Story & Photos by Nicholas Ohlrich
Besides watching a bow come up and slurp down a perfectly presented dry fly, feeling the explosion of a pink-sided chrome freight train destroying a streamer on the swing is nothing short of pure awesome. For me, swinging streamers is a June to early July thing and once again during the fall on the Kenai River. Being a guide I don’t have the opportunity to venture off and explore other great river systems throughout the state like many of my non-guide friends, but always look forward to my swing season on the Kenai.
With most aspects of my life I consciously try to live by the K.I.S.S method, (Keep It Simple Stupid) swinging a streamer on the Kenai is no exception to this rule. From time to time a sink tip is key, but this is only in a few spots when the fish are in a certain mood. Most of my use of streamers involves a fly rod with little to no change from my dead drift leader system, minus a bobber (usually). For folks that do not wish to fly fish or fatigue from making long casts all day with a fly rod I happily hand them an 11′ float rod. The leader set up below the float on a float rod is identical to fly rod set ups. I realize by this point any Spey or die anglers out there are extremely nauseous or have completely lost their lunch, but in my line of work folks want results and it’s my job to deliver.
Whether using a fly or float rod the presentation, concept, and results are the same. Well, actually the float rod will out perform the fly rod due to the ease of casting long distance and covering a ton of water per drift, it’s the same reason a Spey rod will outperform a fly rod on big water.
To figure out the mood of the fish begin each drift with a bit of a dead drift and then blend into a swing. If the trout are lethargic due to cold water or a full belly you will see more action on the dead drift. Aggressive trout will smack the fly during the fast part of the swing, which is about 3/4 of the way through the swing, while sort of aggressive fish will hit the fly on the hang down, or bottom of the drift when your line is straight below you. Once consistency is found cater the drift to the liking of the trout. Most streamer fishing for me is done from a boat especially in June where most prime shore fishing coincides with spawning habitat, which are areas I leave alone because trout are working hard at creating more trout.
Once water drops in the fall getting clients out to wander gravel bars and feel the power of Kenai bows on the swing is very rewarding. This is a great change from the past few months of dead drifting beads and flesh, and can often out fish the standard dead drift. That being said, once you start getting into the late fall finicky trout bite put on a streamer and add a little swing to your life.
Tying it Together
Kenai trout or any trout on the swing is a fun and exciting way to get your rod to bend. Paying attention to your surroundings and conditions will help you key into prime times to maximize the power of swinging streamers. Make sure to play around with the speed of your swing especially if you see a decrease in productivity with one speed, it only takes a few casts and experimentation to make slight adjustments to keep you on the bite. Be safe, have fun, and constantly question why something is working or not.