Dead Drifting Streamers


(picture credit, Frosty Fly)

Ah, streamers. Such an interesting topic, and one that seems to change so much within the industry. One minute it's "rip 'em as fast as you can away from the bank" the next it's "slow twitches" then it's "swing the flies". So what is most effective? How do you get that big brown to eat a hunk of meat under a bank?

The answer is a little bit of everything. 

This shouldn't be a shocking statement in fly fishing, because so much is constantly changing, and conditions control the fish, and the fish are the ones deciding what they want to eat. So, all of the above presentations have a place in fly fishing, and all can be effective fish catching tools. Today, I want to talk about the dead drift. Fishing streamers without any movement, and even sometimes under an indicator. 



The reasons why fish will eat a dead drifting streamer vary, but all boil down to one key reason. Biomass. Big fish get big by eating a lot, and saving a lot. If they spend all their energy chasing smaller fish around, it won't matter how much they eat, as they will still be in a negative biomass balance. However, that same fish could sit in a deep pool, and eat a few crawfish a week, and likely grow in leaps and bounds, untouched by the giant articulated flies whipping overhead. This fish would be in a positive biomass balance. So the reason why big fish will eat a dead drifted streamer so often is simple; it's a large and easy meal that cannot escape. This is the same reason why leeches, worms, stoneflies, eggs, and similar flies are so effective for large fish. It's a big meal that can't get away. The popular fly fishing author Landon Mayer calls this idea "Non-escaping food theory". Big fish don't just need to eat big, they also need to rest big.



So how do you fish a dead drifted streamer? 

One of the most successful and consistently productive methods is to use a large and very buoyant indicator. A thingamabobber or foam slipstrike is a popular choice. You'll need a heavy fly or some split shot to get down to the fish. I like flies that look like dead fish. White leech patterns, tan and brown or white dungeons and D&Ds, and similar flies. A wooly bugger is also a classic choice for a dead drift. You pretty much fish the like a nymph. Cast upstream with a rig that has enough weight to sink your bug quickly, and follow the indicator, setting when it goes down. Simple! You can also fish it without an indicator, staying tight to the fly. This often ends up more like  a slow swing or twitch, but who cares. Basically dead drifted as far as streamers go.

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