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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lansing


Fly fishing with big streamers and targeting large trout is a topic I have not been shy about sharing my enthusiasm for. I share this enthusiasm with many fly-flingers as I haven’t met many who don’t care to battle big and aggressive trout that eat giant flies. And as most would admit, seeing non-committal big fish roll on your fly but never eat is aggravating. This was the story of yesterday’s outing.

It was raining and it was snowing. It was cold and it was dark, perfect streamer weather. High water has been the story lately, which isn’t a bad thing. I like to fish water a bit on the higher side, but not quite as high as it had been. It was high enough, turbid enough, and packed with enough silt and sand the stream bottom and banks were blasted clean. There was no moss, no mud, no sand, no silt. It was sand blasted clean. The water was clearing and I anticipated a good streamer bite.

While streamer eaters were found, the trout were not nearly as aggressive as I thought they might be. 12” trout were eager to annihilate a fly half their size, but for the most part, fish were cautious and holding tight. Even some of the smaller trout were non-committal. Chases, follows, rolls, and flashes outnumbered takes. Still, I wasn’t seeing the big trout. The trout I was seeing were darting from tight hiding places and then, if they didn’t follow or commit to the fly, were darting back to the same tight hold quickly. Second chances were nonexistent and the big trout were not playing. If you’re wondering how I’m seeing so much happen, good sunglasses and good lenses are the tickets to seeing everything in the water short of snorkeling.

Fly fishing with streamers for Central New York brown trout.
A small streamer eater from yesterday.

Changing patterns and retrieves wasn’t helping. The 12” fish that did commit ate hard and I’ll always take fish over no fish, but I wanted to see something big. After quite awhile of working water and moving on, a cast was made that bounced off the rock overhang and into the small eddy below. Twitching the fly so that it was moving as it hit the water and two quick strips rolled a fish that would have made the day. The distinctive dark gold flash of a big, wise, old brown trout makes the heart skip a beat. But, the big swirl behind the fly and the ensuing strip of the fly with nothing but cold and dark water there is defeating. We go back for more though time and time again.

Two more large trout were encountered and the interaction with them was much the same as the one previously mentioned. They just would not commit. Changing flies and going back later on didn’t even muster a look.

So, what do you do? Sulk for a few seconds and talk to yourself for a few minutes, obviously. Going back to my pitching days, I compare visual refusals while fishing to a “seeing-eye-single” or a “groundball with eyes” that manages to somehow sneak through the infield. You’ve done everything right. You made a good pitch or a good cast and yet it doesn’t work out in your favor. You get someone to break their bat on a jam shot and they are still standing on first base. That’ll make you mutter to yourself just the same way as seeing non-committal fish after non-committal fish.

After you’re done beating yourself up and telling yourself “I’m the worst fly fisherman in the galaxy and brown trout must hate me”, enjoy being out there and take it all in. Have fun with small trout that might be eating. A 12” trout can eat a streamer pretty hard and provide fun and entertainment. Shrug it off because the hunt is what intrigues us. When you do land that trophy, and you will if you stick with it, every fish you saw refuse your fly will be worth it. If we caught personal best trout every time we fished, would it still be as much fun?

Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend! Streamer fishing season is in full swing and you know where to find me. As always, please feel free to like, comment, follow and share.

Tight lines,

Brian Lansing


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