Small Stream Craft

The Proper Approach for More Success

Chasing fish in small bodies of water is just as much a hunt as it is fishing.They are often great fisheries and provide opportunities to catch wild and native fish, but they do often require a whole different anglers skill set then larger rivers.

Fish in these small streams and creeks are often wary of predators and it is imperative to remain out of the fish’s view point. This is where anglers who are accustomed to large or medium sized rivers find frustration and little success on their micro counterparts.


Casting From Down River

From a  distance you must evaluate the prime holding areas and sneak into position to present your fly. One of the most common methods of staying invisible to the fish is approaching from down stream. Fish will face the current allowing you to remain unseen. While the fish may not be able to see you, this is where you need to think about the vibrations you put off and also your own shadow. Keep as much distance between you and the fish as you feasibly can. In many cases this may mean casting to fish from a pool below that you have already covered.

Casting accuracy is another key factor of success when approaching small streams from down river. You will need a long enough leader to keep your fly line from spooking the fish and also need to work methodically to cover the water. Personally I prefer a leader 7.5’-8’ in length. Any longer and it can become cumbersome on short range casts. Make your first casts towards the end of the pool (closest to you). As you cover is water slowly increase your casting distance. This will make sure any fish in the tailouts will see the fly first and will not be spooked by the fly line.

Casting From Up River

In some situations you may be working down river casting from above the areas you are targeting. This approach will make you more visible to the fish you are pursuing, but opens up the door to different presentation techniques and can often be easier for a novice caster. It is important to stay low to the water when approaching from upstream and use the landscape as camouflage. Positioning yourself behind boulders, trees or bushes is an easy way to remain unseen.

The two biggest advantages here are being able to feed line and swing flies.

Feeding line is an easy way to properly present a dry fly or nymph to fish that are downstream of your location. By making a short cast the the head of the pool (closest to you) you can “shake” your rod tip back and forth allowing the fly line slide through your guides. This can take some practice to perfect. With a clean fly line that is in good condition, very little movement of your rod tip is needed. Be conscious of the waters current and how it is affecting your downstream drift. It may be necessary to mend line into faster or slower water depending on your targeted feeding lane. A pile cast can also be used to reduce the amount of line you must feed if your targeted area is large enough.

The swing is the next technique that this approach allows you to use. This can be used with dry flies, nymphs, and streamers. It can also be performed after feeding line for a stealthy and extremely effective combination. As your flies reach the end of their drift allow the line to come tight. When using dry flies this will either cause them to skate if it is a very buoyant pattern or just barley pull them under the surface. With nymphs and streamers it will make them rise in the water column. Both of these actions can and will trigger fish to eat. Using small strips or hand twists you can give the fly an upstream swimming action covering the water you just dead drifted.

One of my favorite ways to fish both of these techniques is to allow my flies to drift into downed logs, undercut banks, and stream side vegetation that are often found in these small places. Then use the swing to cover the water. Using your rod tip to direct the flies you can fish the smallest and hard to reach pockets with relative ease after some practice.

I find this tactic especially useful when fishing smaller water that is pressured or has had anglers fish it a short period of time before yourself.