I’ve been guiding and teaching anglers how to streamer fish for trout for over 15 years and this is the list of the best streamers for trout that I use and that I give to my clients and my students in my Advanced Streamer Fishing classes.
These are the only streamers for trout you will need because they imitate many of natural food sources of the trout, which include minnows, sculpins, leeches, crayfish, and even mice.
Some of these streamers can also be tied in micro, small, medium, large, and extra-large sizes to represent the size of the natural food sources in your rivers and lakes. You can also tie these streamer flies in some crazy colors that might just surprise you.
The best streamers for trout that I and other guides use are: 1. Circus Peanut, 2. Zoo Cougar, 3. Muddler minnow, 4. Woolly buggers, 5. Bunny Leech, 6. The Clouser minnow, 7. Sculpzilla. There are many more very effective streamers on my list that have killer action and are proven big trout streamers.
What Makes A Great Streamer For Trout?
The most effective streamers for trout usually have an irresistible, lifelike action that triggers a predatory response.
Because I am fly fishing these streamers I like streamer patterns that are easy to cast with a floating line, or a sinking line, or when using a sink-tip or sinking leader.
The best streamer patterns will have a realistic profile to mimic the natural food sources that trout eat, such as baitfish, leeches, or crawfish.
I will often add some flash or contrasting colors to grab the attention of big trout in various water conditions. Flash and contrast can make a good trout streamer pattern much better.
Fly Fishing Streamers Action: Weighted VS. Non-Weighted Streamers
Catching trout on a streamer can be easy, but to catch trout that are large, old, and wise takes good streamers with good action.
Heavily weighted streamers have less action than light streamers with no weight added, but I use both because both have their time and place.
The action of a streamer is crucial in enticing trout to strike and I always tell my clients the more erratic the retrieve, and the more the streamer fly looks like an injured baitfish, the more big trout will grab it.
In the wild, a predator fish will target and find a wounded fish hard not to attack.
Regardless if a streamer is weighed or not, a well-designed streamer will have a lifelike swimming motion that simulates the movement of the prey it represents, however, it’s also up to the angler to impart even more action with long strips, short strips, and or a combination.
Some streamers also have additional features like articulated joints or rubber legs that add to their natural action in the water.
A streamer that has no weight added to it when it is tied or no weigh added to the line is best when fishing shallow water with a floating line, or big rivers with deeper water fished using a full sinking line, a sink tip, or a sinking leader like a poly leader.
When fishing a lake with streamers, I still prefer light streamers and will use sinking lines unless the trout are feeding near the surface.
I will also dead drift smaller streamers for trout below an indicator.
I use a lot of streamers that are heavily weighted because I find that the smaller streams, small pockets, and small pools require you to start stripping in the line as soon as the streamer hits the water and therefore the streamer needs to sink fast or it will skip across the surface, which makes it tough to catch fish.
Heavy but small streamers or heavy micro streamers with a tungsten bead head are great for catching trout when dead drifting using the Euro Nymphing Method.
GUIDE TIP: when streamer fishing, use a shorter 5 to an 8-foot leader and a heavy tippet. I learned the hard way that using a 4X tippet was a great way to donate my favorite streamer patterns to the fish’s mouth. Meaning I kept breaking them off on the hookset.
If you are a fly fisherman wanting to know beginner and advanced streamer fishing methods check out my article Streamer Fishing For Trout.
The 13 Best Streamers For Trout
There are plenty of great streamers for trout but these ones have proven over and over again to be my most effective and most consistent flies.
Keep in mind that these flies are not in order of best to least effectiveness since different conditions, different days, and even fish moods will dictate the best streamer on a particle day.
Even fishing pressure can make one fly or the size of a fly better or worse. I’ve had great success with small flies after the fish have been pressured by too many guys chucking giant streamers at the trout.
1. The Circus Peanut
My favorite and most effective articulated streamer is called the Circus Peanut and it was one of my very successful students from my Advanced Streamer Fishing Class that got me onto this fly.
It has a flashy, attention-grabbing profile that gets the attention of big and small trout.
It features a marabou tail, a body made of chenille or dubbing, and rubber strip legs that add to its lifelike motion. The articulated design allows it to swim erratically, mimicking an injured or fleeing baitfish which I mentioned early is key to catching large trout.
2. Muddler Minnow Streamer
The Muddler Minnow is a classic streamer that is well-known in the fly fishing world.
I don’t know how many times guys have told me they caught a huge trout on a streamer and when I expected them to say it was on a 4-inch articulated Zoo Cougar or something, instead they tell me it was caught on a 2-inch Muddler Minnow.
Effective variations of the Muddler Minnow are the conehead Muddler Minnow, or Marabou Muddler minnow.
Its deer hair head will push water and create a realistic often side-to-side movement. It has a great baitfish silhouette, while the marabou or feathered tail adds lifelike movement. This versatile fly can be fished on the surface or sunk deep or even used with a dead drift method to imitate a variety of baitfish species
This makes the Muddler Minnow one of the best streamers for trout in smaller streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds.
3. The Woolly Bugger
Perhaps the most famous fly patterns and the most versatile streamer in the world, and one of the easiest to tie, and one of my all-time favorites is the Woolly Bugger.
Long before the internet and before videos, and before all these giant streamers with crazy names like the Circus Peanuts were popular, I was using and catching a ton of big trout on the simple classic fly known as the Woolly bugger.
I would tie micro buggers and drift them under an indicator, or use them as wet flies for larger fish, and medium-sized buggers were used for stripping, and I would tie giant-tailed very bushy Wooly Buggers for the big trout.
I also use Buggers very effectively when steelhead fishing in shallow water and in deep pools. There are a few good variations including the bead head bugger and the egg-sucking leech seen in the first picture of this article.
The wooly bugger can imitate leeches and baitfish or other fish food like damsel flies or large nymphs.
Its marabou tail, chenille body, and hackle wrap provide a tantalizing action that’s hard for trout to resist.
Size: I tie my Buggers in a variety of colors and sizes and have caught fish on all of them. I will use buggers from one to two inches long for dead drifting, or for stripping I usually use 3 to 4-inch buggers.
Color: My go-to colors are black, olive, yellow, and white.
If you tie your own, add some flash or sparkle to the body and tail which I find makes the fly better.
GUIDE TIP: The original pattern and most buggers bought in a store use a standard streamer hook. However, I have found tying them on a wide-gape hook like those used with the other more modern streamers below works better.
I include this fly in my article 19 Best Steelhead Flies article.
4. The Clouser Minnow
Created by fly fishing legend Bob Clouser, this is a popular must-have streamer for trout fishing. This is a great streamer to imitate small minnows, darters, and other types of tiny baitfish.
Its weighted dumbbell eyes give it a jigging action that can entice even the most hesitant trout. The combination of bucktail and flash materials creates a realistic baitfish profile, making it an effective choice in both freshwater and saltwater environments.
5. Zonkers (Best Trout Streamers For Quick Strips)
The Zonker is a simple yet highly effective streamer that features a rabbit strip for its body and tail. Variations include the Cone Head Zonker
This fly has a natural swimming action that imitates baitfish or leeches, and its flashy, metallic underbody is a big part of why this fly works so well.
The Zonker is particularly effective when fished with quick, erratic strips, triggering aggressive strikes from trout.
6. The Sculpin Fly Known As Sculpzilla:
Sculpin are a favorite food source for trout in many streams including the ones I fish and guide on and for that reason, I need a good sculpin streamer pattern, and the Sculpzilla perfectly imitates these bottom-dwelling fish and is my go-to sculpin fly.
I tie mine with a weighted head, rabbit strip body, and rubbery legs, and will tie it in a few shades of green tan, and black. I’ve even done well with yellow, and white.
This fly offers a realistic profile and enticing action.
Sculpzilla is especially effective in early spring when sculpins are more active, making it one of the best streamers for trout especially when I’m targeting big brown trout and other large trout species.
7. The Crayfish: The Brokeback Crawdaddy
Admittedly, I do not use crayfish patterns enough but I should because they can produce some of the largest trout in the river.
I still remember the day I walked my client 10 minutes through the bush to get to a spot I knew a big brown trout was holding. I tied on a 3-inch crayfish pattern under an indicator and told him to cast it dead center of the smaller stream. We both watched as a 24-inch brown shot 5 feet across to grab that crayfish streamer.
I’ve seen big brown trout nosing into the rock or cruising the pools in search of crayfish.
When I fish the Brokeback Crawdaddy streamer, I use a very erratic stop-and-go retrieve to try to imitate the swimming pattern of a crayfish. I generally fish crayfish deeper in the water column since they are always close to the bottom.
I avoid a long strip receive and prefer short strips.
Crayfish are a staple in the diet of big trout, so at times the right streamer for the job is the Brokeback Crawdaddy which is a great crayfish imitation even on smaller rivers. Another crayfish pattern to try is the Nancy P.
8. The Mouse Fly
Something I don’t do often with clients due to safety issues is fish at night for big trout using a mouse pattern. However, I and my guide friends do fish mouse patterns at night, or at dawn and dusk and this can be some of the most exciting trout fishing you will ever experience.
For those adventurous nights when you’re targeting big, aggressive trout, the Mouse Fly is an exciting option.
Designed to mimic a swimming rodent, this mouse surface fly creates a commotion that’s hard for hungry trout to ignore. With its deer hair body, legs, and tail, the Mouse Fly offers a lifelike silhouette and enticing action that can lead to explosive topwater strikes.
9. Brammer’s Seasoned Geezer
This is a new addition to my fly fishing list of best streamers for trout but since it’s easy to tie and it works, plus you can now buy it online and in some fly shops, I thought I’d add it.
I’ve been fly fishing with this fly for a few years with good results. It is a good addition to the fly box of any fly fisher.
Of course, I’ve tried it in multiple sizes and a few color variations and color combo’s and I’m consistently moving small and large fish on this fly.
This is one of those streamer flies that work well in small streams and big rivers.
It’s one of the best trout streamers for imitating baitfish or sculpins.
Its combination of deer hair, marabou, and flash materials gives it a lifelike profile and plenty of movement in the water. The articulated design of this streamer adds to its swimming action, making it an excellent choice for targeting large, predatory trout.
I’ve also found that in my local streams, the brook trout love this streamer. The Seasoned Geezer fly is one of the best streamers for trout.
10. The Zoo Cougar and Articulated Zoo Cougar
For me, the Zoo Cougar was the start of the trend of big-bodied streamer flies and the start of articulated flies. And since its introduction, it’s been hard for me and other guides to go back to simple basic streamers like the Zonker, Muddler, and the Wooly bugger.
The reason is these thick-bodied streamers move a lot of water, they dance and twitch, and most of all they catch fish, and big fish.
I love them and I hate them because although they are super effective for big fish, they take more time to tie or they are more expensive if you buy them.
The Zoo Cougar is designed by the legendary Kelly Galloup, whose videos and teachings helped me improve in fly fishing.
The Zoo Cougars’ downside is it rides high when fished on a floating line, but add a sinking leader, or a sink tip and this fly will get into the strike zone and be deadly good. Even still, Deer hair flies like this one are not great for deep water.
Its muddler-style deer hair head pushes water and creates a unique, enticing action, while its marabou and hackle body give it a lifelike profile. It is my go-to fly for big fish in low water.
I tie mine about 3 to 4 inches long and I do well with this pattern in yellow, black, white, olive, tan, and combos. Add some orange to the fly and it can be even better,
If you haven’t used this fly yet you are missing out. The Zoo Cougar fly is one of the best streamers for trout.
11. The Dungeon Streamer
Another Kelly Galloup creation and I’ll tell you this, Kelly comes up with the craziest names.
The Dungeon fly is an articulated streamer with a large, flashy profile that’s perfect for streamer fishing for big, aggressive trout.
Its combination of marabou, rubber legs, and flash materials makes it a versatile option for imitating various baitfish species.
The articulated design of this fly allows it to swim with an irresistible, lifelike motion that’s hard for big trout to pass up, especially in dirty water.
Like many of the thick bodies big streamers, fly fishing with them can be tough for inexperienced casters.
This is one of those streamer patterns I’ve used weighted and non-weighted with good results. The Sexx Dungeon is one of the best streamers for trout.
12. Mikes Meal Ticket
Designed by Mike Schmidt, Mike’s Meal Ticket is a flashy and effective fly for me when fishing trout in all types of streams. This is a great pattern that I tie this streamer in a few colors including chartreuse which is my go-to color in high water and dirty water.
It is a versatile, articulated streamer that imitates a wide range of baitfish species.
Its large profile, rubber legs, and flashy materials give it plenty of movement in the water and this makes it a great fly in fast water when you need to get the attention of the big fish.
The weighted wool head imparts an erratic darting action that drives trout wild.
Mike is also known for his fly, Mike’s Junkyard Dog which is another effective pattern. The Meal Ticket and Junkyard Dog are two of the best streamers for trout.
13. Bunny Leech
I’ve been fly fishing with the Bunny Leech and variations of the bunny for over 15 years and it could go down in the hall of fame for my simplest-to-tie and most effective streamer patterns.
It’s a simple yet highly effective streamer that’s perfect for imitating leeches or baitfish. Its rabbit strip body and tail provide a lifelike, undulating action that’s irresistible to trout.
I tie most of my Bunny Leech patterns in two-toned colors with the body and the rabbit strip being different colors. Some of my most effective color variations include a yellow body with either black rabbit fur or dark olive.
I also do well with a white belly and tan or olive rabbit strip. The bunny leach is one of the best streamers for trout.
Conclusion: There you have it, the 13 !
Streamer fishing for trout is far more fun and effective if you are using the best trout streamers that guides use.
These are the best streamers for trout that I and other guides have proven to catch more fish.
Although articulated streamers are popular when fly fishing for larger fish, they are not always needed and sometimes the normal streamer flies like Muddler Minnows, Buggers, and Bunny Leeches are all you need for streamer fishing.
If you have a comment, or a question, or would like to tell us your favorite streamer for trout, just let us know in the comments section below.