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Streamer Retrieves - The Pause

A lot of first time streamer anglers assume streamers fishing means casting out as far as they can and ripping the fly back to them at blazing speeds. With every cast they dream about the next swamp donkey flying out of its holding place to obliterate their Game Changer. The hero shot ensues.

This works and can be the best way to fish streamers at times, but it’s not always the case.

A mixed bag of retrieval tricks takes your streamer fishing to the next level. One of the techniques in your streamer fishing that’s really effective at all times of the year is fishing the pause.

Bass love to eat when things are on the drop. This means your fly is slowly drifting and dropping to the bottom of the river. Regardless of what fly you’re using (a baitfish imitation, a crayfish, a Hellgrammite) they love to see that thing pause and drop to the bottom.

There are many options for why this works. The pause could imitate a struggling or dying baitfish or the natural movement of crayfish as they backpedal and drop away from predators. Or maybe the dropping and drifting motion just happens to land in front of the fish’s face and sits there a little longer encouraging them to inhale whatever just plopped in front of them.

Regardless of why it works - it does!

It’s incredibly simple -


Let the fly drop.

That’s it.

Within that pause - pay attention. This isn’t a pause and sit on your bucket and look at the sunset sort of fishing. This is pause and pay attention. Because if you're daydreaming about grandma's old homemade biscuits, you will miss the eat. This is true of all fishing, but it's especially true when you’re dropping enormous flies down deep for bass in the river or lake.

Resist the urge to rip the streamer back to you. Let the fly soak for a second or five.

Bass anglers coming from the conventional world seem to be far better at this than most of our “fly fishing only and forever” community.

Once the fly has dropped, give the rod tip a little twitch or lift the rod tip some to animate the fly slightly. This will give it the, “Eat Me!” look bass find hard to resist.

Sometimes you don’t! And then sometimes they truck it with a force making you think it’s actually some MMA fighter underwater that just throat punched your fly. The eat will change on the day; it will change on the fish. Just this week fishing a local lake, I made several casts and was doing exactly what we’re talking about here. That thing got trucked and there was no getting away from the fact that something just ate the fly.

An hour or so later, my dad is doing the same retrieval style, and when he just went to lift the rod tip he felt something different and set the hook. BAM - another fish on. That fish just lightly inhaled it, and my fish tried to send it to space. Same day, same weather, just two different personalities of two different fish.

Now, there are some ways you can try your best to tell WHEN THE FISH EATS:

1 - Keep your fly line decently tight. You want to make sure it’s not so loose that you can’t set the hook if something does eat.

2 - Watch the end of your fly line. If you see it jolt, move, jiggle, or do anything suspicious - set the hook.

3 - Fish bright or white flies. It’s easier to see fish this style when you can actively see the fly. Because if all of a sudden you CAN’T see it - something ate it!

4 - Add a sighter to your bass leader. Something like 15lb. Hi-vis red or yellow Amnesia can be helpful for you to track what your fly is doing. (Again, this is stealing a tip from the conventional guys that have been using hi-vis mono for a long time. Though, euro-nymphing anglers may like to think they started it first…).

This style of fishing works better with streamers that have natural movement when the fly is sitting still. Flies with natural materials will be a better tool - Feather Game Changers, Dungeons, Zonkers, Clousers - that sort of thing seem to work better. However, don’t take that as me saying, “You can’t catch fish on your synthetic streamer by pausing it.” Not what I’m saying. Just suggesting what might work best!

That’s a lot of words to describe how to pause a fly, but hopefully you find it helpful!


Ethan Martin

This works for more than just bass too! Try it out wherever you fish and you never know what will come up!