Serial view of a boat on a river

Jig Streamer Tactics

Article Written by Matt Koles. Learn More About the author below / Article Read Time: 6 Minutes

The jig streamers started for me at Pyramid Lake in Nevada around 2012. Most guys were using balanced leeches under a bobber. An effective way to fish, but not much fun staring at a bobber all day. I was fishing with my buddy Doug O. a lot at the time. We both started tying leeches on pre-molded jig hooks. Cheap Eagle Claw, pre-molded jigs that we got at Cabelas. I put 2 small ones on, 1/64th ounce, with about a 15-20 level leader. We crushed them retrieving them without the bobber. I thought if they could work so well at the lake, why not on the Truckee River, my home water.

I started tying heavier ones on Wapsi pre-molded jig hooks, 1/8th, and 1/16 oz. This was key when I found a good pre-molded jig hook that didn’t bend when you looked at it. At the time, I used a 12–18-foot level leader with a floating line. The results spoke for themselves. The way I could drop those things in the buckets on the Truckee River was a game changer. 

Of course, this was a very different approach compared to say, Kelly Galloup who uses the line to sink or control the streamer. With the jig approach, you’re using the streamer to sink the line and leader. I then started articulating them and tying them in all sorts of colors. Crayfish, baitfish, sculpins etc. 

Small fishing boat on a river

Fast forward to today, and I’m still fishing them. There’s a jig streamer revolution here. Seems like everyone I encounter has some in their box. 

I use a Cortland Euro Nymph line with a braided core. The braided core is key, as you can then needle-nail knot your leader. Remember, the braid does not stretch like mono, so your hookset will be more direct. My total leader length is about 24-30 feet. 18-24' feet of 18-pound monofilament, tied to a micro swivel, and then 6-8 feet of 0x-2x Cortland Ultra Premium Fluorocarbon tippet

Since it floats, the Euro line is key if you are dabbling in the mono-streamer rig. When you go to make a cast your euro fly line will be floating at your feet rather than sinking like mono will. You won’t have to pull it out of the water every time you go to make a cast.  

Angler standing in knee high water reeling in his fly line

Casting can be difficult until you get used to the techniques needed to propel your streamer to the desired place. Water loading your streamer is the most effective way of creating tension and being able to easily cast this heavy rig. The current is your best option for loading up tension in tight quarters and when there is no backcast option. If you try to cast this rig like a traditional fly line, It’ll hinge, and you will not be able to cast the weight. I like to one-shot cast as much as possible, much like a spinning rod, or water load on the forward cast.

The benefits of this rig are you can tight line, or euro nymph a streamer in heavy currents and fast rips where traditionally, a streamer fished on a weight forward fly line will not be able to reach. A deadly technique, especially in summer on the Truckee River, when trout are eating crayfish. You can cast without a back cast and get your streamer to sink in deep buckets. I fish jig streamers wade fishing and from the boat. On a boat, you have to water load your cast.

Aerial view of a boat anchored on a river

I use a 10’6 4wt Cortland Nymph rod. Although you can fish these with just about any rod you want. The 1/8th oz jigs seem to cast best on the heavier 5 or 6 wt. The smaller jigs seem to cast better on the more traditional-size euro rods. 10’ 3wt or 4wt, for example. 

Trout flipped on its side with a fly fishing lure in its mouth

I’ve taught streamer jigging to 100’s of folks through clinics and guided trips on the Truckee River, over the years. Check it out and put it in your arsenal. 


Matt Gilligan seated with his two grandchildren on his lap
About the author

Matt began fly fishing the waters of the Tahoe-Truckee region when he was a kid. As a guide, Gilligan brings to the river over 35 years of experience fly fishing and tying flies for Truckee River trout. A veteran guide, Gill loves to guide anglers of all abilities and has the equipment to outfit first-timers for whatever fishing excursion holds their interest. From wade fishing to drift boat fishing Gill has you covered. If you happen to be after the fish of your lifetime, Gilligan will show you the rigs and flies and where to find them. Gilligan’s Guide Service offers half-day, full-day, and float trips (drift boat).

Products Mentioned in this Article
Ultra Premium Fluorocarbon Tippet 
Euro Nymph Fly Lines
Nymph Series Fly Rods

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