Sunday’s Classic / Spring Fishing on Tributaries for Wild Trout

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Small fish are just as cool as big fish. Photos By: Louis Cahill

Several of our blog followers on numerous occasions have asked Louis and I if we ever catch small trout? Jokingly, they mention, “All we see are trophy size fish in most of the pictures on the blog”. I assure you all, we catch plenty of small fish, and Louis and I both appreciate and photograph them on the water with the same gratitude and respect. It’s just fair to say, that a large portion of anglers out there are constantly striving to catch a trophy class fish. We tend to use our big fish photos as motivation and assurance that persistence pays off. However, it’s important to note, in most cases, there’s no distinction in our fishing technique. We pretty much fish the same way for all sizes of trout. We approach the fishing spots the same, we make the same casts and presentations, and we fish the same fly patterns. It really just boils down to whether or not it’s a numbers day or a big fish day, and we’re generally happy with either. Location does play a factor though for size of trout, but remember, a trophy fish should be defined by the water it inhabits. A 14-inch trout on a small creek has just as much right to hold the trophy status as a 20-inch fish on a big river.

Spring fishing season will be here before we know it. Water temperatures have already started warming, and we’re starting to see good number of bugs hatching, such as black caddis. The trout are really happy and aggressive, mostly do to their metabolisms rising starting to spike. There’s really no better time of year to fish one of your favorite small stream tributaries with dry flies for wild trout. Pack plenty of attractor patterns, but also make sure your covered with imitations for mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies. This time of year, there’s a good chance you could see appearances from all three family’s on the stream, and sometimes it can be very important you have on the right fly pattern. Especially, if the trout key-in on a specific bug and begin selectively feeding. You usually won’t have to pack lots of nymphs or emergers because most of the time wild trout in the headwaters will be satisfied to take your solo adult patterns floating on the surface. They can however, increase your catch numbers by trailing one of them off the back of your dry fly. So plan your high elevation trout trip now. I can assure you Louis and I will be following right behind you. Water levels will be running high and clear, which is the best time, in my opinion to fly fish on them.

One final tip, bring a GPS handheld along with you if you have one. It can be easy to get turned around high up in the mountains if you lose track of the trail or take a wrong fork in the stream. It’s saved Louis and I multiple times having one along with us. Mark your vehicle as a waypoint before you head out, and have the GPS unit set to live-track mode. This way you’ll always be confident where you are on the stream and how to get back swiftly, in the event someone gets injured or bad weather approaches.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “Sunday’s Classic / Spring Fishing on Tributaries for Wild Trout

  1. Can’t stress enough how much fun it is to get out on a small stream and catch wild fish with the good ol’ fashioned dry fly. They’re without a doubt the most colorful trout, and seem to always be looking up this time of year. It always brings a smile to my face when I pull a fish out of the water that’s covered in vibrant colors, spots and par marks. Some of my favorite attractor dry fly patterns are smaller stimis, purple haze, parachute hares ear, parachute Adams, and of course beetles. What are some of your favs?

  2. Great advice and nice plug for small stream trout. I still recall a 13 inch brown I got on really small tributary to a small stream near here. Surprisingly, the fish was in a shallow riffle where I expected to pick up tiny guys. It was a rare fish in an unusual spot for a fish of that size, which made a very special memory.

  3. Great article, That’s one of my favorite things since I started fishing for trout. I love how all of their colors and patterns are unique and different.

  4. what water temperature you have in mind when speaking about trout in headwaters starting looking up? closer to 50s? Curious, as in our places trout have become much more active with water temps being still closer to 40s. no hatches / surface activity though. just nymphs.

  5. A few years ago I was part of a Trout Unlimited (Leon Chandler Chapter, Ithaca/Cortland NY), NYS DEC and the Tompkins County Soil and Water Conservation District stream renovation project. We were restoring access to a spawning ground on a small tributary of a small stream.

    Historically, the stream was classified as a blue ribbon spawning stream for rainbow trout. Unfortunately, the culvert made passage difficult if not impossible for the fish, and encouraged a level of poaching ease and success I have never seen equaled.

    Prior to the efforts we needed to assess stream health and fish populations so that we had a base-line stream quality point. The survey included both kick netting for insects and electric shocking.

    The shocking yielded a surprising number of fish over the 11 inch mark, and one or two over 14 inches. I would never have guessed that there would be any fish over 10 inches in the 100-150 yards of sampled stream. Let alone a bruiser of 16 inches.

    This seems to be true on most small streams. Those fish are smart, hard to find, and even harder to catch. But they are very, very, fun.

    Three years ago my friend and I were fishing small rods and small flies on a local tiny, wild, spring fed creek. Something took his fly, and gave him the fight of his life. Eventually, I netted a 19 inch brown trout – our largest fish (ever) on this stream – for him. His smile in the photos says it all.

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