• Fly Fishing Small Streams


    Picture this; you've spent some time hiking into a small stream inthe back country. It's early morning, mist is rising and the midgesthat have been swarming around you are breakfast for the small brownsyou have come to catch. You quietly walk up to the stream, watching the swirls of rising fish. You tie a nymph onto your leader and stepinto the water.

    A trout skids away from under your feet, its flight sending outwarning signals as bright as any neon light. The feeding fish flee in response and you are left with a section of river devoid of all but themidges. Welcome to fly fishing the small stream.

    Stop and look before fly fishing the small stream

    Before you get into the water stop and look at what is in front of you. This is especially true when approaching the small stream. Trout are wellcamouflaged, especially when you are looking down into the water. (A good pair of Polaroid glasses helps here.)

    I like to make my first cast well back from the waters edge. If there is little cover then I tend to use a long leader and lay the line on theriverbank, allowing only the leader to enter the water, as close tothe near bank as possible. That way, if there are any fish lying closeunder the bank, I will have given them first look at my fly.

    Reading the water of the small stream

    The waters of the small stream are like those of any river, juston a smaller scale. The fish will be in the same types of water thatthey would be in if you were fishing any trout stream. When you arefly fishing the small stream, look for those areas that provide thefish with their need for protection from predators, relief from fastflowing currents, and access to food.

    Fishing the pocket water

    I like to use dry flies when fly fishing pocket water in a smallstream. The fish will usually be holding out of the main current butclose enough to grab any food that comes floating by, and a driftingfly is often too tempting to resist.

    Often it is not necessary to match the fly closely to whatever is hatching. Instead I like to fish a fly that is visible enough for meto see in fast moving water. Something like a light elk hair caddis works well. When the strike comes I can see it and I catch more fishthis way than missing the strike by using a less visible, hatch matchingfly.

    Fly fishing the small stream usually requires a more sensitiveapproach and a finesse that is not necessary in larger rivers. Experience and practice are the great tellers here. Ability to read the water is more critical as the fish are often more easily spooked than their big water cousins. But when you make your way home at theend of a successful fishing day in the back country you know that the time spent learning to fly fish the small stream has been worthwhile.

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