AR HeadHunters

Guided Fly Fishing on the White and Norfork Rivers

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Brad Smith

Call or Text: 479-283-8490


Articulated Streamers

 Streamer Fishing

If you’ve been paying attention the last couple of years you will have noticed a number of great grip and grins featuring huge brown trout with half a chicken hanging from their mouths.  Streamer fishing, in particular larger articulated streamers, has jumped in popularity ever since the high water years starting back in 2008 and for good reason.  It’s the best shot on the river to hook up with a fish of a lifetime given proper conditions. 

Fishing small streamers like muddlers, clousers and sculpin patterns isn’t anything new but chunking an 8” fly on a trout stream doesn’t seem to match any hatch you would think you would normally encounter.  That is until you realize the hatch your matching is the fish you normally catch.  These predatory fish are too large to spend their day sorting scuds, midges and whatever else makes its way down the river.  These fish are plenty large to take stocker size rainbows and many spend their days laid up downstream of the trout docks feeding on the guts and carcasses of cleaned trout.

When to Fish Streamers

While I’m typing I’m watching a rainstorm headed to hopefully raise the lake levels back into the wade fisherman’s dreaded flood pool stage again.  While it’s a course to the ground bound those with boats can't wait to fish the big flows.  Winter is often considered streamer season and that’s a shame.  While bigger flows and hungry browns do occur post spawn, these guys eat year round and will take a streamer at any time of the year.  Flows above 10,000cfs are ideal but you can fish smaller streamer patterns on the lower flows down to around 5,000cfs on the White.  I would rather nymph fish on flows any lower than that as the numbers just really start to fall off.  The Norfork fishes well with streamers with one or both units running.  

Where to Fish Streamers

 With the bigger flows casts need to be concentrated to the shoreline and any adjacent structure.  Chunk boulders, log jams and boat docks make great current breaks for these predators to wait for their prey.  Lower flows will spread the fish throughout the river.  Covered gravel bars and grass flats are great places to start probing in the lower flows.  Casting through the quick shoal water is often affective as well.   

 What Equipment to Fish Streamers

Your rod choice will depend on the flies you intend to throw but I generally use an eight weight on the heavier flows with a sink tip line and a six or seven weight rod with a shorter sink tip or a floating line on the lower flows.  If you’re serious about fishing large streamers this is where to invest in that high dollar rod.  While it’s nice to have a sweet stick to indicator fish you’ll never cast it like you will your streamer rod. 

I like to use a 24” furled leader with around 36” of 10lb tippet on the heavier flows.  On lighter flows I’ll either extend the tippet or switch to a tapered 9’ leader.  I concern myself less with what patterns to throw and worry more about the water column I intend to fish relative to flow.  With one unit on the Norfork or two to three units on the White a Zoo Cougar has been very effective teamed with a 9’ tapered leader fishing covered gravel and grass or fishing through the shoals.  When the water continues up it’s time to start banging the bank with larger articulated flies with the furled leader to help turn them over.  A black S. Dungeon is generally my first choice followed by the Double Deceiver.  Brian Wise of Fly Fishing the Ozarks has the absolute best tying videos for most of the popular articulated streamers. 

How to Fish Streamers

You really need a boat to effectively fish the larger flows with large articulated streamers.  While you can wade fish some of the lighter flows you’ll be extremely limited on your choice of water.  Fishing from the boat we’re constantly fishing to fresh fish giving you the best opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime.  The jerk strip .popularized by Kelly Galloup, is another important aspect to getting hooked up so definitely look it up.  He has a DVD available through Netflix.  The jerk strip puts the articulation to life allowing the fly to dart and stall like a jerk bait would be used on a spinning rod.  The flailing darting action is the key to a great streamer pattern.


Streamer fishing is often regarded as “Hero or Zero Fishing” and while that can be true the hero portion of the equation eliminates any days of zeroes.  If you’re ready to go find a true river monster contact me for information on booking a guided streamer trip on the White or Norfork Rivers. 


AR HeadHunters

Brad Smith  




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