Streamer Fishing on the Colorado

Streamer Fishing on the Colorado

Ben Johnston

Fellow fly fishing addict    October 2016


I don’t usually throw streamers, but this fall they were the go to bug for me. Like most anglers, when I get to any river I start with a nymph rig because I know it will catch fish. I can see the stoneflies mayflies under rocks on the bank, and when I throw my first cast I have confidence I need that the fish will eat my rig. This was never the case with streamers for me until this past October.

I had invited two fishy friends to come on a float on the Colorado River with myself, and when we finally got in the boat early on a cold and cloudy morning both of their rigs surprised me. Large streamers dangled off the ends of their lines, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t convince them to switch to the tried and true nymph rig. Its a good thing they are stubborn. As I rowed away from the boat ramp, a excited hoot came from the front of the boat, I looked out, and a 20 inch brown was thrashing on the end of his line. We landed the fish, got a quick picture, and watched it swim back to his former ambush point.

That day, I never got off the sticks, but this was due to the insane streamer bite my buddies experienced. When I pulled us into the take out (in the pitch black night) I had the epiphany: fishing with confidence is everything. I had never had a good day throwing meat, so when I did put on my minnow imitation of choice, I tended to not fish it as hard as I should, and never give it a chance. This single day changed my opinion of streamers completely. And for the next 7 weekends we floated the same stretch, throwing a green and silver sparkle minnow every time, and having some of the best fishing of my life.

Streamer Fishing in Colorado

Streamer Fishing in Colorado

Click for link to Freestone Outfitters.

Reid Baker : Guide Manager for Freestone Outfitters –

Presented to  Denver Trout Unlimited

At the Skylark Lounge,  Streamer Screamer – Oct 22, 2013


Lecture notes taken by John Davenport.

What Streamer Fishing is.

  • Stripping Streamers is the only way to fish if you want to catch large fish.
  •  Streamers are harder to cast, but your don’t need indicators to tell you that something has aggressively grabbed your fly, you don’t need magnifying glasses to tie on flies and you don’t have to fiddle with 6x or 7x in the cold.
  • Streamers are simpler flies much easier to tie.


How to pick

Ugly is good.

A Bed head sloppy look is the most attractive to big trout.

Only a few flies are needed. Black, white, olive or  really bright colors.

What a Fish thinks

This is food.

This is a threat to my territory.

How to set

Don’t lift the rod to set. On a large fish you must strip set to assure a hook-up.

Streamer Styles

  •     Buggers, zonkers, articulated flies.
  •     Buggers- hook in middle of profile with a bead, cone, or egg head and a Maribou tail.
  •     Zonker – rabbit/ squirrel fur. In live water good sculpin imitation. Dumbbell eyes.
  •     Articulated- Rabbit fur with a hook shank and then a full hook connected with backing.These flies are trout friendly. Short shank hold fish better and uses smaller hooks.

Fishing Styles

    • Deeper water not drift and swing. Merlino’s sculpin hex. Misses mean hitting tail. Want to get hook further back? Articulated
  • Cast and retrieve deep or against bank. Senyo’s iced out sculpin.
  • Sinking lines are not necessary in Colorado. Fish will go up and down in water column.




For drift and swing fishing put the larger fly first. About 5 ft down your leader tie on a wooly bugger, then 18 of tippet tie on a bead head pheasant tail. Sight fish in the fast current. In the twilight the  wooly will simulated a big stone fly emerging.


When to fish.

Don’t fish the Dream Stream unless it is over 100 cfs. Please.  And leave fish on reds alone. Please.