Small Stream Fishing by Mike Wallace

You Have What it Takes?  How are your skills when it comes to fly fishing? If you think you’re as cool as a cucumber, can perfectly hit targets, set hooks, match the hatch and have perfected all the other skills that encompass fly fishing, then you’ve reached a place that, if we’re honest with ourselves, few have ever attained. This post is a “throwing down of the gauntlet” fly fishing style.
We all love Grip and Grins with the pigs, slabs, and giants we eagerly target. However, there is a realm in the fly fishing universe that gets little attention. It’s a “Dagobah” planet of high level Jedi fly angling training that Yoda would thrive in and the Luke in all of us would do well to spend some time on. This little arena of our beloved sport actually presents us with an opportunity to test ourselves beyond our capabilities, to leave our comfort zones and to hone our nerves into cold hard fly angling steel. So where is the Jedi training of fly fishing? Cabo sails? Bahamas bone flats? Montana riffles? Gotta be NZ and the giant browns. Nope. It’s in the small high alpine streams that we dare to go…and are left broken, spent, frustrated and….absolutely exhilarated. It’s in these tight little braids and small beaver ponds that we find what we’re truly made of as anglers.
To go here and stalk the eagerly awaiting, smashing your dry brookies seems easy. Let’s face it, they rarely see a fake and it’s widely known they readily take the dry. While this is true, herein lies the paradox. You have to get the dry in front of them, present it well, and set quick as a lightning bolt. Let’s break it down, shall we?
Access to these truly secluded places is usually a journey in itself. The pristine streams and creeks are pristine for a reason. Given the remoteness and “wildness” of the terrain that hosts these waterways, one should be ready to prepare as much or more to gain access as for the fishing itself. Topos, maybe a horseback ride and sometimes overnight gear are required to get to the goods.
Once in the zone it is necessary to get the head right. To rush into a brook or creek is an act of impatient folly and will leave the padawon empty handed and possibly with a broken 2 or 3 wt across the knee, Bo Jackson style. To rush in, even with a touch of hurried excitement will likely lead to one cussing in their own head, maybe even aloud. The conversation is bound to go something like this:
“Oh wow!! Look at that cut bank. I know there’s one, maybe 3 right there. Back cast. @##$%!!! Are you kidding me? Right in the top of that willow!!!”
Dig fly out of willow, re-rig, re-set. “Okay…here we go. Small step forward but looking at water instead of looking at feet. Damn!! Freakin’ hole…didn’t know there were little ruts everywhere!! Trip and fall into hole, rod wiggles violently, fly and tippet tangle in hot mess around tip. Another re-rig.
“Okay, I’m set…ready to cast. Clear of tree, clear of willow, found feeding fish.” Make cast, wind gust, fly lands in willows 5 feet away on other side of bank. “#$#$%^!!!!”. Fish spook, little shadows go everywhere.
Next Spot: “OH man…look at this little run. They’re stacked up in there, must be 15-20 fish! Sweet!. Makes Cast, lands nicely upstream, strip, strip, strip…EAT! Got’em!!”
Now we’re excited, fish are eating…it’s on. Not so fast, grasshopper. While walking to the next spot, your rod tangles in overhanging Spruce branch, lost fly. While looking at fish sipping emergers, you miss the wild rose bush snag you and is now tearing a 4-inch gash in your $80 hoodie…and your forearm. When watching your feet, you should be watching your fly, when watching your fly you should be watching your feet…or your head. When finding a sweet, deep pool, instead of slowing down, you take “one more step”…into a rut, “clunk, splash!!”. A dozen brookies fan out in all directions at the speed of light. That hole is done.
These fish may not be big pig Grip and Grin material but they’re absolutely beautiful. At 4-6” in length, they barley fill your hand. But to consistently get a perfect cast to ‘em, with the right dry, and get ‘em to explode at the end of your tippet is an act of Jedi mastery. One has to brave the high alpine elements, to have the nerve to stare down a feeding fish and wait out a 5-minute gust of wind coming off the peaks. This kind of fishing requires a zen-like understanding of yourself and a deep appreciation for where you are. Your skills as a fly fisher will be tested to the limit. Accurate perfection is necessary to place a fly in a 3- foot wide pool 20 feet away, in absolute silence, surrounded by branches just waiting to grab your #20 dry. Sneaking up on a 4” trout in a small beaver pond that’s glassed off and perfectly still is harder than Tai Chi. One misstep and the vibration sends every fish in that pond scattering. It’s over.
If this sounds like madness it may not be your type of fishing. But if stalking small trout in a Rocky Mountain paradise, testing your angling skills, and taking a journey within Jedi style sounds like fun then you would enjoy our permitted small streams. Ask our shop staff or any guide and they can give you info on where we’ll take you. Small rods, small tippets, small fish and Big Fun await you if you have what it takes. Join us on some of the most beautiful creeks and streams in the High Country.

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