Fly Fishing Gear For Small Streams

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By Jason Tucker

Fly gear is fly gear- until you find yourself on a tiny creek full of brook trout or cutthroat rising to tricos and all you have is a nine-foot five-weight and 4x tippet. 

What works on the big rivers may not be so well suited to small-stream fishing. They make zero weight rods for a reason. And the rig you choose can make or break your day on a small stream. You can use that five-weight, but you may not be able to fish so well in tight quarters.

Rods. I have indeed cast a zero weight Orvis rod, but that is not typically what you want on a small stream. You want something in between. You want something short, light and strong. I’ll leave it up to you to find the perfect combination but take a hard look at fiberglass. Rods can take a beating in tight quarters. Glass is almost impossible to break, it is very forgiving on light tippet, and it roll casts like a dream, a must on small streams. Blanks in the five to seven-foot range work nicely. One of my go-to small stream rods is a seven-foot, six-inch Eagle Claw 5/6 weight. I haven’t found a lighter one yet, but even small fish put a nice bend in it. It takes a beating riding around my vehicle without a case, and If I break it, it’s thirty bucks to replace, yet it casts very nicely. There are, of course, many fine and more expensive glass rods out there, and they are often works of art and a dream to cast, so knock yourself out.

Graphite is still an option, but look for one of the softer actions and shorter blanks that are coming out these days. For many small streams a rod in the six to seven foot range is ideal. As far as line weight, three and four weight rods work nicely; five weight will often feel heavy and spook fish, and a two-weight rod may not have the power to keep bigger fish out of the brush. Use your judgement. It’s just fishing.

Reels. Don’t overthink them, and definitely don’t overspend. You typically won’t need your drag, and if you’re smart you’ll land most of your fish by stripping in line rather than reeling your line in. Any serviceable click and pawl model will get it done. Dig up Granddads old Pflueger and you’re all set. Most of the major manufacturers offer a basic trout reel for a modest price.

Lines. Any good weight-forward floating line that matches your rod will do. A double-taper that offers a gentler presentation is nice too. The less disturbance you make on the water, the better, so go as light as you can while still being able to stop fish. Just know that that five-weight line often hits small-stream water with a thud that spooks fish in such tight quarters.

I have taken to using a light and short sink-tip line for streamer fishing small streams. It can be tricky to use, but it does help to get your streamer down to the fish. You don’t have to use a sink-tip on most small streams especially if you are using weighted streamers, and the heavier splash of a landing sink tip can be detrimental to the fishing. In some situations, and with weightless streamers, a sink-tip can get the fly down those few inches that make a difference. It’s a matter of knowing the stream and using your best judgement. Carrying a spare spool or reel with a sink-tip is a good idea so that you’re not married to it.

Leader and Tippet. I use 9 foot, 5X tapered leaders,  or 4X and tie on 5X tippet. You won’t want a long leader on most small streams. For fishing skunks or muddler minnows I’ll use a

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Sunday Classic / Swinging Streamers for Trout in Deep Water

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Most streamer fisherman out there would agree that pounding the river banks with a streamer will catch trout just about anywhere.
If you’re willing to put in the time and hard work, eventually you’ll be rewarded with a big fish. During high water flows on rivers where habitat is insufficient out in the main river, many trout will relocate to the banks where they can use the irregular banks and it’s abundant cover to shelter themselves out of the excessive current. There next move, once they’ve gotten to the banks, is to find prime ambush spots where they can easily pick off prey moving by. This is why casting to the bank and ripping streamers back to the boat is so effective. You’re repeatedly putting your streamer right in the kitchen where good numbers of fish will be holding and regularly feeding.

The majority of the time, this scenario works great, but what do you do when you find yourself in areas where the water is super deep and the fish are sitting on the bottom? These places make it extremely difficult for anglers to keep their streamers down deep in the strike zone while using the pounding the bank technique. Even with a full sinking fly line the cards are stacked against you. Don’t get me wrong, it can still work at times, especially if you cast upstream of your target water, throw couple of big mends, and give your streamer time to sink before you begin your retrieve. Unfortunately, in many situations, you won’t always have the time or the room to pull this technique off, and that should have you searching for an alternative fishing method that’s better suited for fishing your streamers in these deep water locations.

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Saturday Shoutout / Who’s on the Bench?

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Pardon my digression, but today is all about guitars.

I’m not going to make a habit of this but today I’m going to share something both personal and off topic. Some of you may already know that I’m into guitars. I started playing about ten years ago after a table saw accident and a major reconstruction of my left thumb. My insurance wouldn’t pay for physical therapy and two years after the surgery I still couldn’t twist the cap off a soda bottle. I bought a guitar for $5 at a yard sale, just to exercise my thumb and it worked. My thumb recuperated but it has cost way more than physical therapy in the long run.

Anyway, about a year ago I started building guitars. I’ve wanted to do it my whole life and with the help of YouTube I just jumped in. My first guitar turned out pretty good. My second was nice enough that I thought I should buy a case for it, so I took it to the guitar shop and left with an order for a custom job. I decided that if I was going to sell guitars, I should get some proper education, so I went to luthier school.

I knew exactly where I wanted to go. I learned almost everything I know from watching Ben Crowe, of Crimson Guitars, on YouTube. Crimson has a school in Dorset, England and the classes are pretty reasonable so I signed up. I’m just back from the class and I learned a ton and made a pretty cool guitar. If you know Crimson Guitars, you know they have a robust YouTube channel and even week Ben does a video called “What’s on the Bench.” He always stops by the school and talks to the students, so I got to be in two episodes. If you are interested, check out the two videos below. If you are into guitars, check out the other videos from Crimson Guitars. They are by far the best on YouTube.

If you just want to see my bits (Mom) I show up at XXXX in the first video and XXXX in the second.

If you’d like to see the progress shots and some of my other guitars check out @thetelecasterdiaries on Instagram. Final finish is going on now and I’ll have finished photos up soon.

Thanks for indulging me, and enjoy “What’s on the Bench.”

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The Single-Hand Snap T Cast: Video

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Here’s a powerful spey cast you can make with your single-hand fly rod.

The snap T is a familiar cast to any two-hand angler. It’s one of the essential spey casts, but its not just for the long rod. In fact, once you start using this cast with your single-hand rods, you’ll be shocked how often you use it.

The beautiful thing about the snap T is that it requires virtually no room for a backcast and is remarkably powerful. It will have you fishing water you’d never reach with a roll cast.


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Don’t get ripped off!

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By Louis Cahill

The only thing worse than paying too much for your fly fishing gear is having it stolen.

I woke up this morning to a pile of glass by my truck. One of the worst things about living in a big city is the constant presence of crime. Car break-ins are common and, in the scheme of all the horrible stuff that can happen to you, really just an inconvenience. Don’t waste your time telling me that I need to move to Montana. Believe me, I already know but my wife has the best job of her life and is very happy, so we are here for a while, and while we are, we will have to deal with this kind of thing.

You would think that with the ever-present threat of robbery, I would have better sense than to leave thousands of dollars worth of fly fishing rods and reels, and various photo gear in my truck. You’d be wrong. There were at least a dozen fly rods, half a dozen reels and some photo gear in the truck last night when I, and everyone else on the street, got hit. Hear’s the part you might not expect. It’s all still there.

I leave that stuff in my truck for a reason. It’s the safest place I have, because I have a Truckvault.

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How To Get New Fly Line For $5, Or Pretty Close

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Think you need a new fly Line? Spend $5 First.

I was out fishing with my buddy Scott the other day. He broke off his rig while I was on the oars so I handed him my five weight to fish. Scott took one cast and asked,

“What fly line is this? I’ve got to get one!”

What Scott didn’t know was that I had fished that same line just two days earlier and it had been miserable. The line stuck to the water and the guides. It felt like you could barely pull it through the guides, let alone shoot it. It was filthy.

“It’s a RIO Gold,” I told him. “But what you like about it is that I dressed it last night.”

It’s such a simple thing to clean and dress a line, but so many anglers don’t do it. At least not regularly enough. I’m guilty too but at least I know how to fix the problem. And now, so do you. Before you spend $90 on a new fly line try this out. I’ll bet it solves a lot of your problems.


Start by cleaning the line. Putting line dressing on a dirty line just makes a slurry. It’s best to clean your line often and so I keep it simple. I use finger wipes. The kind you get at BBQ joints. Individually packaged, alcohol towelettes. I bought a case of 1000 of them for $7 years ago. I keep them in my boat bag so I can clean my line any time. It takes seconds.

Mucilin-Silicone-Green-1Once the line is clean

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Tenkara and the Sasaki Kebari

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By Mark Roberts

I’d like to share just a little my insight about the Sasaki Kebari as I have learned to use it in Tenkara.

I have been a Single Hand Spey, and Switch fly fisherman for many years and added Tenkara about five years ago for what it has to teach me to become a better fisherman. Simplicity. Learning to do more with what I have, to fish different conditions. The very first time I used my new Tenkara rod and Sasaki Kebari was on a lake. A buddy of mine and I fished the entire shoreline of that lake with our single hand rods and traditional flies and got nothing. I took out my brand new Tenkara and put on my first Sasaki Kebari I tied and caught my first trout in one minute. Caught five more in the next hour.

The Sasaki Kebari can be used as a surface dry fly, as a subsurface wet fly, or as a nymph. The mechanics are that as either a surface or subsurface fly, it is important to have a rod with a sensitive and quite flexible tip. My rod is a larger 13 1/2’ stiffer Tenkara USA Amago, and I use it a lot fishing on the Deschutes River here in Oregon for Redsides. Even with its size and stiff backbone, the Amago has a very sensitive tip.

Typically, just tapping your index finger on the rods handle will immediately transfers that vibration into the fly, as long as you have a line without slack in it. For a surface fly, it looks like a bug fighting for its life, and sending shock waves out into the water quite a distance, which does attract fish.

For a surface fly, the Sasaki Kebari has three benefits, as I see it. Viewed from beneath, it looks like a generic bug with its wings out fluttering fighting for its life. With most Western traditional dry flies, the fisheye view produces just a silhouette of what appears to be a dead bug. 

While fishing the Sasaki Kebari subsurface, it helps to act like a mini sea anchor in the current to create a line without slack, making it easier to feel in your hand and see in the rod tip if a fish is mouthing, or taking, the fly. The same index finger tapping will make the Sasaki Kebari look alive and pulsating in clear water. In colored water it can be sending out shock waves to attract fish from a distance. In a drift in colored water, it can feel much more like live food to a mouthing fish.

There are numerous different Tenkara style flies that were used in Japan in different regions of the country. Sasaki Kebari style is

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First look at the Ibera Wetlands

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By Louis Cahill

Every now and then I have to remind myself that a redfish tail isn’t going to pop up along the edge of the grass.

The scene looks familiar but what lurks below the surface is a bit more sinister. The Ibera Wetlands, in northern Argentina, may look like the Lowcountry marsh of South Carolina but that’s the end of any similarity. The eight-thousand square mile, freshwater marsh is like a vast, grassy inland sea. It filters immeasurable gallons of rainwater headed for the Parana river system and supports a remarkably diverse array of wildlife including prehistoric tapers, capybara, caiman and countless exotic birds. Deep in the marsh live native people so isolated they do not even speak Spanish, and while everything that meets your eye appears like some lost paradise, below the surface of the water things are very different. There in the weed and grass below the water is the most ruthless food chain I have ever witnessed.

We are there to fish for dorado, the king of freshwater sport fish. They are a vicious apex predator and seriously challenging on a fly rod, but they are only one of a cast of toothy players in this place. I honestly can’t remember the names of most of the species I’ve caught. The first morning, eight casts brought in eight different species, including one that looked like a musky and a neon tetra had a baby. There are piranha everywhere. Growing up in the sixties, television led me to believe two thing were going to be a constant threat in life, quicksand and piranha. I’ve still yet to have a life threatening run in with quicksand but, in this place, piranha live up to my childhood expectations. I wasn’t eaten alive, but I lost countless flies. Some spots you just have to fire up the motor and move on.

Moving on is, in it’s self an interesting proposition in the wetlands. The abundance of vegetation gives the impression that there is a lot of land. There isn’t, just huge rafts of floating vegetation. What look like islands move with the flow of the water. If you open a channel through them, it will quickly close. While making navigation tricky, the narrow slips through the vegetation make for some very cool fishing. We pole the boat down channels barely four feet wide, casting huge rat patterns into bends and cuts ahead of the boat. When a strike comes, it’s heart stopping.

Dorado fishing is never easy. No matter where you do it, or how, it will test you. You will certainly have some great fishing days in the wetlands

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Sunday Classic / What makes a fly reel worth the money?

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“Louis, I’m looking for the right four-wt reel. I am of a mind to shop the low end for reels since I don’t catch large fish that need to be fought on the reel. Is there any reason to not just buy a cheapie and get on with the fishing? How much difference does the reel make anyway? I think of it as line storage and little else.”

It always makes me a little crazy to hear that ‘line storage’ remark. I don’t know who started it, buy they did a disservice to a great many anglers. Hearing it from Brian made me especially nuts. Brian, you see, is a man with a very specific skill set.

You may not be aware that there is a subculture among us who are devotees of an ancient art form, so ubiquitous that most of us take it completely for granted. These folks, craftsmen and collectors alike, obsess over the minutiae of this endeavor to the point of needing serious therapy. I am not even kidding. Brian Boggs is a chair maker.

Boggs Rocker
Boggs Rocker
I realize that means very little to most folks, but to the initiated its a title like Captain or Reverend. And Brian Boggs is not just any chair maker. Since the death of Sam Maloof, in 2009, many people consider Brian the greatest living chair maker. He makes chairs for which the owner is measured to one sixteenth of an inch before construction. They are so comfortable it makes you want to weep. He also designs exquisite, and outrageously expensive, hand tools for companies like Lie-Nielson. The man is brilliant, uncompromising and wildly obsessive. My answer to his question was simple.

“Yes Brian, a fly reel is line storage. In the same way that a chair is ass storage.”

After convincing Brian he should take his reel purchase more seriously, I decided to share what we discussed here. Fly reels are expensive and the design features that separate great reels from not-so-great reels are not always readily apparent. Especially if you are shopping online, as we do more and more. The reel is, however, a very important part of your set up, even when you think you’re not using it. It’s an important choice that is worth spending some of your time, and money.

Before I get into the features of fly reels and why they matter I’d like to make a point about value. Lots of anglers

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Saturday Shoutout / Urban Assault 

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Urban fly fishing, is it cool?

I live in the city, and I confess I do this. I fish some pretty sketchy water. Places you might want to throw your fly line away after fishing and places were I carry bear spray, and not for bears. I’ve found some surprisingly nice fish.

I’m not giving up my spots but I’ll sure out these dudes in Minneapolis. It’s crazy the species they find in the heart of town. Makes me want to catch a bus.


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