Small stream recon, or: This is how I do it

Having not gone fishing for weeks, I sought the cure for my ills in a small stream outing this past Wednesday. I was going to visit an old favorite, but instead I decided check out a new section of stream that I’d never fished before. So, armed with my camera and pack and rod and cigar, I had at it. While the fishing was great, the catching was non-existent. So thought you might be interested in how I approached some of the water.

Let’s start here. Why was the fishing so poor? It could have been any or all of these: a cold front approaching; far cooler temperatures than the previous week; trout not yet spread out in the system; complete lack of hatch activity or visible feeding; low, clear, spooky water; or just nobody home. (Sometimes when I ‘m fishing new water for the first time, I’ll stand up and make dramatic movements in an attempt to spook fish I might have missed. In two hours, I rousted only one 3″ char.)

Exhibit A: the long flat pool. This brook had earth banks, so it was essential to walk very slowly and softly near the water. Always assume that stealth is critical. Also, stay out of the water! I began on my knees along the bank in the upper left side of the photo, drifting my flies (dry/nymph dropper, almost never a bad idea for searching) through the wrinkled water to the right of the rock with the large flat face. Looks can be deceiving; the water depth to the right of the rock was over a foot, plenty deep for char to hide out. Having blanked there, I crawled up behind the large rock and had at the main current seam. Still, nothing. Note the cut banks on the left side of the photo; I pounded those and was stunned that I got no love. Perhaps next time. I purposefully fished this pool from an upstream position, as I didn’t want to spook any fish with a fly line landing on the water. Presenting downstream means that any fish will always see your fly first.
Exhibit B: the small, wrinkled plunge. This pool is immediately below the previous pool, and I had high hopes for it. To start, many times in low, clear flows, fish will be far more willing to show themselves in moving, wrinkled water, and especially whitewater. (Insert “You Lose” game show buzzer sound here.) Once again, not a touch. I didn’t fish from this position, which could easily spook any wary char; rather, I fished it from just above, again on my knees and using only bow casts to deliver the flies. Late April sounds about right for a return, or perhaps before if we get a good rainfall and the river is up and lightly stained. One thing’s for sure: it’s a very pretty stream.

7 comments on “Small stream recon, or: This is how I do it

  1. Bob Matuzak says:

    All extremely good suggestions on small stream trouting. And when I go to a new streaming if I’m not catching anything I will wade right into the holes and in and around just to see what I can disturb.

    • Steve Culton says:

      I’ll do that too (wading into the holes), but not from October through March so as to not crush any eggs or newly hatched brooks. Sometimes redds become more difficult to spot as the months pass by. Thanks for reading, Bob!

  2. David Bennett says:

    For those who forget or for those still in a learning mode an extremely instructive and educational post. The photos enhanced the experience. Thank you.

  3. wildbeauty says:

    Fishing in new stream always make me excited.

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