** This post is from contributing author, Pat Burke. **
What is your streamer doing under the surface?
Fishing a tandem streamer rig is nothing new. Many people have tried it at one point or another. The rig I often use when streamer fishing with a floating line is a small highly visible fly trailed by a larger, more natural colored streamer pattern. I usually fish the streamer patterns two feet apart. The more natural pattern is often weighted more heavily and gets slightly deeper in the water column. We named the small brightly colored streamer in the rig the “sighter” streamer.
This is one of the most common sighter streamers I use. This fly is basically Loren William’s Rat Bastard with a few slight modifications. I tie this pattern on a size 12 stinger hook with a tungsten bead. The fly doesn’t need to be fancy. The main point is to make it small and highly visible.
The whole idea behind the sighter streamer is just what it’s name implies. It is to allow you to locate your streamers quickly during your retrieve. You then focus on the sighter streamer while varying your retrieve to match the different currents. I use the sighter streamer mainly as the visual point in my rig. Most fish are caught on the larger more natural pattern but I still feel the sighter streamer is equally important in acquiring a good presentation. Fishing a sighter streamer offers many benefits.
Locating your streamers
With the visibility of a sighter streamer you can easily see the depth of your flies. This is valuable information because you can the either slow your retrieve or add weight if you aren’t getting deep enough. Additionally, it allows you to see exactly where your flies are in position to instream structure and guide them directly through the prime holding lies. The fish below was taken by using the sighter streamer to steer my flies around instream brush. This fish was tucked along the bank and darted out for the natural colored trailing pattern.
Seeing your streamer’s action
When you can’t see your streamers and you are fishing in water with complex conflicting currents, it is difficult to know whether your retrieve is lifelike. Having a brightly colored streamer to focus on will allow you to see the action of your fly and make adjustments accordingly. I find myself adjusting speeds of my retrieve by focusing on the sighter and watching it’s movement in relation to the water speed.
Staying in touch
How often have you been fishing an indicator in intricate currents and when you go to lift up and cast again, you find your nymphs were not where you expected them to be? The same thing can happen to streamers if you are fishing a floating line in varying speed waters, with a slow retrieve. Complex currents can drive your streamers in the wrong direction and create slack in your system causing you to miss takes because you are out of touch. With the highly visible sighter streamer, you always have a good idea where your flies are and can gather up the slack quickly when you notice this is occurring.
Seeing the attack
One of my favorite parts about streamer fishing is the visual aspect of a trout chasing down and slamming your fly. The sighter streamer aids in locating the position of your flies and allowing you to see the fish following. This will become apparent almost immediately. As I mentioned previously, most fish still take the natural colored streamer. However, as long as you focus on the sighter streamer during your retrieve, you will witness many follows with your peripheral vision on the trailing fly. It keeps you focused and attentive and gives you a quick gauge as to whether the fish are interested in what you are throwing. I watched this fish attack by focusing on the sighter streamer in low light conditions.
The sighter streamer can also be used as a strike indicator. There have been many times where I’m focused on the sighter streamer and I register a take by noticing the sighter streamer dart in the wrong direction on the pause between strips.
Even though I rarely catch a fish on the sighter streamer, I feel it is just as important as the trailing natural streamer. It allows you to locate your streamers and fine tune your retrieve. Give it a try some time!