Streamer fishing has gained momentous popularity in the recent past, although not without controversy. Is a streamer a fly? Some purists say no, ‘those big bugs don’t count, dry or die’. It’s a valid assertion. Despite the pushback, however, streamer fishing is here to stay. Patterns created by pioneers like Kelly Galloup, Mike Schultz, and Blane Chocklett including the Sex Dungeon, Game Changer, and Swinging D have chiseled a culture that’s big, loud, and nasty. In a good way.

Like it or not, streamer fishing is incredibly productive, especially in the trophy fish department. Streamers tempt fish that have never seen the light of day in deepwater taverns, submerged deadwood, and dark holes. The fish that are aptly nicknamed ‘meat-eaters’, fish that were near impossible to catch with traditional fly gear, are now being tricked and brought to hand. And they’re big, loud, and nasty.

Fishing ugly streamers comes with a few caveats. 1. It’s not always easy to cast big flies, especially in high winds. 2. It’s even harder to cast big flies with heavy sinking lines. If there’s one thing that makes streamer fishing easier, it’s choosing the right fly rod. This isn’t a culture for the novice angler or for the faint of hand. You’ve gotta get a little down and dirty. Choosing a tool that’s up to the task helps. Let’s dive in.

But first, if you're wondering which fly line is THE BEST for streamers, we've covered that topic here.

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Rod Characteristics

Choosing a fly rod that’s designed for streamer fishing used to be difficult. As the big bug movement gains momentum, however, many rod manufacturers have started to make rods specifically designed for big flies and heavy lines like the Sage Payload. 

The Sage Igniter  and Hardy Ultralite X both feature ULTRA FAST tapers which differ substantially from the Payload's softer mid-section. These rod's super fast action allow them to cut through the wind and push those big streamers at further distances. An ultra-fast action rod isn’t easy to handle; think technical rods for technical situations. But streamer fishing isn’t always easy, either (see the caveats above).

Another rod that’s made for streamer fishing is the T&T Exocett SS. The Exocett SS has a powerful rod tip, shock dampening blank characteristics, and a powerful butt section for heightened lifting power. Power, power, power. Again, this rod is fast action which is a serious streamer angler’s best bet. A rod that’s lightweight and fast action will make casting big flies much more efficient. And easier… not that you’re faint of hand.

Scenarios and Models

Streamers can be used to target a variety of freshwater species. Naturally, rod choice depends on target species. If you’re fishing big flies from a drift boat for Brown Trout out west (Kelly Galloup style), a 6wt or 7wt is probably up to the task. If you’re chasing down big Smallmouth Bass in Michigan like Mike Schultz, upgrading to an 8wt will maximize casting and fish-fighting efficiency. Bigger fish = bigger rod. The G. Loomis NRX+ Swim Fly is the perfect rod for this scenario. Chasing Musky or Pike? Another upgrade may be required (see our posts about choosing a fly rod for Pike and Musky).

What about rod length? Some anglers prefer a longer streamer rod, say 10’. Others prefer a shorter rod like the Exocett SS that’s 8’ 8” . What’re the benefits/drawbacks to longer/shorter rods? A longer fly rod provides a few benefits to the streamer fanatic. The first benefit that’s most commonly associated with a longer rod is the ability to cast farther. Yes, longer rods give the angler the ability to cast longer distances. This can be helpful when streamer fishing. You can also stick the tip of a longer rod deeper in the water (from a drift boat) for increased fly depth and to help with boat side hookups. Finally, longer rods pick up line off the water quicker and more efficiently. 

Shorter rods allow improved accuracy at shorter distances. If you find yourself having to drop a fly in between two trees or right on a river bank, a shorter fly rod will help you do that. The Orvis Helios 3D Blackout 8wt is perfect for this. Shorter rods also provide maximum lifting power for maneuvering big fish out of tight cover. 

Ok, I know what I'm looking for. Now, which rod should I go with

Best 8wtOrvis Helios 3D Blackout
Best 7wtG. Loomis NRX+ SF
A ClassicT&T Exocett SS
Best Mid-Priced RodSage Payload
Best ValueEcho Streamer X
Best NewcomerAtlas Signature
Best Distance CasterSage Igniter

Still can't decide?

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