Streamer Retrieves (6 of 13)
The first thing to try is to change your retrieve. Try a slow, steady retrieve, or try a couple strips followed by a long pause. The retrieve, with a pause, is often very effective in water temperatures below 50 degrees. Another way to fish a streamer is to just swing it like a wet fly or a steelhead fly. Cast a streamer across and downstream, make an upstream mend in your line, and then just let the line go tight in the current without any added action to the fly. You can also fish a streamer dead drift like a nymph, which we'll discuss shortly. It also pays to change the angle you cast your streamer in relation to the current. Casting upstream gets your fly deeper, and on the retrieve, the streamer flutters and pauses as you strip. Some bait fish, like sculpins, bolt downstream when frightened, so this is a realistic retrieve.
In shallow water, try quartering downstream with your streamer. This presents your fly to the fish before they see the line or leader, so it's often effective on spooky fish. Whatever retrieve and angle you use, once your streamer is hanging directly downstream of you, make sure you retrieve it a few feet before making another cast. Often, a fish will follow a streamer all the way across the river, and the trout may still be following your fly.
A streamer is often very effective when the water is so high and dirty that you can't fish with any other kind of fly. Fish won't see your fly from very far away, so look for protected places along banks, behind rocks, and at the seam on the inside of a bend in the river. In dirty water, make sure you add some motion to your streamer to distinguish it from twigs and leaves, and all the junk that's floating by. But keep your retrieve on the slow side so a trout will have a chance to catch it in the dirty water. In dirty water, fish use their lateral line sense, which picks up vibrations in the water from prey items. So, I suggest you use a fly with a deer hair head, like a muddler minnow, or something with lots of hackle like a woolly bugger. The rougher the fly looks, the more vibrations it will produce in the water.