Small stream trout fishing
For a long time I overlooked small stream trout fishing. When I first began with this hobby I was probably like most people – focused on catching as many fish as possible, and the largest fish possible. As I have become a more advanced fly fisherman I have realized that most of the joy fly fishing can bring comes from catching fish using different techniques, in different areas, and most of all having the ability to catch exactly what you are targeting. By switching my attitude around what fish I catch and how I catch them, I have found greater fulfillment.
Small stream trout fishing offers an ultimate targeting opportunity. Most rivers and watersheds have many small streams and tributaries connected to them, so anywhere you can find a trout river, you should be able to easily find a small stream. Small streams will often hold smaller fish in pools (or even some surprising places) where you can wade in shallow water and target fish with shorter and lighter rods. I like to do a lot of small stream trout fishing during the summer, provided that temperatures aren’t too high and the fish and be caught and released safely.
Summer provides great opportunities to target pools with dry flies. The July-August boom of terrestrial bugs is my favorite time to small stream fish. At this time I will use hoppers, beetles, and ants to target pools. Terrestrial insects are so clumsy themselves, that delivering a terrestrial fly naturally is a fun experience. My go to small stream rod is a 7’6” 2 wt Redington CT that I received over ten years ago. This rod has withstood the test of time and has netted me many great trout over the years. Small streams offer a great chance to practice reading water. Since everything is on a smaller scale, it is easy to observe seams, soft water, pools, etc. I will often fish between a 7’6’ and 9” leader on the tip of my line. I find that a shorter leader works when targeting pocket water because much of the leader remains off the water anyways. However, when fishing a small stream just like a larger river with clear runs, I like to use a longer leader.
I employ a bottom-up technique when fishing small streams. I like to start downstream and work my way up to stay out of sight of trout which are facing upstream. The shallow water allows trout to see anything above surface with much more ease. Casting on small streams can be difficult because there are often other natural variables such as trees, stones, and bushes that improve the degree of difficulty. I tend to get very technical with my casting in these spots.
My go to cast is a high stopping cast with serious velocity. It allows the light line to shoot with ease and allows for pin-point accuracy. Having high stops allows me to shoot the line up in the air rather than behind me to avoid any trees that may be around. The high stop coming forward causes the line to shoot forward in a strait line.
Whether you hop on boulders going pool to pool or you wet wade and fish a small stream similarly to a large river, this type of fishing is exhilarating. These fish will be small, but the best anglers take pride in how they caught fish rather than size or quantity. Not to mention many of these small streams will be home to self-sustaining populations of native brook trout which are a real treat to catch because of their beauty. New anglers and experienced anglers alike can enjoy the wonders of small stream trout fishing.
To learn more about getting started in fly fishing and some basics for gear checkout this article.