I look down the valley and admire the view. I’m fishing the West Dart on Dartmoor and to me, it is one of the best places in the world to cast a fly. It’s a bold claim I know but it was enough for me to throw in a job and move to Devon so that I could spend more time fishing small streams.

There are many, many miles of river to explore and all of them hold trout. I prefer to walk higher into the moors and fish the rivers like the East and West Dart where you can almost step across them and where the gradient is a little steeper, forming just about perfect pocket water.

Fishing Small Streams

fishing the West Dart

The thing I never tire of is the trout that live in these small streams. They vary from river to river and from pool to pool. Sometimes they will be the colour of tar and then just a few feet away they may look as though they have swum from a chalk stream with butter yellow bellies and bright red spots.

The sheer aggression of them when they are hooked never ceases to amaze me and pound for pound they are some of the hardest fighting trout I have ever been lucky enough to catch.

Fishing Small Streams

Having said that, if size is your motivation when it comes to catching fish then you may feel that six or eight inch fish don’t cut it. But if you want a challenge, a real challenge, of super-spooky fish then this will be exactly the right place for you to cast a fly.

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to see some memorable fish caught whilst fishing small streams. I have caught plenty of fish in the 12 inch range which is considered a good fish on the lowland streams of Devon and guided a guest who caught a 14 1/2 inch fish on a balloon caddis.

Talking of flies, the dry reigns pretty much supreme for me. The water has little by way of fly life and so the trout are not really picky, but what is important is how you fish these streams. Presentation, as in all forms of river fishing, is key but where possible try to stay out of the water on the upper sections and work each pool relatively quickly. A fish will usually take in the first or second cast and if not has probably scooted for cover.

Fishing Small Streams

I just mentioned presentation and am going to contradict myself a little here as one of the aspects I have noticed on many hours of fishing Dartmoor is that drag doesn’t always put a fish off taking the fly, especially at the tails of pools. It is worth trying and you may be surprised by the results.

When fishing small streams, I like to fish 9ft 2wt rod most of the time in Devon and Dartmoor is no exception. It allows me to keep line off of the water and to control the fly in some of the pockets. There are times when I have dapped a fly into a pool with great success.

A Fulling Mill tapered leader of 9ft is perfect and although a lighter tippet of 2lb is preferable I have experimented with higher strengths and have caught fish on 6lb tippet, just to see if it would work.

Fishing Small Streams

We all dream of a cloudless, sunny day when fishing but in reality this isn’t always the case and there are times when the wind will come into play. There are some places that will be easier to fish when the wind gets up but if it does and you’re fishing a great section of stream just try altering your casting a little so that you stop your back cast in a higher position and your forward cast in a lower position so that it can cut under the wind and turn over. The secret is not to try and add more power as it never works.

The weather can change quickly on Dartmoor so be prepared when you pack, let someone know where you are going and when you will be back and be careful where you are walking as there are some boggy areas.

Dartmoor is the sort of place that can really get under your skin and if you visit once I hope it will have the same impact as it did for me the very first time I saw a trout take my fly.

When fishing small streams your flies need not be small, my favourite flies for Dartmoor are as follows:

fishing small streams

If you’re interested on fishing the small streams through Dartmoor, see here.

Blog post written by Pete Tyjas.

Eat Sleep Fish Ezine | Devon School of Fly Fishing

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