March 30, 2014

The Joy and Frustration of Small Streams; March 2014

I've written about my love for small streams before, but I need to refine my statement in that they are more of a "love-hate" relationship than a pure love one. Here is my tell of frustration and wo.

We all have are small streams. But I'm guessing that my small streams are different than yours or the next guys/gals. I suspect this is so, just as Idaho is different than Colorado, Iowa, Arkansas, North Carolina or New York, let alone Spain, France, the UK, or Germany! But what I'm really beginning the appreciate is that even in Idaho every small different.

Let me give you an example. Most of the small streams I have fished are true mountain streams. They are higher gradient and vary from 2-3 feet across to about 10-12 feet. Mostly all of them have a fair amount of riparian vegetation which makes casting, directing the float of the fly and fighting the fish challenging. I'm sure that this is like your streams too. But lately I've been fishing a creek that runs right through the middle of my small town. It is surrounded completely, its entire length, by private land and so before this spring I've never fished it. But recently I've gained access to it by one of the land owners and boy, am I being schooled! This stream or creek is killing me!

Sorry about the hat.


When I first fished it I wasn't sure what to expect. Did it have fish in it? If so, what size and type were they? Would they cooperate and be "fly friendly", or would I get skunked. What fly would they prefer? And on and on....  But what I learned on that first trip was Yes, 6-12 inches, Trout, Yes, and beadheads.




Trying to be optimistic, I took my camera along. I've shown you a little portion of the creek already in one of my previous posts. Well, I've been back twice now and those fish, and that creek has kicked my butt. I thought that I had been frustrated before on some small water, but this creek has really taken the cake, so to speak.





The main thing I've learned is that for me on this creek, a short line (like 7 feet) and a stiffer rod works best. What I mean is that there are a lot of snags both above and below the water line. Also, these fish only, and I mean only, hold under the overlying snags. Casting has to be very precise. You have to have a tight loop and good line speed. If not, you're not going to hit the target, you'll spoil the approach and lose your fly. Then, even if you do hit the target your fly only drifts a foot or two before you have to pick it up again or risk a snag.

Underwater branches cover the fish holding lie




For this stream I need a rod that has enough "immediate onset" backbone to be able to pull fish away from snags since as soon as they are hooked they dart in among them. What I mean by "immediate onset" is a rod that not only has some power to handle the fish, but has a stiffer lower section so that when I pull the fish comes with me, not the rod bending to the fish. I've used the Nissin Pro Spec 2-way 7:3 successfully on this water before, but it is just a little soft for this type of work. I used the Daiwa Soyokaze 31SR and it does have the power, but it doesn't load well with a 7 foot #3 line. The Suntech Suikei 39 and the Gamakatsu MultiFlex Suimu both seem to work the best; at least on this water. They load quickly at their 3.0-3.2 meter lengths and have plenty of backbone to steer the fish out of the snags.




 A particular problem I'm having is setting the hook. In many spots I can't cast normally, so I have to bow and arrow cast. That's perfect in tight places but when the fish takes the fly I can't set the hook, due to all the branches. If I raise the rod rapidly I hit branches. This makes me concerned about damaging the rod. Therefore, for many of these fish, I just slowly raise the rod and tighten the line. This hooks the fish but does not set the hook. With barbless hooks the fish is off after just a few jumps. I catch and release always, but I do find some pleasure in bringing the fish to hand.




I know that my situation is not unique, and that many of you face the same challenges on some of the small streams that you fish. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I'm just thinking out loud and talking out my frustrations. I'll be back on this water soon. I'll try something different until I find out what works -- you can bet on it!

Here is a video of two different days on the same water. As you will see, I hook but long line release quite a few fish -- a couple are pretty nice size for this water.














15 comments:

  1. Nice post! Reminds me of some streams back east. Interesting thoughts too about the line length and the characteristics of the rod. Usually shorter fixed-line rods (say 10.5 ft and under) tend more to the sloppy side. But you I think rightly say that a rod with the needed backbone is needed to quickly set the hook and control the fish from getting into snags and certainily the short line helps with that.

    I'm a bit surprised that you may not have even tried fishing the TUSA Rhodo on this stream (I though you had one?). Did you feel that the characteristics of the rod (not stiff enough?) did not fit the situation?

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    1. You are correct regarding the Rhodo. I've used it quite a bit on other small streams, but they have different characteristics than the creek I present here. The Rhodo is softer and does not have the lower rod stiffness to power these fish out of snags. I really like the Rhodo on small freestone creeks where you are fighting is the fish in areas more devoid of underwater snags.

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  2. Good post.En this kind of stream or in deep water, I too find more effective a more powerful rod with a short line.

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    1. Yes, it works well. Thanks, Gerardo.

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  3. In situations alike is where i seriously consider the use of a internal line tenkara rod for
    Its habillity to set the hook by pulling the line.

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    1. I haven't seen a convincing rod or modification for this. I know that there are a few folks in Japan who have modified their rods, but I don't know how well they work.

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    2. I didn't also... Would be nice to have some tenkara company working it out!

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  4. Tom...I fish streams like that here in MA all the time. Two suggestions ...stay out of the water and fish down stream. Solves most of my casting dilemmas... I also carry a pocket size pair of pruning shears on occaision. Sometimes they get used and when you need them, boy, do you need them!

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    1. Steve, I do try to stay out of the water generally but I can't always. I have fished this stream downstream as well but I didn't do as well as fishing upstream. I'll keep working at it though.

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  5. Having fished in small streams since I was a kid I totally share your experience about fishing in such places.
    What I like the most in fishing tight and shallow streams is that it is a challenge that make the angler progress towards very high skill level. You videos are perfect examples of that!

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    1. Thanks, Christophe. Small stream do hone a fishers skills for sure!

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  6. I've become a big fan of small streams over the past year and enjoy your diligent explorations and techniques. Have you tried even shorter rods in the 24 to 27 range? Also the Daiwa Kiyose's seem like a very good match for your needs.
    Keep up the good work.

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    1. Hi Alan, I have a Kiyotaki 24 and a Soyokaze 20, 24, and 27. I haven't used them on this particular creek but I will be using them on another small stream this weekend. This stream is even tighter! The Kiyose would be a great rod for keeping fish out of the snags, as would the Shimano Kozuka. They certainly have the power.

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  7. Many of the streams I fish near my home in Southern California rival your creek here in terms of snag potential, lack of casting room, and hook-setting difficulty. In the past I had always fished these small systems with my Soyokaze 27, and I have to agree with you, it does not cast a light line well. My Rhodo, however, can cast a light line wonderfully, and can zoom to accommodate larger pools or more open stretches of water (they are rare around here!). To augment the power of the rod when needed, or achieve a good hook set in dense cover, I simply choke up on the rod with my right (a couple feet) hand while lowering the butt of the rod with my left as I anticipate a strike or drift my fly through a great looking lie. Once my fly is hit, I set the hook by utilizing my right hand as a fulcrum, often in a direction parallel to the water. I have found that this technique effectively stiffens the rod and dramatically reduces the amount of room needed for a hook set (The distance the rod tip moves is dramatically reduced). Keep in mind that our native and wild trout rarely reach lengths over 14" so I do not anticipate over-loading the rod tip while doing this, I would not recommend this method should you expect to come across larger fish or have a habit of ambitiously setting your hook on snags :)

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  8. Many of the streams I fish near my home in Southern California rival your creek here in terms of snag potential, lack of casting room, and hook-setting difficulty. In the past I had always fished these small systems with my Soyokaze 27, and I have to agree with you, it does not cast a light line well. My Rhodo, however, can cast a light line wonderfully, and can zoom to accommodate larger pools or more open stretches of water (they are rare around here!). To augment the power of the rod when needed, or achieve a good hook set in dense cover, I simply choke up on the rod with my right (a couple feet) hand while lowering the butt of the rod with my left as I anticipate a strike or drift my fly through a great looking lie. Once my fly is hit, I set the hook by utilizing my right hand as a fulcrum, often in a direction parallel to the water. I have found that this technique effectively stiffens the rod and dramatically reduces the amount of room needed for a hook set (The distance the rod tip moves is dramatically reduced). Keep in mind that our native and wild trout rarely reach lengths over 14" so I do not anticipate over-loading the rod tip while doing this, I would not recommend this method should you expect to come across larger fish or have a habit of ambitiously setting your hook on snags :)

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