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Fishing small wild trout runs

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2012/2/29 9:32
From SE and NE Pa
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Looking for some advice here. Yesterday tried to fish the Tobyhanna in the game lands and water was really high. After an hour with no success I decided to try my hand at Kistler Run for some wild brookies. I haven't fished for wild brookies since the seventies and that was with a can of worms and a spinning rig. Anyway I spent 90% of my time untangling and breaking off perfectly good flies and leaders and retying. I was also skipping a lot of good water that was simply too tight to even try. How do you guys usually fish these small runs through the forrest. I was trying to fish upstream initially and gave up after losing a dozen flies. When I decided to change tactics and fish downstream, wading right in the run, just using wets and nymphs and just drifting down with the current about 10 ft. or so and retreaving and repeating in another lane, I started to have some fun. Actually caught my first wild trout, and 8 inch beauty on a fly. Only one of the day though. But it whet my appetite. Decided I've got to do more of this and learn how to do this properly. Thanks for your input.

Posted on: 2013/6/12 8:27


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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It sounds to me as if you're on the right track. Focus on the places that give you the best chance of catching fish.

On small streams, that's bound to mean skipping a lot of water, including some places that probably hold nice fish. Log jams are often a problem, for instance- even if I think I can manage to get a take instead of a tangle, unless I think I can land the fish, I don't bother.

I usually bypass shallow, fast runs on small streams. Unlike mid-sized and larger streams, the food supply is seldom rich enough for fish to want to feed there, and the flow tends to be faster due to steeper gradient.

Pocket water is different- if there are boulders that provide deeper holes, refuge from the current, and cover, there can be fish there. But they're spookier than they would be in a larger, deeper stream, and it's tough to fish right up on them.

The best places are the pools. Try to fish the tail first. Carefully. The first cast is the most important one. Be crafty, like you're making a bank shot in a game of pool. Plot it out. (Easier said than done. I need to work on that part.)

Practice bow & arrow casting technique. Find a target- something like a putting green, if you can.

Figure out how to crouch out of sight, and cast without waving your rod over the water in view of the trout. Upstream, down, across, who cares? Most of the time I'm just flipping the leader over, with about 4' of line out. Whatever gets the fly over the fish. The most important thing is to not spook them.

Casts over 20 ft. (including leader) are typically a ticket to disaster on a little brook. Dry-dropper rigs are often not worth the trouble, either. They tend to tangle on the flip. If you want to use them, keep the distance between the dry and the dropper fairly short.

Since it's often not possible to situate yourself to get a fly to your targets in a pool without scaring the fish first, give the pool a rest after you move into position. A long rest, like enough time to fix yourself a snack and eat it. Bring along some wrist grip exercisers or something. Meditate. Watch the wildlife. Whatever gives you the strength of patience.

Sometimes you'll get to a nice pool where there's just no way to get your fly to the fish without scaring them off. These days, I just shrug and pass it by. I've learned my lesson on that.

Take for granted that once you hook and fight a fish in a small pool, it's over. Move on. In a big plunge pool, you might get one from the tail and one near the head. That's about it.

I just picked up a copy of Fly Fishing Small Streams by John Gierach. He gets it right. So does Tom Rosenbauer, in The Orvis Guide to Fishing Small Streams.


Posted on: 2013/6/12 12:48


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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2011/5/3 12:22
From South Lebanon Township, PA
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Your experience is all part of small stream fishing, and the tangles, losing flies, and getting stuck in the brush will be present to some degree no matter how much you improve at it.

Make sure you’re using the right gear…if you’re talking really small, really tight streams (like Kistler) then you probably want a rod 7’6 or shorter. On some larger Brookie streams you can probably get away with a more all around (8’0-9’0) Trout rod, but for the really tight, brushy streams a short rod helps a lot for the compromised kind of casting situations you’re in most of the time. No matter what rod you’re using, the roll cast is your friend…keep everything in front of you unless you know you have ample room to make the back cast. You don’t need a long leader for Brookies…they’re not leader, tippet, or drag shy. If you can get into position to get a fly to them without spooking them, they’ll eat it.

Definitely try to fish upstream, and stay out of the water as much as possible. Use rocks/boulders and trees to hide your profile when casting, and stay low when approaching a good looking spot. If the water is higher and/or off color, you can be a little more care free in your approach, but in flat, clear water they spook very easily and at quite a distance.

One thing that makes small stream fishing easier IMO is to look for the steeper streams. You can often fish these upstream by fishing a pool, and then standing in it while you fish the next one upstream…the natural gradient of the stream hides you and keeps you from spooking the fish. Steeper streams generally have a taller canopy and aren’t as overgrown as lower gradient streams…the exception being ones that are entombed in rhodo of course. Kistler is pretty flat by Brookie/small stream stream standards…if you know about Kistler though, you’re looking in the right places to find some of these steeper streams.

Posted on: 2013/6/12 12:56


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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Think "Miniature Golf."

Posted on: 2013/6/12 13:05


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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Tangles and snagging brush is normal. Losing flies isn't. If you snag a tree, wade out and get it! Sure, you spook the hole, but there's another just upstream. I often fish a full day without losing a fly, except maybe if it unravels after catching a bunch of fish. But I rarely go more than 5 or 10 minutes without hooking something I wasn't intending to hook.

If you fish a small stream for a full day, you should cover miles. Even on the holes you don't think you screwed up, you should give them no more than a few casts before moving on. If a brookie hasn't hit by then, he's already spooked.

There's no question that casting in such places takes skill. And of course, some streams are easier than others. And practice is the only way to get it. Some think that this kind of fishing is easy because the fish are aggressive, dumb, and numerous. That's all true, but it presents it's own challenges for sure. It's just hard in a different sort of way.

1. I echo Swattie's comments on equipment. Especially leaders. Using a properly constructed 5 or 6 foot leader is a HUGE advantage over using 9 foot leaders designed for bigger places.

2. Not all places let you do this all the time, but generally, your casting and backcasting lane is the stream itself.

2. Learn to cast sidearm. Learn to roll cast, or "snap" cast with no backcast. Learn to water haul. Learn the bow and arrow cast. Don't be afraid to invent new casts!

As an example, if you cast sidearm, your backcast will go no higher than your rod tip. So with that branch behind you, kneel in the water, look back, set up your cast so that your rod tip stays below the branch. Your line and fly will also stay below that branch!

3. Stay low.

4. Probably should be #1. Find someone experienced at this type of fishing and go with them. You'll learn a TON. Then, go on your own, as you'll be more likely to experiment and work on that stuff on your own.

Posted on: 2013/6/12 13:26


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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2012/2/29 9:32
From SE and NE Pa
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Thanks, lot of good info here. Sounds to me like my main problem was a 9 ft rod and a 9 ft. leader!. Didn't even think about shortening up the leader. I do have an old 6'6 fiberglass rod that I started out on years ago. Will have to dig it out of the mothballs. I was also obsessted with trying to stay as far away from good looking spots as possible and casting to them. Probably should take more of a still hunting approach to get as close as possible. Low and slow. Thanks again.

Posted on: 2013/6/12 14:19


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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Quote:
I was also obsessted with trying to stay as far away from good looking spots as possible and casting to them.


Low and slow, yeah, that's good. But the above should remain true. It is still about distance. But as far as possible doesn't mean FARTHER than possible.

I've always said this, and I do think that it's true. Wild trout in such places may seem more skittish. And when getting spooked, they dart away instead of sulking in place. But the "spooking distance" is not wildly different. If they spook at say, 15 feet, then they do so on Penns Creek or "Tiny unnamed tributary to ____". It's just that on Penns, 15 feet feels like you are right on top of them. On that little stream, sometimes 15 feet might as well be a mile.

So stay as far as you can, but not farther. Don't be discouraged when you spook a hole because the situation dictated that you had to get too close, just move on to the next hole. There will always be a few holes where you can keep a great enough distance. You'll catch fish there even as a beginner. Cover more water, and you'll find more of those holes. As time wears on, and you get better, you can fish from another foot or two away, which means that more holes become accessible to you. Nobody is capable of fishing ALL of them effectively. The difference between "expert" and "beginner" is being able to fish 50% of fishy places vs. 5% of fishy places.

And if you're pushing yourself, you never stop hooking crap you don't want to hook. You just do so trying to make more difficult casts, and get quicker at getting back in the game after the screw up.

Posted on: 2013/6/12 14:37


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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2013/3/28 20:10
From Stroudsburg (Poconos)
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Fishing Kistler Run with a 9' rod! Not an easy task. The only thing that I can add is that I've had luck fishing wooly buggers downstream on Kistler especially when the flow is a little higher as it is now. With fishing a WB downstream, you really don't have to cast much. You simply let the WB float down with the current, angle your rod to a prime position, and strip the WB back. Brookies love it. Good luck and enjoy that mountain laurel!

Posted on: 2013/6/12 16:29


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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Quote:
Using a properly constructed 5 or 6 foot leader is a HUGE advantage over using 9 foot leaders designed for bigger places.


Absolutely. Something I figured out the hard way.

For small streams, you want a leader length that always stays outside of the tip-top with some line to spare, and has a stiff enough butt section and a steep enough taper to turn over a bushy fly like a #12 Stimulator on a roll cast. That almost always means less than 7'.

For a slack line presentation to work on most small stream targets, the slack should all be in the tippet section. As for the rest of the leader and line, the more that stays off of the water, the better.

The idea is that you want the tippet section to collapse in a heap, while everything above the tippet keeps a relatively straight connection to the rod tip. Otherwise, everything tends to get more and more out of control.

You probably already know what happens when your excess line and leader get tugged into a fast current while your fly is floating on the water. It defeats the entire enterprise. Especially when dealing with some of the waterfalls. You know, the ones with the dead branches wedged in them.

In the streams where I fish, the brookies are definitely drag-shy, or at least totally unimpressed by it. And around half the time, a 2' drag-free drift is about the best anyone can hope for. So it's all about pile casting the tippet, while keeping enough line control to take up that tippet slack and hook the fish when it hits.

The main exception to the rule is summer conditions, when the water is low and clear and you're using small flies like #18 beetles. Then, you may benefit from a longer leader. Put it all in the tippet section. Low clear water means that the current is much slower, which means that the upper 2/3 of your leader won't get jerked around as much. But any leader diameter heavier than 4X will slam down like a rope on the low clear water of a flat pool. a couple of extra feet of 6X is more like it.


Posted on: 2013/6/12 17:31

Edited by barbless on 2013/6/12 17:46:36


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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There are many small streams that are not thick with brush, so the casting is much easier. Fish one of those streams instead, and you'll find it much more enjoyable.


Posted on: 2013/6/12 17:32


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs
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Troutbert is a wimp.

Fish where you want, just be much more observant of your surroundings, especially with regard to your backcast.

Avoid casting shadows on a stretch and move slowly. Drab clothing helps. As pcray said, get as close as you can. In high or stained water-- that means closer than normal.

The trout will tell you where they are and what they want and you will hear them louder and clearer as you enter the Zen of it. Amen.

Posted on: 2013/6/12 18:53
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Peace, Tony


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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2012/2/29 9:32
From SE and NE Pa
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By the way, anyone have any particular short leader, tight water recipies that work particularly well for them. Just looking for a starting point. Will most definitely tweek as i do more of this.

Posted on: 2013/6/13 8:27


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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On a small stream nothing , NOTHING gets me more tangled up and higher up in the hemlocks than a missed strike , i've climbed trees to keep from losing lines not just flies.......love every minute of it.

Posted on: 2013/6/13 8:34


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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From Pretty much everywhere at some point, Thorndale today.
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Barbless has very much correct. The one small exception I'd take is the piling up the tippet part. While I do it, and it works, it only gains you a little. Brookies won't stand for a fly dragging way across the surface making a wake, but they're not too picky about micro-drag. Lip currents give you the former type, quickly, and a piled leader only helps for an extra second or so.

Positioning, and use of anchors, plays a more major role in my game. What I mean by that is that, in a small stream, it's very common that you stand in a riffle and fish the pool above, i.e. you'll be faced with lip currents repeatedly. But usually, there's a bend in the stream, or at least rocks sticking out of the water in that tailout. On the cast, lay your fly line over the bank, or one of those rocks. It gives you an anchor point so that the heavier currents aren't pulling your line down the riffle, inducing severe drag.

In the absence of a proper anchor, you have to get above the riffle to fish that hole effectively, or from the side, and keep line out of the faster water.

As for leaders, I use Joe Humphrey's tight brush formula, as seen in the book "Trout Tactics". But honestly, I think you could get away with something as simple as breaking it into thirds.

1st third - Thick and stiff
2nd third - medium and stiff
last third - tippet. 4xish and reasonably supple.

If you want a little smoother turnover, taper that mid section some (split it into 2 or 3 sections). But on a short leader, that'll get the job done, and having a third of it being butt and a third being tippet remains appropriate. The bulk of the tapering part should be the middle 3rd.

I wholeheartedly concur about keeping the total leader length SHORTER than the rod. Not so much about fishability, as frustration. You throw two casts, reel in and move, throw two casts, etc You don't want to have to get that knot through every time, as screwing around with the rod tip, or even a bunch of false casts to work out line, is a recipe for frustration and spooked fish. So hook the fly to your hook keeper or guide, however you're gonna walk. Look up, make sure there's fly line beyond the tip top. If you have a 7' rod, that likely means a leader no longer than 6'.

Posted on: 2013/6/13 13:58


Re: Fishing small wild trout runs

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How it is. The part about the line-leader connection staying outside the tip-top is critical. We all know what happens once the leader knot gets inside the tip-top- the whole mess slips down the guides, all the way to the fly. You'll never get off a cast like that.

You want enough line hanging out of the tip-top to flip a sidearm cast or drop the fly on the water and roll-cast just like that, without needing to false-cast. And a rod sensitive enough to 'load off the tip', with only about a foot or two of fly line out.

The part about 'anchor casting' is a great tip- something I'll have to start doing. I've always been reluctant to do that- obviously, it's bound to beat up a fly line eventually. But for finding ways to get a drift through lip currents at the tail of a pool, it sounds like a great tactic.

Those lip currents are the single best place to find good fish in Shenandoah brookie creeks. Especially fish looking up, waiting to hit a floating fly. A lip current before it gets to top speed over the edge, toward the deeper end, with a rock, undercut, or overhanging brush nearby? There's a brook trout there, if you don't scare it first.

Posted on: 2013/6/14 12:13



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