13 Best Streamers For Trout Used By Top Guides

A rainbow trout caught on one of the best streamers for trout, a egg sucking leech.
A rainbow trout caught on an Egg-Sucking leech streamer. Caugth by Jordan from A Perfect Drift Guide Company in Ontario, Canada.

I’ve been guiding and teaching anglers how to effectively streamer fish for trout for over fifteen years. I have some very effective streamers for trout that I will share with you here.

These are the only trout streamer flies 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 Fly For Trout?

Jordan Pockets streamer caught brown trout
A beauty brown trout caught on a streamer by Jordan from A Perfect Drift Guide Company.

The most effective streamers usually have an irresistible, lifelike action that triggers a predatory response.

I like streamer patterns that are easy to cast with all types of fly lines.

The best streamer patterns will have a realistic profile to mimic 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 streamer pattern much better.

Weighted VS. Non-Weighted Streamers

A nice brown trout caught on an articulated streamer fly.
A nice brown trout by my friend and fellow guide Jordan from A Perfect Drift Guide Company. Jordan was a student of mine and learned my streamer fishing methods.

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.”

Heavily weighted streamers have less action than lighter, non-weighted streamers, but I use both when fishing different types of water.

In the wild, a predator fish will target and find a wounded fish hard to resist.

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.

Non-weighted Streamers

A streamer caught brown trout caught on one of the best streamer for trout.
A beautiful brown trout caught on a streamer by Jordan from A Perfect Drift Guide Company.

A streamer that has no weight added to it when it is tied or no weight added to the line is best when fishing shallow water with a floating line or when fishing 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.

Pro Tip: I will also dead drift smaller streamers below an indicator.

Weighted Streamers

This articulated streamer with a greenish flash back is one of my best streamers for trout.
This is one of my custom weighted streamer patterns that became one of my most effective trout best streamers the first year I tried. I found out that adding the flashy peacock color on top was the key to this streamer, so I started adding it to my other streamer patterns with great success.

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.

The weighted fly gets down fast and stays down.

GUIDE TIP: when streamer fishing, use a shorter 5-foot to 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.

The 13 Best Streamers For Trout

There are plenty of great streamer patterns 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.

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 who 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 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 small streamer like a two-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 which trout can detect with their lateral line, and the fat head creates 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 effective in smaller streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds.

3. The Woolly Bugger

Perhaps the most famous fly pattern 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 Woolly Bugger.

I would tie micro buggers and drift them under a strike indicator or use them as wet flies for larger fish, and medium-sized buggers were used for stripping. I would also tie giant-tailed bushy Wooly Buggers for the big trout.

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.

Two of my favorite woolly bugger fly patterns
This olive color pattern with the flash has been my top-producing trout and steelhead woolly bugger for years and the white pattern has been a great spring pattern under certain conditions.

Size: 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

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.

5. Zonkers (Best Trout Streamers For Quick Strips)

I learned from other guides near me that the Zonker is great when stripped in or when dead drifted.

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, 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 rubber legs. I tie it in a few shades of green tan, and black. I’ve even done well with yellow or white.

Trout eat fish, this little trout tried to eat this fish
This small trout puked up this sculpin when I got him in the net which clearly shows that trout eat other fish.

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 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 stream. We both watched as a 24-inch brown shot five 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.

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, my guide friends and I do fish mouse patterns at night or at dawn and dusk. 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 streamer patterns 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 combinations, and I’m consistently moving small and large fish on this fly.

I’ve also found that in my local streams, the brook trout love this streamer.

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.

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.

These thick-bodied streamers move a lot of water, they dance and twitch on the retrieve, and most of all, they catch big trout.

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 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.

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 trout 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,

11. The Dungeon Streamer

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-bodied big streamers, fly fishing with them can be tough for inexperienced casters.

12. Mikes Meal Ticket

Designed by Mike Schmidt, Mike’s Meal Ticket is a flashy and effective fly for me when fishing for trout.

I tie this streamer in a few colors, including chartreuse, which is my go-to color in high 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.

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.

Conclusion: There you have it, the 13 Must-Have Trout Streamers!

Head Guide Graham From Trout and Steelhead .net
Head guide Graham with big brown trout.

Streamer fishing for trout is far more fun and effective if you are using the best streamers.

These are the most effective streamer flies for trout that I and other guides have proven to catch more fish.

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.

Tight lines



What Do Trout Eat? (A Complete Guide to Trout Diet) (aquariumwhisperer.com)

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