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Small Stream Fishing | How To

“Small Stream Fishing | How To” is an educational video presented by Tom Rosenbauer, a renowned Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing. In this comprehensive guide, Rosenbauer focuses on techniques and tips for successful fly fishing in small streams, sharing his love for this method and emphasizing its effectiveness in trout fishing. The video covers various topics, including specific fly patterns, casting techniques, and strategies employed in small stream fishing. It also provides valuable insights on how to approach small stream fishing effectively, making it a must-watch for fly fishing enthusiasts seeking to improve their skills and experience the beauty of small stream fishing for trout.

The video is part of the Orvis guide to fly fishing and is available on various platforms, catering to anglers who are passionate about this activity. It offers tips for finding and exploring small trout streams, including seeking local knowledge and using terrain maps for blue lining. Additionally, the video discusses different types of small streams and their characteristics for fishing, such as rocky steep gradient streams and spring creeks. Tackle recommendations, fly patterns, and various fishing techniques are also shared, providing viewers with a comprehensive understanding of how to effectively fish in small streams. With its focus on enhancing skills and offering a more peaceful and authentic fly fishing experience, “Small Stream Fishing | How To” is a valuable resource for anglers looking to explore the beauty of small stream fly fishing.

Small Stream Fishing

Small Stream Fishing | How To

Introduction to Small Stream Fishing

Small stream fishing is a popular and rewarding form of fly fishing that offers anglers the opportunity to fish in secluded and serene environments with minimal human activity. Many fly fishing enthusiasts are drawn to small streams for the peaceful experience and the chance to catch numerous trout in a day. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the advantages of small stream fishing, the different types of small streams, tackle recommendations, fly selection, fishing techniques, approaches for working the stream, tips for catching trout, and the challenges that anglers may encounter. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced angler, this article will provide valuable insights and instructions to help you improve your skills and enjoy the beauty of small stream fishing for trout.

Advantages of Small Stream Fishing

Small stream fishing offers several advantages that make it a popular choice among fly fishing enthusiasts. One of the main advantages is the secluded and serene environments that small streams provide. Unlike larger rivers or crowded fishing spots, small streams offer anglers the chance to escape from the noise and distractions of everyday life and immerse themselves in nature. The lack of human activity in these remote locations creates a peaceful and tranquil fishing experience, allowing anglers to reconnect with nature and enjoy the solitude.

Another advantage of small stream fishing is the opportunity for authentic fly fishing. Small streams often require anglers to use specialized techniques and tackle, such as roll casting and short, accurate casts, which can enhance the challenge and excitement of fly fishing. The small size of the streams also means that anglers are more likely to encounter wild and native trout, providing a more authentic and rewarding fishing experience.

Different Types of Small Streams

Small streams come in various types, each with its own unique characteristics and fishing opportunities. The three main types of small streams are rocky steep gradient streams, spring creeks, and meadow streams.

Rocky steep gradient streams are characterized by their tumbling water and rocky bottoms. These streams typically have rapid currents and plunge pools, providing ideal habitat for trout. The open banks of rocky steep gradient streams make it easier for anglers to approach the fish and cast their lines. These streams are often found in mountainous regions and offer excellent opportunities for dry fly fishing.

Spring creeks are low-gradient streams that are fed by underground springs. These streams have crystal-clear water and abundant aquatic vegetation, making them ideal habitats for trout. The fish in spring creeks are often more selective and easily spooked, requiring anglers to use smaller flies, finer leaders, and more delicate presentations. Fishing in spring creeks can be challenging but highly rewarding for those who enjoy the technical aspects of fly fishing.

Meadow streams are characterized by their gentle currents and meandering flow. These streams flow through open meadows, providing ample feeding opportunities for trout. Meadow streams often require anglers to adapt their fly selection and technique to match the preferences of the trout. The fish in meadow streams can be quite picky and may require anglers to use smaller nymphs or make fly pattern changes to entice a bite.

Understanding the different types of small streams and their unique characteristics for fishing is crucial for anglers to maximize their success on the water. By tailoring their approach to each type of stream, anglers can increase their chances of catching trout and have a more enjoyable fishing experience.

Tackle Recommendations for Small Stream Fishing

Choosing the right tackle is essential for successful small stream fishing. While many anglers may assume that a short and tiny rod is required for small streams, longer rods between 8 and 9 feet in length are often more suitable. A longer rod allows anglers to hold more line off the water, which is beneficial for making accurate casts and maintaining control over the fly.

In addition to rod length, anglers should consider the flex action of the rod or overlining. Flex action rods provide better performance on small streams by allowing for more delicate presentations and better control over the fly. Overlining the rod can also enhance the performance, especially when casting in tight spaces or dealing with strong currents.

Other tackle considerations for small stream fishing include choosing the appropriate weight of the fly line, selecting a reel with a smooth drag system, and using leaders and tippet of appropriate strength and length. Lightweight fly lines, such as those in the 3 to 5 weight range, are generally suitable for small stream fishing. A reel with a smooth drag system is important for playing and landing trout, as small streams often have fast currents that can quickly tire out fish. Lastly, leaders and tippet should be matched to the size of the flies being used and the size of the trout in the stream.

By selecting the right tackle, anglers can optimize their casting accuracy, control over the fly, and overall fishing experience on small streams.

Small Stream Fishing | How To

Fly Selection for Small Stream Fishing

Choosing the right flies is crucial for enticing trout in small streams. The two main types of flies used in small stream fishing are dry flies and nymphs.

Dry flies are designed to float on the surface of the water and imitate insects that trout feed on. When fishing small streams, dry flies in sizes 10 to 14 are generally recommended. These sizes closely match the insects typically found in small streams and are more likely to attract the attention of trout. Popular dry fly patterns for small stream fishing include Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, and Royal Wulff.

Nymphs, on the other hand, are designed to imitate insects in their aquatic stage. These flies are usually fished below the surface and are commonly used when trout are not actively feeding on the surface. Recommended nymph sizes for small streams are similar to those of dry flies, ranging from 10 to 14. Bead head nymphs, such as Pheasant Tail and Hare’s Ear, are particularly effective for fishing in deeper pools where trout are more likely to be found.

Having a selection of dry flies and nymphs in different sizes and patterns is essential for matching the insects present in the stream and increasing the chances of enticing trout to bite. Anglers should also pay attention to the specific insects hatching in the stream and select fly patterns accordingly.

Techniques for Fishing Small Streams

Small stream fishing requires anglers to employ specific techniques to maximize their chances of catching trout. Two popular techniques for fishing small streams are dry-dropper fishing and dry fly fishing.

Dry-dropper fishing is a common technique used in small stream fishing, especially when trout are actively feeding on the surface. This technique involves attaching a buoyant dry fly to the leader and trailing a weighted nymph or emerger pattern below it. The dry fly serves as an indicator, while the nymph imitates the insects that trout are feeding on underwater. This combination allows anglers to effectively cover both the surface and subsurface of the water column and increase their chances of enticing trout.

Dry fly fishing, on the other hand, involves presenting a dry fly on the surface of the water to imitate an insect hatching or floating on the surface. This technique is most effective when trout are actively feeding on the surface and can lead to exciting visual takes. To successfully dry fly fish in small streams, anglers should focus on making accurate and delicate presentations, keeping the fly line and leader off the water to avoid drag, and closely observing the stream for rises or other signs of feeding trout.

Other techniques for fishing small streams include casting techniques, fishing upstream, and swinging wet flies. Casts in small streams are often short and accurate, requiring anglers to adapt their casting stroke and utilize roll casts to avoid obstacles. Fishing upstream is recommended to avoid spooking trout and allows for a more natural presentation of the fly. Swinging wet flies downstream is not suitable for narrow streams but can be effective with dry flies or small streamers.

By utilizing these techniques, anglers can effectively cover different areas of the stream, imitate the insects that trout are feeding on, and increase their chances of catching fish.

Approaching Fish and Working the Stream

Approaching fish and working the stream skillfully is crucial for success in small stream fishing. Two important aspects of approaching fish in small streams are roll casting and stealth.

Roll casting is a casting technique that allows anglers to make accurate and delicate presentations in small streams, especially when there is limited space for backcasting. By utilizing a roll cast, anglers can deliver the fly accurately to the desired target area without the need for a backcast. Roll casting is particularly useful in small streams with dense vegetation or steep gradients, where backcasting may be challenging or impossible.

Stealth is essential when approaching fish in small streams, as trout are easily spooked by quick movements and vibrations in the water. Anglers should be mindful of their movements, avoid disturbing the water unnecessarily, and minimize any splashing or noise when wading. By moving slowly and staying in the shade or using the background for camouflage, anglers can increase their chances of getting closer to trout without alerting them to their presence.

Working the stream effectively involves systematically covering different areas and identifying where trout are likely to be holding. Anglers should focus on fishing likely holding spots, such as deep pools, undercut banks, and bends in the stream. It is also important to be observant and look for rising trout, feeding behavior, or any signs of fish activity. By being attentive to these details and adjusting their approach accordingly, anglers can optimize their chances of catching trout in small streams.

Tips for Catching Trout in Small Streams

Catching trout in small streams can be both challenging and rewarding. Here are some tips to increase your chances of success:

  1. Use standard nymphs in shallower places where trout are likely to be feeding near the surface. In deeper pools, consider using bead head nymphs to get your fly deeper in the water column.
  2. Adapt to different stream conditions. If trout in meadow streams are pickier, try using smaller nymphs or changing your fly pattern to match the preferences of the fish.
  3. Casting in tight brushy streams can be challenging, but employing the “DAP” technique (Dart, Adjust, Present) or using a bow and arrow cast can improve your casting accuracy and reach.
  4. Minimize trout spooking by moving slowly and quietly. Trout in small streams are easily startled, so it is important to keep a low profile, minimize casting, and use low angle false casts to avoid being noticed.
  5. Don’t spend too much time in each pocket or pool. Trout in small streams are often eager to take the fly, so if you are not getting any bites, keep moving to find more productive spots.
  6. When fishing a new stream, move quickly between spots and focus on the best holding areas where trout are most likely to be. Always be on the lookout for features such as undercut banks, deep pools, and bends in the stream.

Remember, if you are not catching fish, the issue is usually not the fly. Keep experimenting with your approach, adjust your techniques, and continue exploring different spots in the stream. Small stream fishing requires patience, persistence, and adaptability, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Challenges of Small Stream Fishing

While small stream fishing offers many rewards, it also presents various challenges for anglers. One of the main challenges is the limited space for casting. Dense vegetation, overgrown banks, and narrow streams can make it difficult to execute proper casting techniques and present the fly accurately. This challenge requires anglers to practice roll casting, utilize bow and arrow cast, and develop precise casting skills to avoid obstacles and cover the desired fishing areas effectively.

Another challenge is tackling the intricacies of reading the water in small streams. Unlike larger rivers, where primary currents and structure are more apparent, small streams require anglers to pay closer attention to subtle changes in current speed, depth, and structure. Identifying likely holding areas, such as deep pools and undercut banks, can be challenging but is crucial for targeting trout effectively.

Additionally, small streams often have skittish trout that are easily spooked by noise, vibrations, and disturbances in the water. Anglers must exercise caution and practice stealth when approaching fish, minimizing any unnecessary splashes or disturbances. The small size of the streams also means that trout can quickly detect the presence of anglers, making it essential to move slowly and stay hidden from their line of sight.

Despite these challenges, small stream fishing offers a unique and rewarding experience for anglers. By embracing the challenges, practicing the necessary techniques, and developing an understanding of the stream and its inhabitants, anglers can overcome these obstacles and maximize their success on the water.


Small stream fishing provides anglers with a peaceful and authentic fly fishing experience in secluded and serene environments. The advantages of small stream fishing include the opportunity to fish in tranquil settings, minimal human activity, and the chance to catch numerous trout in a day. Understanding the different types of small streams, selecting the right tackle and flies, employing effective fishing techniques, approaching fish and working the stream skillfully, and overcoming the challenges are key to a successful small stream fishing experience. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this comprehensive guide, anglers can improve their skills, increase their chances of catching trout, and fully enjoy the beauty of small stream fishing. So grab your gear, explore the hidden gems of small streams, and immerse yourself in the serenity of nature for an unforgettable fly fishing adventure.

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