Here’s a thing, I read, talk, think and dream a lot about small streams. I have been asked many times what I define as a small stream and how I think they should be fished – truth be told I have OCD when it comes to this kind of water – a condition described by the Oxford Dictionary as, “marked by obsessive thoughts and compulsions”.
What prompted me to write this piece was Tom Sutcliffe’s article in the latest edition of The Complete Fly Fisher. I liked his description of a creek – “Lets just say these are not rivers in the true sense of the word, They’re actually more like creeks, and because they are nearer the source of any river, they’re usually in mountain country and so have a lot more gradient and flow. And because of the gradient, there are many sections you’d describe as typical pocket water, or swift glides, here and there small pools, and plenty of mini-waterfalls.” He also said, “ Small stream fly fishing requires a mindset of stealthy approach, an alertness to your environment in general, as well as being patient.” Some of these streams are known by many flyfishers while others are just whispered speculation. In my opinion, pretty much all you will do on a small stream is traditional, the closest form of fly fishing to its origins.
There is a lot to be said for the importance of presentation, casting and even entomology and maybe I will at another time, but there is even more to be said about stealth – an underrated skill. There is no second chance for the clumsy flyfisher in these intimate, diminutive, finely balanced and tightly woven environments, if you don’t slip in unnoticed the jig will be up and the trout will bolt for cover without even checking what they thought they saw out there – in the blink of an eye they will develop lockjaw
I know a few flyfishers who would admit to not being the best casters and as John Geirach once said, “may even mistake a mayfly for a barn owl” , but I’d say that’s pushing it a bit!. However, they have predatory instincts and can sneak up on trout unnoticed, and catch a lot of them. You find most of these guys on streams you could step across – the few I know don’t fit the mold of upscale gentlemen types with top end branded gear and fashionable swag – lets be honest the trout don’t care a continental whatever about what you are wearing or the gear you are using – but they’re good, very good. Even if I’m a little stuck up in the tackle department myself, I admire these flyfishers and their unaffected cut to the bone approach. They have keen powers of observation, are relaxed knowing the trout aren’t going anywhere, creep, use cover, slow down everything they do and can slip into a stream unnoticed and cast small insect imitations on fine tippets at close range, remain focused and asked about false casting, their answer is likely to be, “what’s that?” As an analogy if you have ever watched a heron stalking its prey? – I need to say no more – it might look a bit weird, but no one is watching; start sneaking around, get down on your knees, creep and get with the programme.
You can probably tell by now that I have also been re-reading that wonderful book of Harry Middleton’s, The Earth is Enough growing up in a world of Flyfishing, Trout and Old Men. If you have read it you will get my drift.
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