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Fishing Small Creeks

Published: 8th June 2021 | Author: James Garrettson

Summer is just around the corner, wet wading season is upon us, and the creeks are calling. For many of us, creeks are where we cut our teeth on trout fishing. With an influx of new faces coming to see what fly fishing is all about, creeks will be the genesis of many anglers’ life long fly fishing journeys. So, grab your rod, flies, wet wading pants, cut off jorts (please don’t), and follow along on some tips for getting the most out fishing small creeks.

Why are creeks a great place to start your angling adventure? 

Small creeks are easy to “read”

Creeks are small and more manageable to break down and understand where trout hold and live. Learning to read water and locate fish is a major foundation of fly fishing, so this is a great place to start. An easy way to locate “fishy” water is to think about the word trout. T for trout, T for transitions. What I mean by this is transitions in depth, current speed, structure, light, ect. Small trout in small water will be in the obvious spots, but remember to think about transitions and look for the less obvious holding water.

In front of or below mid stream rocks, little calm pockets in faster moving water, and small depth changes throughout the stream flow are great examples of this. Creeks are great because the deeper pools are very obvious holding water for trout but they will hold in other places too. Learn to fish the spots within the spots and it will greatly help you for the rest of your trout fishing pursuits. 

Finding the spots within spots is critical for fishing small creeks.

In the image above, the red circle represents the most obvious trout holding water. The yellow circles represent the less obvious pieces of holding water. Most of the trout came from the yellow circles during my time fishing this little creek. Even in a small stream like this, trout can be everywhere, you just need to train your eye where to look. 

The Trout in creeks are usually willing participants. 

Trout in small streams are not known for being hard to fool. This is a great place to start for a new angler as you can focus on things like reading water, presenting your fly, and working on casting accuracy in close quarters. My favorite way to fish a small creek is with a single dry fly. You can learn a lot about drag, presentation, and casting accuracy by fishing this way on a small stream. Plus, who doesn’t love seeing a fish come up and eat? 

Some early reconnaissance on a local creek.

Many “advanced” anglers sneer at our gullible little creek friends as being “unworthy of their skills.” May they always cherish that delusion. The willing fish in small streams give new anglers positive feedback and develops fundamental skills that will transfer over to bigger and more technical pieces of water. If it’s your first day skiing, you probably don’t want to start by dropping cliffs in the backcountry. So, if it’s day one on your DIY trout fishing journey you probably want to start somewhere a little more straight forward. 

When fishing small creeks you can find some truly special fish.

You don’t need much to get started. 

For new anglers, the gear list can seem intimidating. Waders, boots, bags, boxes, ect., ect. The beautiful thing with creek fishing is that it can be done with just the bare minimum. Outside of a rod set up and a leader—half a dozen flies can get you fishing. If you wanted a box to hold that half dozen flies, I would suggest  Fulling Mill’s Pocket Box.

Below is a list of 6 of my favorite dries for creek fishing, in no particular order. Remember to use nylon leader and tippet material as fluorocarbon sinks and can impact the presentation of your dry flies. 

Quick Sight Ant

Absolutely one of my favorite flies for fishing small creeks. It floats high and is easy to see. Plus, trout love ants. This has been a staple in my box since I was 14 years old, I’m still fishing it at age 14×2+3

Yellow Humpy

Fulling Mill artificial flies

A small stream fishing classic. The humpy it floats high and is easy to see (are you starting to notice a theme here?). I love the classic hair wings and it just flat out catches fish. 

Parachute Adams

Arguably the greatest dry fly of all time. It has an imitative profile and sits low in the water. Trust me, you don’t want to be lacking these in your box. 

Stimulator 

The stimulator or “Stimi” for short is another staple. It has a stonefly-esque profile and is also incredibly buoyant. An excellent fly to use if you decided to hang a nymph off the back of it for a dry dropper rig. 

Elk Hair Caddis

Leaning heavy on the classics here, but they’re classics because they work. Also, in this selection you have a mayfly profile (Parachute Adams), Stonely profile ( Stimi) and now a caddis profile. I think after size, profile is an important part of selecting a fly. If you’re brand new to fly fishing, mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies represent the holy trinity of bugs that trout eat off the surface. Terrestrial insects, like ants are also covered in this selection as well as vaugaley imitave “attractor” patterns like the yellow humpy.

Holo Humpy

Wildly colored foam attractors can do some serious damage in creeks. Purple can also work wonders. Foam is excellent because it floats high and will also suspend weighted nymphs well for dry droppers just like the stimulator above. I’m a big fan of foam flies because they tend to be very durable and need less floatant applications throughout the day to keep them riding high. Their buoyancy keeps them floating in the quick waters of many of our favorite small streams. 

I hope you enjoy fishing small creeks this summer. Remember to look for those transitions, enjoy time well spent outdoors, and most importantly, have FUN!

To read more from James, check out his other pieces on the blog!

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