life spent between the reef and Ohio’s Bass Islands.

“There’s a lot of individual behaviors going on, and they’re repeatable behaviors, which is something that I don’t think we previously knew,” Einhouse said.

What anglers suspected

For the last three decades or so, biologists relied on numeric metal jaw tags, but now they can follow the paths of walleye movements electronically.

The data shows that most walleye born in the shallow western basin, remain there to spawn then head east by mid-summer as water temperatures warm and possibly because forage fish become more plentiful in the lake’s cooler, deeper waters between Erie, Pa., and Buffalo.

For those walleye that are native to the eastern basin, spawning happens during the spring on shallow rocky shoals near Van Buren Point and Smokes Creek in Lackawanna.

These fish live mostly on this side of the lake, looking for food and returning to their usual spawning areas every year.

Additional data shows that a Canadian cohort out of Grand River at Port Maitland, Ont. – about 15 miles west of Port Colborne, Ont. – stays close to the Canadian shoreline.

That insight is important from a fisheries management perspective.

“Because walleye is a very popular sport and commercial fish that supports one of the largest freshwater commercial fisheries in the entire world, it’s really important to understand how we share these fish,” Einhouse said.

Anglers have been making anecdotal observations for years.

They suspected that fish found in certain streams and tributaries returned there every spring to spawn, and that there’s an influx of Ohio walleye that mix with the eastern basin’s walleye every summer, said Rich Davenport of the Erie County Fish Advisory Board.

“Simply enough, they’ve nailed it,” Davenport said. “It’s nice to be able to see it. It makes a lot of sense. It’s a good confirmation.”