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Hit the Smaller Streams for Success When Fly Fishing

April 12, 2008
By JON MAGEE, For The Inter-Mountain
Small streams provide some of the best and earliest dry fly action for fly anglers in this area. The larger rivers may be full of trout but for the fly angler the fishing can be difficult.

Fish are sluggish in the cold water and reluctant to take insects off the surface so the only option is to cast weighted nymphs and streamers hoping to catch fish beneath the surface. This can be very productive but it is not the most enjoyable method of fly-fishing, especially on windy days when casting can become an adventure avoiding one’s head with the weight used to get the flies to the fish.

However, on the smaller streams, the water is more shallow and the trout are more willing to feed on the surface than on the larger rivers where food is more abundant. By small, I mean those little gems that tumble off the mountains, the headwater streams and tributaries of the larger rivers in the area, streams that contain native or wild trout. These mountain streams are the first to see consistent insect hatches in spring and consequentially the fishing can be excellent.

Mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies are the most common stream born insects and the ones most often imitated by the fly angler. Depending on the species these insects will appear sometime throughout the day providing feeding opportunities for the fish on these diminutive waters. This is when fly-fishing is its most enjoyable. Watching wild trout take insects from the surface is one of the most beautiful things in all of nature and choosing the fly that matches what the trout are feeding on is one of the most satisfying feelings I know.

Of course, there are times when you can get everything right and still have trouble getting hits. This happened to me this week on one of my favorite small streams and even though I did not catch very many I found out some interesting things about this little creek.

It was obvious what the fish were feeding on — size 16 blue quill mayflies that where in the air, on the water, just about everywhere. The fish had noticed and were feeding anywhere they could find a spot to intercept the small mayflies as they rode the currents drying their wings. The problem was the water and weather conditions.

Blue skies and low, clear water makes for a pleasurable spring day, but it also makes for tough fishing. The slightest movement or shadow passing over the water sends the fish running for cover, which makes casting and getting a good presentation to the trout without spooking them rather difficult.

You must crawl on hands and knees or even belly crawl with rod clenched in teeth just to get into a position to cast and then make a cast without spooking the trout, a tough thing to do on a creek you can jump across in most places.

Actually, I knew it was going to be difficult to impossible conditions that day but I really wanted to see what the fish and insect populations were like in the stream. I managed to catch a couple small brookies before I had enough fun and decided to just walk the stream and observe the fish to check out their size and numbers before they went fleeing for cover.

I learned quite a bit after I quit fishing. The creek I was on has made progress since the last time I fished it. The number of fish seems to have increased.

Although I did not see many large fish, I did see enough to plan a trip back when conditions are a little more in my favor such as a light drizzle with slightly off color water on the way up. That is when I like to fish the small stuff.



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