Sunday, May 18, 2008

Small Streams

I am a small stream fan. I enjoy the difficulty of casting in close quarters and the stealthy creeping about so the trout don't see me coming a mile away.

My nearby favorite drains out of a warm-water lake, cools off in the forest, takes on additional cold water from innumerable springs, and drops about a thousand feet in a three mile run.

There are three ways to approach it - from the top and work down, from one of two spots in the middle accessible by hard-to-find paths, and from the bottom.

All three methods represent an indisputable pain in the fundament.

Once embarked on a course of action, it is difficult to retreat. Especially moving upstream, as clambering up is, on balance, easier than clambering down.

The payoffs are a tremendous workout; solitude; and the chance to catch crazy little wild brook trout.

I typically use either a seven-foot bamboo rod or a six-foot graphite, both for five weight lines. Once in a while I will trot out a magic wand, a six-footer for a number two line, but I prefer the heavier line because it rolls better, if that's what the situation calls for, and is much more useful for fishing nymphs, droppers, and with weight.

"Hold on a minute," you say, looking at the photos of the tiny creek. "Weighted flies in this dinky water?"

You bet. A lunker in this brook is a 10-inch fish, and they didn't achieve elder status by rushing madly to the surface to attack whatever gaudy dry fly happens to float by, like their younger contemporaries.

No, they tend to hang out in the plunge pools, which get surprisingly deep, and generally bide their time until something attractive floats by, or drifts along the bottom.

So I use an attractor-dropper rig, albeit with a short length of tippet material between flies - say, a foot and a half, tops.

Sometimes, though, this strategy seems too fussy, and I switch to the strategic prospecting with a single dry fly, usually big, bushy, colorful, or some combo thereof. It's fun planning the cast, because the fly is going to a very specific spot and one wrong move means either spooking the fish or getting hung up on the back cast (assuming there is room for one at all).

Might strike some of you as a lot of trouble for itty-bitty trout that I never keep (most of them would have a hard time dominating a saltine cracker), but I love it.

Above: The brook, looking much wider than it is. Below: A typical finny denizen, and the absurd attractor fly "Madame X". By the way, if you are looking for a good source of flies and tend to buy in bulk, go no further than Wally Allen in Boulder, Colo. at

I've been a customer for eight years. Great selection, great prices and fast shipping.


Tony Ventresca said...

Enjoyable post, Patrick. It reminded me of my grandfather who used to make an annual pilgrimage to the Rockies to fly fish. I think I now understand his fascination and enjoyment of the sport, which to me as a child always seemed sort of boring.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Sight fishing with surface flies in small streams is the best, especially when the quarry is wild Brook Trout. Exquisite!

Keep on wading!