Dead Drift or Streamers?

Photo caption: Streamers aren’t the only way to catch big brown trout. All of these fish were caught on nymphs.

Fishing on the Chattahoochee outside of Atlanta.

Where I fish on the Chattahoochee tailwater outside of Atlanta, the main targets are stream-born brown trout that can reach epic size in a nutrient-rich environment.

Although many large trout are caught on large streamers, trophy anglers should not overlook dead-drifted nymphs as way to catch large fish.

Yes, I agree that the “pounds of meat” or “big bait, big fish” theory is usually a sound approach to targeting better-than-average fish, but just think about the numbers game. With 25 years of guiding experience, I would say a third of our biggest fish were caught on nymphs.

Now, the reality is that most of our clients would rather catch numbers than catch maybe one to three better-sized fish. Usually, my first question to customers is: “Do you want to catch quantity or quality?”

I explain that big fish are predators, and if you want better odds for a monster, you will have to “chuck and duck” large weighted flies with large weighted sinking fly lines. It can be a difficult and tiring way to fish, but it does produce results.

On the other hand, if you’re a dedicated nymph angler who fishes methodically, where mending line properly, setting the hook emphatically and reading water are paramount, you could very likely catch a trophy as well. It’s all about placing odds in your favor, but you have to be dedicated with either tactic, streamer or nymph.

If you choose to streamer fish, one out of three trips could hook a pig. With nymphs, you’ll hook a large fish about every eight trips. I am not trying to solicit more trips here, I am just being honest with the law of averages. Guides have the luxury of going fishing just about every day, so for us the law of averages works to our favor as we simply spend more time on the water.

So which will it be? Would you rather catch more fish on a nymph with the outside chance of catching a bruiser, or would you prefer to eschew the smaller fish and chunk meat for one monster brown trout?

By Chris Scalley

Chris Scalley owns River Through Atlanta Guide Service. Check them out at



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