The Small Stream II

by Fly Fisherman

As we leave the dirt road, heading downstream, there is a discernible path of sorts winding along the banks of the brook on each side. You’ll note that the twisting track is much like that made by cattle, following the line of least resistance. There will be worn patches, off the path, at stream’s edge where a fair sized pool is easy to reach but the path will completely circle areas of tough going like “hard to get over” deadfalls or rocks or solid barricade thickets of streamside brush.

You’ll also note that there are no worn patches near the water where the overgrowth makes it work to fish or where the chances of possibly losing the hook on snags or river weed is great. Too many fishermen have the optimistic attitude, in fishing the little waters, that up ahead a ways it probably is easier to work so they’ll pass up some of the finest opportunities, scrambling along the beaten trail until tired, semi-discouraged and impatient. In that frame of mind they’ll never add to their exhaustion by toting a creel weighted with trout.

The first thing we must do, and believe me it’s very important, is to lay aside any thoughts that arise that the stream we’re fishing is probably fished out or that there are none but little fellers to take our bait or our fly. Believe as strongly as you can that each place you choose to drift or sink your lure is holding a good one and that he’s hungry as usual. If he doesn’t take, blame yourself and be a mite more careful on the next hole. Be alert every minute as well as completely confident.

We aren’t going to float our worm out or dap our fly without first carefully looking the water over to find the best spot in which to do it. We’ll fish the usually fished pools, sure, but we’ll also fish those tough locations that the other nine didn’t fish. And we’re going to stay out of sight and we’re going to tread lightly, lightly, lightly. You must have observed or heard of incidents where two fishermen worked a little stream and one caught one or two seven-inchers and the other had a phenomenal day. You can be assured that the second fisherman was not seen or heard or felt until it was too late and that could very well have been the reason for the difference in results.

The first angler was unlucky, the second created his own luck, if one believes in that superstition.
There on your side is a good looking pocket. You can’t see it but the water swirls under the bank and it looks dark and deep. The alders are as thick as cultivated bushes in a nursery but if you pull your lure right to the tip-top of your rod you can ease it through. Now let it down gently and release all the line that you can. Ah, see? I was sure you’d connect. A nice one too. He’s only about nine inches but brook trout are big for their size, and isn’t he beautiful? They can spout off about goldens, sunapee or piute trout but give me a brookie every time. Try the same hole again, his brother is probably waiting for his chance and maybe his grand-dad is lying in there, too.

I’ve a good looking little pool right ahead of me. If I can just dangle my fly over this bush without showing myself. What’d I tell you? Did you see that flash? No, he didn’t touch it . . .. probably wrong color or something. I’ll try a different one. I’ve got an Adams, an Irresistible, a Black Gnat, a Wick-ham’s Fancy, a Beaverkill and a Black Spider, all in size fourteen.

Incidentally the type of fly or its silhouette isn’t too important here if it’s not too large or too small. I had on a Badger Bivisible, I’ll try the Adams. It has plenty of hackle so it will dap good. See, I touch the water, raise it again, touch the water, let it float a second, up again. If there is a slight wind it works even better as the breeze lifts, flutters and drops it back, making it act like an insect trying to take off and having difficulty.

Another little ruse with the dry fly is to crawl up quietly about your rod’s length from the bank and dap the fly on the edge so it will tumble naturally into the water. On bright days this trick can be dynamite. If the pocket you are trying to reach is under a bush or an overhanging log, and the area won’t permit even a limited horizontal back cast you might “sling-shot” it in. Grasp the hook tightly with your left hand and spring the rod tip to give you a bow-like tension, aim and let it go.

Just for the fun of it I’m going to try a small, slender wet fly, one that vaguely resembles a “fry” type minnow. This could be a ten or twelve wet Gordon Quill, Ginger Quill, Chappie, Mickey Finn, Cahill Quill, Whirling Blue Dun, Professor, Alexandria, a sparse natural Bucktail or Squirrel Tail pattern. I might even use a regular streamer as long as it isn’t too large. A size eight, ten or twelve would be about right and almost any steamer pattern may be effective. One of the surest ways to work a wet pattern is to get it as deep as possible with the rod tip close to the water’s surface then work it back with a jiggling retrieve or pull and drop back recovering line gradually as the lure is worked toward the tip.

The taking trout pretty generally hooks itself. So 1 caught a couple on the Whirling Blue Dun, not large but nice pan size. Anyway they were put back to grow some more.
We’re coming up on a different kind of terrain. Here the brush growth is so thick that fishing from the bank is out of the question. We notice too that some parts of the stream are almost dammed up with the jumbled deadfalls and leaning cedars that look nigh impassable. We also note that the path veers completely away from the stream and heads directly for the open pasture that lies a couple hundred yards ahead. Many anglers realize right here that they are just a bit worn out so they take the passage to the clearing where the fishing will be of a more civilized nature and easier. (They think!)

We’re after some brookies and we turn our longing eyes away from the tempting sunny expanse we can spot through the trees and gingerly mince our way into the chill water. Quieter now because we’re completely exposed and we’re going to have to work our lure farther out ahead and as best we can close up. This is ideal water for worms, wet flies, spinners and flat-fish type light lures that work in the current. The flow here pours over submerged logs and sucks under another not quite so low in the water. My fly follows this water draft and disappears from sight. Then the delicious, surging tug tells me that this isn’t the normal pan size, this is a real trout, maybe a specimen to mount. There’s no tossing him upward—in fact he has the rod tip almost between the two logs and he’s insisting on more line which I grudgingly release through my fingers. For a full minute or two he’s the boss, then the throbbing tow eases and I get back my line inch by inch. I have no net, I cannot beach him so that means I stay where I am and tire him completely. He surfaces, then savagely bores down again. The next time up he rolls weakly and allows my fingers to get a grip on his gills. He’s mine. Not a trophy in size, as he felt when he hit, but a beautiful fourteen-incher. Brilliant scarlet dots circled in sky blue. Pink, white and yellow dots fixed in round gray fields, the whole set in an iridescent olive, shading into orange and white on his belly, into sharply defined vermiculate, curly-que markings, almost black in tone, on his broad back. The lower fins of scarlet-orange contrasting with white frontal borders. Him I keep!

I examine the leader for frayed spots and the hook gets a lick or two from the sharpening stone. I’m ready again and my next interesting spot is where the water glides over a partially submerged stump and circles about, flecked with foam, before it takes off again. The fly sinks through the foam and starts to circle with the water. The trip around was never completed. This brookie was mean, confused and very excited. There was never a let up for rest. When he quit sashaying about the area he was all through and easy to creel, almost the mate to the other.

I had my imposed limit of two in my basket so now the rest was for fun. I noticed shortly that I was standing on coarse gravel and the brook spread out just below me into a quieter silt bottomed pool of a sort. What a place for a try with the nymph flies so I acted on the impulse. I put on a fraud mayfly nymph almost black in color, dropped it into the water at my feet and let it drift out into the pool. I guessed right this time. Action was immediate. After I released him, and he was all of ten inches long, I changed to a straw colored creeper. No action. I bent on a brown toned Vic Cramer nymph. No action. I tried an orange bodied grouse fly and took a small one. A yellow bodied grouse was good for a couple. I tried a rock worm fly. No action. I replaced with the dark mayfly nymph and took another before I moved on.

The stream coursing through the pasture or meadow was quiet—almost still in spots. The footing where we stand was muskeg spongy. This meant that every footfall would be
radioed far ahead of us. If we used bait or spinners we would crawl as close as possible to the stream, right smack on our belly, reach out to the water with the rod and try to let the
lure out to travel yards below. If we wanted to work the water close up we’d wait several minutes before we let the lure touch. Give the trout time to get over their scare.

I’m going to try dry flies so I’ll be back some yards from the bank. I’ll also be low enough so that my view of the stream will be only that open area between the sedge banks —I won’t see much water. I’ll necessarily have to false cast to get my fly located right . . . . this is good . . . . looks like bugs flying around. A slight twitch on the rod tip just before the fly alights may give me enough loose leader so that, I hope, I’ll get a few inches of drag-free float. This would be an ideal situation in which to use spider flies. Besides being an effective bit to offer, no matter how presented, there will be less harm if there is a bit of drag or if the fly submerges. If my casting procedure doesn’t work I’ll do a crawl, too, up within a few feet of the water and dap my floaters just like I did back in the woods.

Ah, here’s an old bridge . . . . probably used by the farmer to and from the fields or by cows, horses and sheep who dislike getting wet feet. The brook narrows and swirls as it leaps under the crumbling, rotting log beam. You can just know for sure that there are trout a plenty under there, particularly if it’s during the heat of the day. Did you see that grasshopper hit the water just as it slid into that bridge shadow. I’ll bet my tackle he’ll never see daylight again.

The return to the road, fishing upstream, was a bit more difficult in the handling of our lures, but we knew the holes now, after a fashion. With the flow heading towards us we had to keep our line picked up. When the lure halted we set the hook. Usually it was a rock or moss or a twig but we had to be sure. Being just as careful and of course being less visible to the current-headed trout and we found the little brook even more productive than the first enjoyable coverage downstream. That is exactly what the man said would be the case.

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