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ORVIS – How to Fish Streamers in Shallow Water

The article, titled “ORVIS – How to Fish Streamers in Shallow Water,” discusses the technique of fishing streamers in shallow water using a floating line. It addresses the issue of not having spare spools of fly line and offers alternative ways to make use of existing gear. The article describes the process of using a 10-foot leader with 2x tippet, tying on streamers, and targeting water along the edges of the shoreline, islands, and rocks in order to find active fish. It emphasizes the importance of accuracy in casting, as well as adding action to the streamers to attract the attention of the fish. The article provides detailed instructions on how to effectively fish in shallow water, taking into account different features and depths, and offers tips to maximize the chances of catching multiple fish.

ORVIS - How to Fish Streamers in Shallow Water


When it comes to fly fishing, there are many different techniques and styles to choose from. One technique that is popular among anglers is fishing streamers in shallow water. This technique requires a specific set of gear and equipment, as well as an understanding of the right waters to fish, and the appropriate fly fishing techniques to use in shallow water. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the gear and equipment needed for fishing streamers in shallow water, as well as the best locations to find fish, different fly fishing techniques, and how to adapt to different fishing conditions. By the end of this article, you will have all the knowledge you need to successfully fish streamers in shallow water.

Gear and equipment needed

Before you can start fishing streamers in shallow water, it’s important to have the right gear and equipment. Here are the essential items you will need:

Fly line and leader setup

To fish streamers in shallow water, you will need a floating or intermediate fly line. A floating line is ideal for fishing in shallow water, as it allows you to keep your fly on the surface or just below it. A 9-foot tapered leader with a 0X or 1X tippet is generally sufficient for fishing streamers.

Streamer selection

Choosing the right streamer is crucial for success when fishing in shallow water. Opt for smaller streamers, typically around 2 to 4 inches in length, that mimic common baitfish in the area you are fishing. You can experiment with different colors and patterns to see what the fish are most attracted to.

Split shot and tippet

In shallow water, it’s important to have the ability to adjust the depth of your fly. Using split shot weights on your tippet can help you achieve the desired depth. It’s also a good idea to have a selection of different tippet sizes, ranging from 1X to 3X, to match the conditions and the fish you are targeting.

Additional gear

In addition to the essentials mentioned above, there are a few additional items that can come in handy when fishing streamers in shallow water. A stripping basket can help manage your fly line and prevent tangles, especially when fishing from a boat or float tube. Polarized sunglasses are also essential for spotting fish and reading the water. Finally, a net with a large hoop can make it easier to land larger fish.

Finding the right water to fish streamers

Once you have your gear and equipment ready, the next step is to find the right water to fish streamers in. Here are some key locations to focus on:

Shallow shelves and riffles

Shallow shelves and riffles are prime areas to target when fishing streamers in shallow water. These areas often provide cover and food for fish, making them ideal hunting grounds. Look for areas with a gradual drop-off and plenty of structure, such as submerged rocks or logs.

Edges of the shoreline

the edges of the shoreline, where the water meets the land, are also productive areas for fishing streamers. Fish will often patrol these areas, looking for baitfish or other food sources. Casting parallel to the shoreline can be effective, as well as casting towards any obvious structure, such as fallen trees or docks.

Islands and rocks

Islands and rocks in the water can create areas of calm and faster-moving water, providing ideal habitat for fish. Target the areas around these structures, especially any deeper channels or drop-offs. Casting upstream and letting your fly drift naturally downstream can be a successful tactic in these areas.

Fly fishing techniques in shallow water

Once you have located the right water to fish streamers in, it’s essential to use the correct fly fishing techniques to maximize your chances of success. Here are some techniques to consider:

Casting and presentation

When casting streamers in shallow water, accuracy and presentation are key. Aim to cast just past your target and let the fly settle before beginning your retrieve. Make sure to vary your retrieve speed and direction to mimic the erratic movement of a wounded baitfish.

Inducing action in the streamers

To entice fish in shallow water, it’s important to create action in your streamers. This can be achieved by adding quick strips or twitches to your retrieve to make the fly dart and dive in the water. Experiment with different actions to see what triggers a response from the fish.

Working each finger of a shelf

When fishing a shallow shelf, it’s important to thoroughly cover each finger or section of the shelf. Start by casting along the outer edge and gradually work your way towards the center, making sure to cover the entire area. Fish will often be hiding in the more sheltered areas of the shelf, so be sure to give each spot equal attention.

Adjusting stripping speeds

In shallow water, fish can be more skittish and may require a slower stripping speed to entice a strike. Experiment with different stripping speeds, alternating between short quick strips and long slow strips, to determine what works best for the fish you are targeting.

Focusing on the depth transition

When fishing streamers in shallow water, it’s important to focus on the depth transition where shallow water meets deeper water. This is where fish often lurk, waiting for prey to move from shallow to deep. Here are some tactics to consider:

Adding an extra split shot

To get your fly down to the desired depth, consider adding an extra split shot weight to your leader. This will help to sink your fly quickly and keep it in the strike zone for longer.

Flipping flies to the shallow edge

Instead of casting out into deep water, try flipping your flies towards the shallow edge. This can trigger strikes from fish waiting in the transition zone. Allow your flies to sink before slowly retrieving them back towards you, mimicking the movement of prey.

Swinging and pulsing the fly

Another effective technique is to swing your fly across the depth transition, allowing it to rise and fall in the water column. This can mimic the movement of injured baitfish and entice strikes from fish hiding in deeper water.

Adapting to different fishing conditions

When fishing streamers in shallow water, it’s important to adapt to different fishing conditions to increase your chances of success. Here are some tips for different scenarios:

Trout in the shallow step of a shelf

If you are targeting trout in the shallow step of a shelf, consider using smaller, more natural-looking streamers. Trout in this scenario can be extremely wary, so a stealthy approach and realistic presentation are essential.

Trout in deeper water

When targeting trout in deeper water, opt for larger streamers that can be seen from a distance. Fish in deeper water are often more aggressive and willing to chase larger prey.

Water changes and dour trout behavior

If you encounter water changes, such as sudden turbidity or a drop in water temperature, trout behavior can become dour. In these situations, switch to darker-colored streamers and slow down your retrieve to entice strikes from reluctant fish.


Fishing streamers in shallow water can be an exciting and rewarding experience. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle this style of fishing. Remember to choose the right gear and equipment, find the right water to fish, and use the appropriate fly fishing techniques tailored to shallow water conditions. With practice and patience, you’ll be reeling in trophy fish in no time!

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