It is easy to chase the big waters. I am guilty of it myself. I want the “epic” fishing. The super hatch on a famous river. My fly rod doubled over with a monster brown on and days of casting to rising rainbows, netting one after another.
I have had those days, and it is a beautiful thing. But I have also had days on streams that most people have never heard of that held their own great fishing. Quiet days alone with my thoughts and days spent laughing with old friends I wish I saw more often now. These days are also etched into my memory. They are just as beautiful.
Water flows from the mountains to the ocean and touches everything in between. As varied as the waters we fish are the people that fish them, and why. For me, part of the in between is a freestone mountain creek or meandering meadow stream. Here’s why.
Seven Reasons to Wet a Line in Small Streams.
- The Fishing is Good. Often the fishing is just as good if not better on some of the smaller streams in the area and catching many smaller fish can sometimes be more fun than catching fewer big fish or none at all. It all depends on what you are after, but good fishing is still good fishing. Also, do not assume that just because it is a small stream that there will only be small fish. There could be some very nice trout that are likely to have a good fight in them, and even a real pig from time to time if you are lucky.
- Kids Love It. If the fishing is good, more hook ups can keep it exciting for small children with shorter attention spans. My son is every bit as excited about catching the small guys as the large ones, and don’t forget a small fish seems big in their little hands. It can also be easier to maneuver and safely wade a small stream with kids. If the fish are not biting, this can make exploring the river more manageable and fun.
- The Water is High. If the river is high from spring run off or water being released from the dam, it may be time to get into some of the smaller streams that are less affected. Mountain creeks will usually have less runoff built up the higher you go. Streams that flow into the river will be unaffected by water released from dams on tailwater fisheries. READ: WADEOUTTHERE | Don’t Let High Stream Flows Ruin Your Next Fly Fishing Trip. Part 1 of 2: Planning.
- It Gets You Hiking. If you already enjoy hiking or backpacking, bringing your fly rod into the mountains can be a wonderful experience. You can fish the streams along the way or follow a river as you go. Mountain lakes and the waters that flow out of them can be great fishing and hold beautiful trout.
- Beat the Crowds. Sometimes you just want to fish alone. When the river is seeing a bit more pressure then you care to deal with, exploring a smaller stream can provide the solitude you are looking for. You might make some tradeoffs, but if you need the peace and quiet, a smaller less popular stream is an excellent option.
- It’s All You Got. When I lived in Las Vegas, the Provo River in Utah was a five and a half hour drive and probably the closest thing to a proper fly fishing river. I made that trip a few times, but it was always an overnight. I quickly learned that if I wanted to fish closer to home, I was going to have to get creative. I found two trout streams in Southwest Utah that I had never heard of before. Mammoth Creek and the Sevier River. Both about the width of a one lane road in most places, they became my go to spots and helped me reconnect with fly fishing. READ: WADEOUTTHERE | Look Through, and Fish the Flash. I had one of the best days dry fly fishing of my life on the Sevier River fishing Elk Hair Caddis and pulling 16 and 17 inch browns out of every piece of slack water I found.
- To Learn. The fly fishing skill sets that will serve you well on a small stream almost always translate well to bigger rivers. A natural drift. Casting in tight spots. Nailing the hook set. Selecting flies. Sometimes the close quarters of a small stream can require even more precision. I fully believe that I am a better fly fisherman because of the time I have spent fishing small streams.
It does not have to be big water and big fish to be special. Chasing trout on smaller waters can be a change of pace or an end unto itself. Whether you are starting out in fly fishing or you have been at it all your life, fishing a small stream with a fly rod is a safe bet for a good time wading through the waters that keep us coming back. Wadeoutthere.