To me there is nothing more exciting than standing bank side to the crystal clear waters of a spring creek, surrounded by nature and its sights, sounds and smells, casting my line in attempt to catch a fish. This is not only as close to heaven one can get but in my opinion the best place to catch fish. In this article I will give you best tips and tricks to not just catch fish in small streams, but catch big ones! I learned a lot from spending years of trial and error and want to tell you in just a few minutes what I’ve learned. I have used these techniques over and over successfully and believe you can too! The first you need to know about fishing in small streams is what gear to use. Ultra light equipment is a must. Using ultra light gear gives you the advantage of maximum sensitivity to feel the hit (if using submerged flies) and gives you the ability to cast from the smallest of flies up to medium sized flies. Catching big fish using ultra light gear is also a ton of fun and will make you fishing experience that much better.
For ultra light gear, no heavier that a six-pound rod and reel is ideal. I personally prefer my 3 pound set up. For small streams, a weight forward floating line is best. You will also want about a 6ft tapered leader and a 2 to 3ft, 3 to 4 pound tippet. There is no need for a reel that has a heavy drag setting, just one that will hold you line. You might be thinking that this setup is too small to catch sizable fish, but 20+ inch trout are commonly caught with it.
The next tip explains where to find big trout. This information is critical to catch big trout. First off, big trout are big because they are the most cautious, and the smartest. They hide well and they eat well. This being said, the main element needed for big trout holding water are good cover, available food and a moving current. Good cover obviously will keep the fish protected from predators and a moving current will deliver food right to the fishes front door without having to make it vulnerable.
Good places include in front and behind rocks, under cut banks (my favorite) in riffles and in the deep pools that come after riffles called tailouts. These places will almost always be holding trout if they are present. In meadow creeks or spring creeks the biggest fish will always by in deep under cut banks, usually in tailouts. I take back what I said about moving water being a must. It is always a must except under one condition, one of my absolute favorites. Beaver ponds. If you manage to stumble upon beaver ponds then get ready for the big ones. These always provide excellent cover and food especially in the under cut banks.
Now, the matter of what to use in small stream fishing. You can never go wrong with a woolly bugger. There is great debate as to which style works best but in my experiences, almost an variation of green, brown and black work. Don’t be afraid to try other streamer patterns as well. As far as dry flies go, terrestrials always seem to produce. Terrestrials include ants, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, etc. Any insect that has the potential of falling off of stream side vegetation into the water. Spend a little time looking around and see what kind of insects are present near the stream. Attractors which are flies that don’t match any specific insect, they are just attractive almost always work. Just bring along a few different flies in a few different sizes and colors (mostly just variations of light and dark) and try them out. Don’t get overwhelmed from the vast selection available just take a few that I’ve mentioned and try them out. If you try a fly and it isn’t working, simply try something else until you find out what the trout like in that stream. Usually small stream trout aren’t too picky.
The last tip I have for you for now is when to fish in small streams. Usually small stream trout fishing begins to produce near the end of May or depending on where you live, when the rains slow down and the drier days are more prominent. Too much rain will cause the water to raise and become muddy and flooded, creating poor fishing conditions. If it is very hot early on in spring and summer, this will cause a lot of snow melt resulting in the same conditions. Ideal conditions conditions are a moderate volume of water running with just a little bit of color. If it’s too low, the big fish will have traveled down stream into bigger waters. If you live close to a small stream, visit it frequently so you can get a good idea of what the stream is like in what kind of weather conditions. If you don’t live close and you’re worried that your trip will not be productive due to poor water conditions, simply call the nearest forest service or fishing shops to that stream, they should be able to tell you what you need to know.
Fishing in small streams is a great way to escape the stresses of life and spend time with your family in the outdoors, not to mention there is usually little or no competition to worry about. Just you, the fish, and mother nature.