This time of year can be trying for anglers everywhere, the Midwest and Northeast have been getting quite a bit of rain recently and many larger trout streams are getting too high for comfort. When this happens in my area I start looking at small mountain streams that will remain lower even during large storms because they drain quickly. Small streams don’t necessarily mean small fish either, during hot summer months I often find larger trout have moved up these smaller streams to get out of larger, warmer waters. This makes June-July two of my favorite months to head high into the hills in search of wild and native trout in small streams. So we thought we’d share our small stream essentials so you can try your hand at it as well!
A Short & Lightweight Rod
When you are navigating a small stream looking for trout, the last thing on your mind should be the length of your rod. Most of these streams and creeks will probably have some level of brush and low branches overhead, so having a compact rod is a massive advantage, allowing you to make accurate casts in tight spaces. We like to use a 7 ft 3 WT rod to really keep things interesting and compact, while also protecting any size tippet you have on your rod. Not to mention the fight with a feisty wild trout on a short 3 WT is just hard to beat!
5x Leader and Tippet
Small stream, mountain trout tend to be less spooky than their larger water compadres mainly due to the fact that they get less angling pressure throughout the year. This means you can typically use 5x as a standard leader and tippet class when you hit these small waters. Typically I just throw a few 9 ft 5x leaders and a spool of 5x and 6x tippet in my waders and head to the water. I keep the 6x handy just in case I am presented with a challenging fish or a long flat section where presentation can be the make-or-break point when casting to risers.
Pre-Tie Your Dry Dropper Rigs
Using a dry dropper rig in small streams is hands down the best way to cover the most water and present your flie to as many trout as possible. While most small stream mountain trout will smash any dry with reckless abandon, its always a good idea to have a little nymph treat dangling just below your dry for any warier fish to eat. Before I head down to the stream (sometimes the night before, even) I will sit down and tie up a handful of dry-dropper rigs to save me time on the water. Really all you are looking for in these combos is a bigger, high-floating dry fly (like a stimulator or hopper) and a small, lightly weighted nymph. As for the depth of your dropper, I recommend playing around with it on the water until you find the right depth for the stretch of water you are fishing, start deep and trim until your nymph is ticking bottom without getting snagged on the bottom.
Lots of Floatant
Floatant is often the most important piece of gear in my small stream pack aside from your rod and flies. At least for us, its not a good mountain trout fishing day unless you are smacking a bunch of little trout around on dries, so your flies are going to get wet and want to sink. Having good floatant in your pack will help you extend the floating life of those flies and help suspend your dropper fly for longer. This is one piece of gear you won’t want to leave at home.
These pliers have come along with us on pretty much every trout adventure since we introduced them last year. The compact design makes them easy to strap to whatever pack or belt you’re rocking and their small sized jaws make them perfect for getting flies out of fish while minimizing the amount of time that fish needs to be out of the water which is especially important when you are handling smaller, younger trout. Not to mention the fly patch on the holster is an easy place to stash wet or used flies until you need to tie them on again!
Dan Zazworsky’s passion is sharing his love of fly fishing with anyone that will listen, read or watch. You can find him exploring new waters every day while chasing any fish that will eat a fly!