Look More and Fish Less on Small Streams

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Look more and fish less on small streams to increase your catches. Photo: Louis Cahill

When I’m not in my drift boat on the river I’m wading fishing on small streams.

Most large rivers don’t provide much sight-fishing opportunities for the fly angler unless they have low enough flows, clear enough water or plenty of rising fish. On the contrary, almost all small streams offer great sight-fishing opportunities for fly fisherman. Fly fishing small streams over the years, I’ve learned that if I take the time to look over a spot thoroughly before I fish it, I usually have much more success. Spending just a couple minutes studying a section of water allows me to break it down into pieces, figure out where the most likely trout lies are and I often will even spot a fish or two in the process. Blind casting will catch fish, but if you’re abel to locate a trout before you begin fishing, you’ll know exactly where to position and present your fly on the first cast to give you the best shot at catching it. And that means, your chances of lining or spooking fish will drop considerably, you’ll usually be able to see if your flies are drifting in the right line or even see if the fish your fishing to likes or dislikes your fly pattern. This strategy isn’t for everyone but it works very well for me and I hope it helps some of you out there find more success.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Look More and Fish Less on Small Streams

  1. Exactly, don’t shoot til you see the whites of their eyes. A technical, methodical approach beats blindly flogging the water any day.

  2. I need to print this out and put it with my gear. I really have to force myself to step back and look over the water I’m fishing. Too often, I just want to get at it.

    Great advice.

  3. Amen… Its so hard for me to slowdown when I’ve got such limited time on the water with work and family responsibilities always getting the higher pecking order……BUT taking time to look definitely allows one to make the most of their limited time !!!!

    I actually need to tape a message to the top of my fly rod… Something like, ” Slow Down Jackass… You’re missing Fish”

  4. Great advice Kent, and something I need to constantly remind myself to do on our small streams here in Cape Town South Africa… we are blessed with some amazing crystal clear freestone waters here that really lend themselves to a slow and methodical approach… our streams are very forgiving on some days, with happy free rising fish, but you’ll still catch far more foist, and likely better fish with a slow approach, and more time spent watching the water than flogging it..

    Another piece of advice which I always seem to hand out to new anglers I take out onto the streams, but never seem to adhere to myself and always end up having to remind myself is not to try “wade and fish” at the same time… especially on these little streams… wade and get into position, then fish… and finish fishing that position before trying to move and cast at the same time…. invariably you’ll misstep at just the wrong time and either spook a run, or miss an eat….

    Another added bonus of forcing yourself to slow down, and watch, is that you suddenly start seeing and appreciating your surroundings just that little bit more… and that can’t be a bad thing…

  5. Kent,

    These are really words to live by. I think my nature is to slow down and look, but on a very small mountain stream this year I decided to just sit and watch. It started out with me seeing one little brookie rising and then darting back to his sheltered spot in the rocks, then one more and then another brookie drifted out and started to take some very tiny bugs off the surface.

    After about 15 minutes, I was watching more than a dozen brookies in this little pool. What a great lesson! I saw how they snatched a bug in every way you can imagine – off the bottom, mid column, just under the surface film, and rocketing up from the bottom.

    I tied on the smallest midge pattern I had in my box and very carefully targeted one nice healthy brookie. He took my fly on the first drift, ran all over the pool, and when I released him went back to the same spot he held since I started watching.

    This was such a great experience that to this day I can still feel the sense of calm I had sitting and just watching.

    Thank you for the article – it really does speak to me.


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