Small streams on the brain

Last week I visited three local small streams, partially because I could; partially because the weather didn’t suck; partially because I was curious to see if anyone wanted to play; but mostly because I just plain love small streams.

I began Wednesday afternoon at Stream A. The air temp was just about freezing, and there was still a solid white shelf of ice framing this woodland brook. Didn’t see any bugs, and the action was slow. No love on a bushy dry/nymph dropper, so I switched over to an ICU Sculpin. I was jigging the fly in a plunge pool when I felt some weight. The next thing I saw was an open mouth rising from the depths. And then the char was gone. That was enough to keep me smiling, though.

Remnants from the last ice age. This stuff should pretty much be gone by the middle of this week. However, I’d still expect the water temperatures to be very cold.

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Streams B and C are in more urbanized locations. They’re not for everyone, especially if you desire the unspoiled by humans angling backdrop. So while they lack the classic beauty of the high-gradient mountain brook or lilting meadow stream, they are, nonetheless, charming in a “cool, I hooked a section of heater hose” kind of way. I went Friday, and I thought that with the heavy cloud cover and late afternoon timing, I might get an offer to buy with my white mini bugger sales pitch. Nothing doing. Although I did have a rather tasty cigar.

So much depends 
upon 
 
a brown tree 
trunk
 
glazed with rain
water
 
beside the white 
insulation.

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Small stream father & son outing

Yesterday was a brilliant day for a walk in the woods. No school for Gordo, so we packed up the 6′ Fenwick glass rod, a couple energy bars and some water, and headed northwest. Our hike was about a mile into the woods, and our reward was a gorgeous thin blue line with a fresh influx of groundwater. Even days after the rains, the brook was tea stained and filled with leaves. The fish were hunkered down — all our takes came on tungsten beadhead flies (size 18 2x short Frenchie and ICU Sculpin), none on the dry. We pricked a bunch, and managed two beauties to net, one brown and one brookie.

Gordo dapping a dry/dropper in a boiling plunge pool. No customers here, but a few yards downstream…

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We tag-teamed this jewel of a wild brown. Dad made the cast, Gordo landed him. I want to find a better word than exquisite — how about ornamental?

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Small Stream Color, or: A little something to get us through today’s gray

Snuck out for a couple hours the other day on Ye Olde Brook Trout Emporium. The catching was a bit on the slow side, but the fishing was tremendous. At last! Freedom!  I took them on the dry (size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow) and the wet (size 20 Snipe and Purple) dropper. Water was 56 degrees and medium low. Bugs everywhere: midges, some large dark un-IDed mayfly spinners (mahogany duns?), caddis, and my first confirmed sulphur sightings of 2017.

Sky of blue, sea of green. The canopy is filling in, and the wooded wetlands are in their glory. 

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While I was disappointed in the number of fish that wanted to play, I did see more actively feeding char on this stream — especially in slower, deeper water — than ever before. Those that were coming up for the naturals were also quite willing to inspect my dry, even though it was substantially larger than what was hatching. This fellow pounced when the opportunity presented itself. You can see the beginnings of a kype.

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Ray Bergman, you magnificent bastard, I read your book! This brookie was quietly sipping, forming delicate rise rings in some glassy water. I approached from upstream, made a long cast, and got him on the wet dropper by raising the rod tip and doing a hand-twist retrieve. By far the hardest hit of the day.

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Small stream report: First wild brookies of 2017

The older I get, the more I embrace the philosophy of, “I don’t need to be right.” But boy, did I make a good call about fishing a small stream today.

I thought there would be enough water for the fish to be comfortable in. Yes, there’d be more tomorrow, but with a cold front approaching — and plenty of cloud cover — today would be the better mid-day option. So I visited an old friend from 11am-1:30pm. There are three things I want to tell you about.

Nature finds a way. This particular brook was disastrously low  when I visited it in August (not to fish, just to look). Yet somehow the brookies made it through the stress of a scorching summer that reduced their home to a trickle. Today, I pricked ten, landed six. Jeez, I’d sign up for that in May. In January it comes off as an unimaginable bounty. I’ve never done this well on this stream in winter.

The first salmonid of 2017. I don’t usually handle fish this small, but this gorgeous creature made my heart leap up in my chest. Happy New Year!

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Droppers are the quickest way to find out what the fish want. You may be bored with me saying this, but I will continue to shout it from the rooftops. I started the day with a size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow dry. After 15 minutes of no luck, I added a 2x short size 18 SHBHPT dropper. While most of my fish — particularly in the deeper pools — feasted on the dropper, the dry took the largest char of the day.

One swing and a miss — then on the next cast, the kill shot delivered. 

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Small streams in winter are places of unparalleled tranquility. It rained the entire time I fished. My left boot foot leaked. My fingertips were frozen. Funny thing! I looked at my watch and realized I’d been fishing for two hours. Sure, it helped that the catching was good. But watching the smoke from my Punch Gran Puro Robusto curl into the mist didn’t suck either.

Looks cold. Was cold. And wonderful. 

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How my fingers got so numb. But the Fontinalis fins were worth the price of admission.

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Notes from a small stream

Forget the calendar or the current warm spell — we are already in summer mode. That means low water, very spooky fish, and, I suspect, a large number of residents unwilling to show themselves. The water is still at mid-spring temperatures.

The canopy is full in, and does an exceptional job of keeping things cool.

Pricked close to ten fish, with none landed. All my risers were found in deeper and/or faster water, with an emphasis on “faster.”

Observed three nursery pools — shallow and slow — that held numerous young-of-year brookies. Looks like a strong Class of 2015 if they avoid the birds and survive the summer extremes.

The diversity of bug life never ceases to amaze me: midges, from tiny to size 12; golden stones (about a 16); caddis (size 18); and a few unIDed mayflies (about a 10).

Found a new brook on the way home and lost a pig (for a small stream) on my first cast. He was so twitterpated that he leapt twice after he spit the hook. I’ll see you again, pal, since I know where you live.

Let them be. Ugh. After the mild winter, it’s going to be a disaster season for poison ivy.

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See if you can find Señor Frog. (It’s not that hard.)

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An hour on a small stream

April is always a good time to visit a small stream. You can see how Mother Nature wrecked certain pools and improved others over the winter. And of course, you knock on some doors to see if anyone’s home.

Water was on the low side of medium, cool, and distilled spirits clear. Hatches: big Blue Quills, some smaller BWOs, and a few stray caddis and midges. I saw three fish rising to feed, which is rare for these conditions (mid-day, low water). I didn’t even try to catch them.

I have decided that one hour in the woods on a sunny spring day is an absolute good for the soul.

I cannot think of a jauntier, I-don’t-give-a-damn plant name than skunk cabbage. 

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Pricked four, landed one. Two were small, and one got off when the leader tangled on a submerged branch. This handsome specimen sat still long enough for a portrait.

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Hiking through the hills carrying a stick

I picked a cool, grey day last week to visit a stream in another state nearly three hours from my house. The water appeared to be on the low side of medium, and the brookies were looking up. While the subsurface downstream wet was effective — particularly in deeper pools and runs — the dry was eagerly and wantonly attacked by the local natives. I started off with a size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow, then switched over to a size 14 Ginger Elk Hair Caddis. On the way down, I used a black mini bugger and an ICU Sculpin. The cigar of the day was a Sancho Panza Belicoso. Delicious! Here are a few mementos from my adventure.

Contrary to popular belief, sometimes it is easy being green.

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This was a highly productive set of pools. I am always intrigued by the number of fish that can occupy any given area. Population density here was impressive.

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I often get to the point where I wonder,”how many photos of wild brook trout do I really need to take?” So I’ll try to ruthlessly edit my potential subject material. It needs to be a fish that stands out from the crowd in some way, whether its size, color, spirit, etc. What caught my eye on this particular fish was the clarity of its lateral line.

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More of those “nature finds a way” plants that insist on proving that a boulder is a fine place to work and live.

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The point of release. Playing around here with a slower shutter speed. I like the static distortion of the water near head and tail. Big pectoral fins for a char that size.

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