Small stream report and observations

I’ve been focusing on small streams this month, partly to scratch an itch and partly to shoot video content for the new small stream presentation I’m building. Small streams are cool because they’re like any bigger river or ocean: weather changes, water levels (or tides) rise and fall, water clarity and temperatures fluctuate — you never know what you’re going to get until you get there. Here are few photos along with some things I’ve noticed that might help you on your next small stream adventure.

Micro Wigglies work — here’s proof. But I’ve been very disappointed by the generally poor reception the brookies have given them. Micro Wigglies are almost useless in high water, and even in low water need to be stripped to induce a strike. If you’re committed to the dry fly cause, it’s hard to go wrong with a big, bushy dry. What’s “big?” If I’m not necessarily interested in hooking sub-4″ fish, 14 is as small as I’ll go. Of course, you de-barb your hooks, limit photos, and only handle wild fish with wet hands. It goes without saying (but I’ll do it anyway) that you should never lay a fish down on rocks or dry leaves or sand for a photo. This may be self-evident, but the better dry fly days are the ones when the water is lower rather than higher.
Using roll and bow-and-arrow casts helps you avoid annoyances like this. My rule of thumb for awkwardly-placed-by-nature streamside vegetation is: If it’s living, I never remove it. If it’s dead, it must not be visibly supporting life (spider webs, for example) or creating good natural structure/cover for the subsurface residents. So, if it’s a spindly twig that got knocked into the river last wind storm, and it keeps eating your streamer, feel free to toss that sucker.
Dry flies are a hoot on a small stream — make ’em come up! — but the bigger fish are usually taken subsurface. I marvel at how curious these char are about any intruder in their underwater world. You can feel them bumping the fly moments after it hits the water. What is it? Food? Not food? Threat? Don’t mess with those teeth! I

2 comments on “Small stream report and observations

  1. darrelln09 says:

    First and foremost, those are great fish and pics! Secondly, I was surprised to read you don’t go below a size 14 dry fly on small streams. In my experience, the bigger fish will take a tiny fly (18 or 20) just as often as a small fish. It often depends on the size of the naturals present on the water.

    • Steve Culton says:

      Hi Darrell. You’ve misunderstood my comment. I’m not saying that bigger fish won’t take a smaller fly. I’m saying that it’s hard for a smaller fish — I think I referenced 4″ or less — to get its mouth around a larger fly. So if I’m in the game mostly for the joy of watching fish strike a dry, no matter what its size, a larger fly means fewer hookups, and fewer chances to cause damage to these wonderful creatures. I apologize for any confusion. 🙂

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