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Rocky Mountain Small-Stream Fishing, with Timbre Pringle

Description: My guest this week is Timbre Pringle of Faceless Fly Fishing [46:26] and the topic is small stream fly fishing, particularly in the Rocky Mountains. Timbre has some great tips on fishing dries, dry dropper combos, and streamers in small streams, and the differences between the different species of trout in small streams. She also gives some great tips on avoiding encounters with bears, something that can be an issue when certain areas of the Rockies once you get away from the road.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi, and welcome to "The Orvis Fly-Fishing Podcast." This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer. And my guest today is Timbre Pringle of Faceless Fly Fishing. And the topic is fishing small streams in the Western United States.
And Timbre talks about tackle and flies and ways to find your own small streams. And also something that you need to be aware of when you fish small streams in the Rocky Mountains, and it's grizzly bears and cougars, for that matter. So I know that sometimes fear of encountering a large, dangerous animal keeps people from fishing small streams, and Timbre talks about some ways of being bear aware. So hope you enjoy that if you're planning on fishing small streams in the Rocky Mountains this summer.
But first, let's do the Fly Box. And if you have a question for the Fly Box, you can send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can make comments, suggestions, complaints, criticisms, or just ask me a question, which is what most people do. Just type your question in the body of your email or attach a voice file if you want and I'll try to answer it.
Without further ado, let's start with an email from Kevin from Bozeman. "Tom, like others, I want to thank you for the podcast. My son reintroduced me to fly fishing about a year ago when I moved to Bozeman and I was hooked immediately. Then about four months ago, I decided to buy an Orvis fly-tying kit to "save money" on the simple flies I was buying - zebra midges, scuds, etc. Well, that quickly spun out of control and I'm now avidly tying all my flies." I bet you're not saving any money either, Kevin.
"I have some tips I have gathered in my short time tying and a question. Here are my tips. Sewing machine bags make great fly-tying bags. They're perfect sized to put your materials and tools in to go mobile tying. Second tip, an accordion style file folder is very useful to organize materials and very cheap at the local superstore. Third tip, to manage unruly fibers, rubber legs, etc. when rotary tying or just to get them out of the way, use a small hair clip or a large straw cut to length and slit open. This will hold the materials and keep them out of your way when needed, rotary tying, or whip finish, etc. And the last tip, I usually watch three or more YouTube videos on tying a fly pattern and then take from each some aspect of the tying process before I tie a pattern. Each video usually has a tip or trick to tying a pattern and taking the good ones and combining them really helps make the pattern easier to tie."
And Kevin, I must confess that I do exactly the same thing when tying a fly I'm not familiar with. I'll watch several videos on tying process and pick and choose from the tips that I learned on those videos.
So here's his question, "When dubbing, when do you use a noodle versus a tight spun dubbing loop? I know how to use a loop in cases like CDC, etc., where it ends up soft and flowing, but not used when spinning it tight with dubbing material. Does it have to do with a type of fly, hook size, other factors? There is a certain well-known local tier who told me he now always uses a loop even for dry flies. Also related to the loop method, when using a loop, is there a rule of thumb for setting the loop length?"
So, Kevin, you know, I don't really have a rule. You know, if I want a really tight thin body, you know, typical hatch matching dry flies, then I don't use loop because it is a little bulkier. And so, as a result, I don't use it for smaller flies. I don't think I use a loop for anything smaller than a 16. And honestly, I've never used a loop for dry flies at all. I'll use just the regular dubbing noodle technique because it's quicker and easier and I can get a thinner body. The noodle is always going to give you a little bit thicker body.
I use the loop, tight-spun dubbing loop. I use a loop for, you know, things where I want to pick out the dubbing, where I want it to flow, you know, nymph thoraxes and streamer heads and things like that. Because a loop method is going to be inherently stronger. It's actually more durable than just a, you know, spinning, dubbing on a hook. So, you can brush it with a wire brush or a toothbrush or something and not get into trouble with, you know, taking the chance of nicking your thread or taking too much dubbing of.
So, I use it when I'm going to pick something out or when I want a rougher body. And when I want to tighten body, I use the noodle. So it's perfectly possible to make a really, really tiny loop on a small dry fly, but it's a little bit beyond my desires and maybe my capabilities. Maybe Tim Flagler can do it that way, but I can't.
All right. Let's do another email. This one's from Zach. "The closest trout stream to my house is a small Lake Ontario trip. It holds a decent population of resident browns and rainbows, which I like to target through the summer, after the steelhead run and before the salmon show up in August.
Problem is the river is absolutely packed with 4 to 6-inch steelhead parr that attack any nymph or dry fly that comes their way. While I admire their ferocious attitude, it gets a bit old taking them off the hook. I'd also like to avoid handling too many of these delicate fish. Any suggestions on how to target the larger residents in the river would be great. Thanks."
Well, Zach, that can be a tough one. Sometimes, Atlantic salmon parr, when you find them in a river, or Pacific salmon parr, young steelhead, they can be really aggressive. They're really programmed to grab anything that comes by.
I hope you're using barbless hooks, that would absolutely be my first suggestion so that you can... You know, often, you get one of those little guys by accident on a barbless hook, you can actually release tension on the line and sometimes they'll be able to shake themselves off, so you don't have to handle them.
The other thing is to use a bigger fly, so they can't get it in their mouth. But then, you know, sometimes that's not going to be appropriate even for the bigger fish. Sometimes, you need to use a size 14, 16, or 18 for the bigger fish when they're feeding on smaller bugs. So that isn't always going to work.
The one thing you can probably do is to stay out of the type of habitat that these young steelhead are going to be. And most of the time, those young parr are going to be found in relatively shallow riffles and not so much in the slower water or the deeper pools. I think they stay out of there because they get preyed on by the bigger brown trout. So that might be an option is to try to find deeper, slower areas where you're gonna find those bigger browns and rainbows and also really fast current.
You know, the little guys can't handle really, really fast current. And the bigger ones can get in there and get in front of a rock or along a ledge or something near the fast current. And sometimes, you can stay away from little guys there. But you're probably going to have to deal with them. So just make sure you're using barbless hook.
Mark: Hi, Tom. I'm out on the river today looking for smallmouth bass. I'm fairly new to fly fishing and am trying to swing streamers for the first time. Could you describe the technique of properly swinging a streamer? Where should I be casting? Where should I be mending? And what depth should I be looking for in the water column?
It's mostly smallmouth bass that I'm after. I'm in a warm water area in southwest Ohio. And I just wanted to try this technique out but really haven't heard a good description of when and how to use it.
So I guess a couple of other questions with that would be what kind of equipment should I be using when I'm swinging streamers? I've got a 9-foot 8-weight with a floating line and a 9-foot leader and an unweighted streamer. And when is the appropriate time to use swinging streamers as a tactic?
These are all things that I'm just hoping to learn and add to my toolbox of techniques as I'm out here on the river. Thanks so much, Tom.
Tom: Well, Mark, swinging for smallmouth is really fun. It's a good way of catching smallmouth bass on a different method and, sometimes, more interesting than throwing a popper or streamer out there. It's good practice for your steelhead season.
So, what you generally are going to want is to find some smallmouth in a relatively uniform current, usually a riffle, a gentle riffle with uniform current. That's a kind of place where swinging usually works best. If you're in pocket water with a lot of rocks or a lot of logs and things, isn't going to work that well. Smallmouths will sometimes sit in riffles and sit in the deeper pockets and riffles, so swinging through a bigger riffle is probably going to be your best bet.
And I can't tell you when to mend and how to mend. Because that's going to depend on the current speed and whether you have faster or slower current in front of you compared to the place where you're throwing your fly. What you want to strive for is to swing the fly without a big bow in your line, so you know a big a big loop or ellipse in your line.
So sometimes you may have to mend upstream to keep that line relatively straight. Sometimes you need to mend downstream. And particularly, if you're fishing a little bit slower water, you may want to mend downstream just to pick up the speed of the swing. Sometimes the swing will be too slow. And it won't be appealing to the bass. And you want to try to get a reaction strike out of those bass, something that's zipping by and getting away. So sometimes in slower current you get to mend downstream just to pick up the speed of the fly. And sometimes in real fast current, you're going to have to mend upstream.
But I would just go out there. Just go out there, get a decent smallmouth streamer of some sort, and just throw the line straight and see what it does. Throw it kind of either straight across or 45 degrees downstream and let it swing and see what happens.
And you can always introduce little twitches into the swing too because smallmouth respond to that. So the smooth swing without pumping the rod dip or stripping will often work for smallmouth. But often, a little twitch to the rod tip or little strip of line will help.
But just go out there and you can do it with any kind of equipment really. You don't need a two-handed rod. You can do it with a standard 9-foot rod, will work fine. I swing lots of streamers with 9 or even 8.5-foot rods, not as easy to mend a long line, but it'll work. And a smallmouth, you're probably not casting that far. So you probably don't need a two-handed rod unless you just want to use one. So any old rods gonna work.
Floating line. Typically, if the water is really deep and you feel you're not getting down to the fish, or if the water is really cold so you're getting into the fall and the water temperatures are dropping, then you might want to use a sinking line or a sink tip line, or put a PolyLeader on the end of floating line. Because, typically, when the water gets cold, smallmouth will stay closer to the bottom and they won't chase things as far. Just like trout, they're cold blooded and they slow down.
So, in colder, deeper water, you may want to try to keep your fly moving closer to the bottom. But most of the time, you can get away with a floating line. So I hope those tips help and have fun swinging for smallmouths.
All right, here's another email. This one is from Dallin. "Hello, Tom. I'd like to thank you for all you do for the fly-fishing community. I learned so much from you while listening to your podcast. I have a question for you about fishing caddisflies during a hatch. I live in the western region, United States and was recently fishing a local river when I saw what every fly fisher wants to see, fish rising left and right and caddis everywhere you looked.
Every single cast I would make, I would have the fish eat my fly. I tried multiple different styles of hook sets and still couldn't manage to get a fish on the end of the line. I counted around 20 times I had a fish eat my fly without even putting tension on the line once. I changed flies multiple times, as I was wondering if the hook was the problem, but still couldn't manage to get a fish on the line. I was wondering if you knew what could be causing this. Do you have any suggestions on what I could be doing differently?"
I do, actually, Dallin. I think those fish were refusing your fly because you said you never had any tension on the line. And even if you're doing everything wrong and not setting the hook at all, if a fish really wants your fly and really eats it, you're going to hook some of them. They're going to hook themselves or you're going to hook some by mistake. But you're going to hook some.
To me, it sounds like the fish were refusing the fly. Now, there's a number of reasons that could be happening. One is that the fly is too big. Sometimes that will cause fish to refuse a fly. In other words, they see the fly coming down, it looks good, looks interesting. And at the last minute, they put on the brakes because it's a little bit bigger than what they've been eating. So they close their mouth, and their momentum carries them forward and creates a splash, even though they never open their mouth to take your fly. So that could be happening.
Also, drag, you know, natural flies don't make little sailboat wakes when they go across the current. At least most of them don't. A lot of them twitch and hop, but they don't make those big wakes that are caused by having something attached to a fly. And it's very difficult to imitate those little, tiny twitches that flies make. So drag could be a problem. Make sure you're getting a good dead drift. Make sure that your angle is right, and that you've got a long enough tippet, maybe 2 or 3 feet of tippet on there. That'll help eliminate drag.
The other thing that could be the problem is that those fish are taking the emerging caddis pupa. And often, the fish will ignore the adults, the floating adults, and take the pupa as it's breaking its skin just under the surface. It's a lot easier target. They know it's not going to fly away right away. And, you know, it's a more vulnerable insect when it's just below the surface.
It still going to cause a rise, you're still going to see a splash. And if you look at those rises, if you don't see any bubbles in the rise, if you see a swirl, if you see a rise, but you don't see any bubbles afterwards, that probably indicates that the fish took something just under the surface.
So in that case, I would use an emerger or an unweighted nymph or something that is just below the surface. And it's going to be harder to see than your high-floating dry fly. But just put the fly out there. Figure out about where your fly is. And if you get a rise in the general vicinity, gently set the hook.
So I don't think you're doing anything wrong setting the hook. I don't think it was the sharpness of your hooks. I think that the fish were probably refusing your fly at the last minute. So hopefully, next time you see this, one of those possibilities will clue you in on what you need to do differently.
Greg: Hi, Tom. This is Greg from Grand Rapids, Michigan. I've been fishing West Michigan rivers for the last three years or so. And I guess it's just long enough that I'm starting to think more seriously about the bugs we have around here. We are in the thick of emergences and hatches here in May and June. We've had good water and it's heating up a bit. And so, there seem to be a lot of bugs on the water.
But I was wondering a little bit about fishing a hatch. And in particular, how to intercept a hatch. Typically, on any evening, when I expect bugs to come up, I'll be out just working alone a section of river and hoping for the best, hoping that I see bugs that I can identify and maybe match. But I can't say that I've ever done what I hear some people talk about, and that is to find a section of river and sit and wait for the time of day or wait for the emergence of a large hatch. The problem is that I don't even really know where I would park myself to wait.
I know people talk about pools, but not every pool is created equally. And I imagine that one with a riffle above it versus a run above it versus a corner bend with slower water before and after, or things like that all have their own nuances. Anyway, if I were to stop and try to wait on a section of river, is there any combination of features that seems to make a better place to wait for a hatch?
Tom: Well, Greg, that is about the million-dollar question. And I can't tell you the number of times when I parked my butt on the bank of the river, fully expecting a hatch to appear or fully expecting fish to rise, and sometimes either seeing a hatch and no fish or not seeing a hatch at all. So it's going to be a crapshoot anytime you do it. If you hope to intercept the hatch, boy...
And I have given up trying to predict when the hatch is going to be good. I have told so many friends, "Oh, it's gonna be really great tonight." And they go out and say, "Nah, there was nothing going on. And I sat there all night and didn't see anything."
So there is never a sure thing, but there's a couple things that you can do. One is to park yourself in an area where you've seen fish surface feeding before because they don't surface feed in all types of water. They like generally a little bit slower water where they can pick things off the surface easily.
Although don't rule out riffles. You won't see the fishes easily rising in a riffle to hatch. But boy, if you can find fish responding to a hatch in a riffle, that can be really great because the fish are easier to catch, they're easier to approach, you can make more mistakes when they're rising in a riffle.
So what I generally try to do is find a place where I think trout are gonna rise, either I've seen them there before, it looks really good. And then, I park myself where the riffle starts to slow down into a run or a pool, so just where the riffle starts to flatten. In that way, by positioning myself there, I can look upstream into the riffle for spinners or caddisflies. That's where most of the flies are going to hatch. And I can look downstream in the flatter water and see if there's any fish rising. And that way, if I stay on the bank, I can sneak along the bank and get in this low water, or I can sneak along the bank and get into the riffle without having to wade through the whole pool and disturb the fish.
So there is no magic bullet to this and you're gonna make a lot of mistakes. You know, if you plan on just sitting there waiting for a hatch, often you're going to be disappointed. But, you know, the one time you get it right, it's gonna make your day. So just keep trying, and there's a couple of tips for you. Hopefully, something will work out.
Here's an email from Buck from the Buckeye State. "Unfortunately, I'm riding in today with a bone to pick. Many anglers have called in very conclusory statements as to the strength of tippet relative to attempting to play a fish quickly. This is problematic for several reasons.
First, this falsely assumes that big fish cannot be played quickly on light tippets. If my own experience may serve as any sort of anecdote, my personal best brown and rainbow trout, both in excess of 18 inches, were caught on 6X tippet. When playing the rainbow, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, "Oh, (insert expletive) I only have 6X tippet on." In contemplating the experience later, I grew flustered as to why I might have felt that way given the strength of the line previous to that.
Second, I wonder how many folks have actually gone out, tied some tippet on, and tried to break it. It seems arrogant to assume that our knots are superior to a product, which has underwent extensive research and design, or a wily old smallmouth. Anglers are an optimistic bunch who are prone to overestimates, including when it comes to our own strength and prowess.
Finally, a false dichotomy is created between recovering fish and catching more fish. Certainly, playing a fish faster reduces stress and allows for faster recovery. However, how much faster can someone really play a trout on 4X than 5X? Are we so in tuned with our bodies as to intuitively know the difference in breaking strength? Undoubtedly, there's an obvious strength difference between, say 4X and 7X. But I challenge anyone to definitely say they can tell the difference between 6X and 7X, or even 5X and 7X. That being said, picky fish can differentiate between 5X and 6X.
It is a safe assumption that the goal of every angler is to catch fish. Use that lighter tippet and play the fish harder. Learn how to tie good knots consistently. Figure out at what point tippet will actually break, not where you think it will break.
The purpose of this was not to diminish anyone's thoughts or opinions. More so, it is a challenge to anglers to explore the limitations of their body and their gear. I love our community and believe we must always engage ourselves to be better educated and more cognizant of our own limitations. As always, may you have tight lines, frothy beverages, and dry waders."
Well, thank you, Buck. And I respect your opinion and I think that for an experienced angler, yes, you can play a large fish on 6X tippet with quite a bit of pressure and get it in quite quickly, 7X, not so sure. And, you know, I think the suggestion for using heavier tippets on fish is more directed towards people who do not have a lot of experience playing fish.
And believe me, when a fish runs the other way, and you're pulling in the opposite direction, you can pop a 4X tippet on a 12-inch brown trout. I've done it. You can do it. You know, it's that moment that the fish suddenly lunges in the opposite direction, and you're quickly putting pressure that can drastically increase the force on your tippet. And, you know, a more experienced angler, they know when that fish is going to start to run, and they will instinctively and almost intuitively, lessen up on their pressure. They know when it's going to happen.
But you know, someone who hasn't done a lot of fishing for larger fish is not going to have that same intuition. So I'm still going to stand on my opinion that when water temperatures are warm and fish are getting stressed, you know, even just in the 60s, I mean, you should quit fishing at 68. But, you know, if the water is 65 degrees, you should be using a heavier tippet. You can get a fish in quicker with a heavier tippet. There is absolutely a lot of difference between the pressure. I know the pressure I can put on a fish with 5X as opposed to 7X is dramatic.
And you may be better at playing big fish than I am. And I've been fishing a long time. Personally, I can put a lot more pressure on with 5X. And I can even turn a fish when it's running the opposite way if it's, you know, not terribly big. With 7X, boy, you gotta be pretty gentle with that fish. It's easy to pop 7X, particularly, again, if a fish shakes its head in the opposite direction that you're pulling or runs in the opposite direction you're pulling, you can pop up pretty quickly.
So we all like to land fish. We should land them quicker. And I do believe that fishing a heavier tippet, even at the expense of maybe not catching quite as many fish because you're not fooling as many fish, I think that for most people, fishing a heavier tippet is a wise thing to do. So we'll agree to disagree.
Here's an email from Tyler from Connecticut. "I am blessed to live about 10 minutes from the Farmington River in Connecticut. And right now, mid-June, is the best time to be on the river to match the hatch. As I made my way to the river for the evening, I was convinced it was going to be an epic night. The weather was just right, water levels and temps were good, and I thought I had all the right flies.
I arrived at 7pm with a plan to stay till dark around 8:45. As I expected, bugs were hatching, lots of bugs. And fortunately, I also had the matching flies. But the fish weren't rising. I was able to land one, but it certainly didn't meet my epic expectations. As I tried to figure out what was going on, I wondered if the trout's bellies were full.
So that's my question. Are there circumstances and was my experience one when trout will not feed because of an overabundance of bugs? Thanks again for all you do. I want to give a shout out to the local Orvis crew here in Avon, Connecticut. Ed, Drew, Katie, Scott, and Jimmy are the best. Thanks, guys."
And I agree with you. Those guys in the Avon store are awesome, Tyler. You know, trout can get full, but it takes an awful lot. And, you know, when water temperatures are at this optimum range that we're seeing this time of year, they're going to digest their food really quickly. And it's going to take an awful lot of food. And I've seen trout just gorging on mayflies to the point where the mayflies were, you know, coming out of their mouths. They're eating so many.
So yeah, they supposedly do get full, but when water temperatures are right, if there's food, they will continue to feed. They might slow down a little bit like we would at the end of a heavy meal, but they're still going to continue to feed.
And, you know, you just hit on one of those unexplainable things that we all see when we think that conditions are going to be perfect. And something is going on with the fish that makes them not behave the way we expect them to.
And I don't have an answer for that. But I see the same thing all the time. I see perfect conditions and either the bugs don't show up or the fish don't show up. And I don't have an answer for it, which is kind of one of the reasons that keeps us all so interested in trout fishing because we never can figure these things out. And we try. We try and we try to rationalize what's going on. But, boy, there's so many variables involved that who knows what happened. But I'm sure the next time you go out, conditions look good. You'll probably have a better night.
Here's an email from Clint. "I just started fly fishing this year and it's so much fun and I love my Orvis Clearwater rod and reel. I enjoy listening to the podcast. It has helped me a lot. I have been fishing some wild trout streams here in Central Pennsylvania, Penns Creek and Spring Creek.
I've been struggling with nymphs. I can't catch a thing on them. I've been very successful with dry flies. And the only trout I have caught have been on dries. I tried using a bobber and Euro nymphing. So, is there any good tips to help with nymphing for me? It makes a frustrating day trip when I can't catch anything all day into evening and night when the bugs come up. I'm also sure it's not the flies because I've been using what I was told from everyone that they were having success with. Thank you for having this podcast. I really enjoyed it and have a great day."
Well, Clint, you know, nymph fishing, in some ways, can be a lot more difficult than dry fly fishing because everything's visible with dry fly fishing. You see a fish rising, you know where it is, you know it's feeding, you put a fly over it. And it either takes it or it doesn't, but at least you got some feedback there.
With nymph fishing, you never know exactly where the fish are, unless you can see them in the water. And in Spring Creek, you know, in Penns Creek, the water, you can sometimes see fish in the water, but it's difficult. So you're usually fishing over suspected places where you think trout are feeding. And you just have to keep at it.
You know, I would initially have said that, "Well, maybe you're getting dragged on your nymphs because people don't think that dead drift is as important with nymphs." And yeah, sometimes the fish will take a nymph that's dragging or swinging across the current. Sometimes they'll do it quite well. But often, the fish want the fly dead drifted like the naturals are drifting down the current.
But since you've been dry fly fishing, you obviously know how to avoid drag, and you want to make sure with your nymphs that you're doing the same thing. So when you're bobber fishing, you want to make sure that you treat that bobber the same way you would your dry fly in that it shouldn't be dragging across the current.
And with Euro nymphing, of course, you know, keeping your rod high and keeping a tight line and a direct line to the fly, it's not so much of a problem, because you don't have drag, you don't have as much drag on that thin leader. But I would honestly just keep trying fish your nymphs where you know there's going to be fish.
And another thing is to concentrate on more riffled water. It's difficult to catch nymphs in slower water. It just doesn't work as well. It's either the fish see the fly better or, I'm not sure, but you know if I'm fine blind fishing nymphs or prospecting with nymphs, I'll always go to the riffles or the faster water first. It's difficult to catch fish in slow water.
So, you know, maybe you're fishing slower water with the dries because the fish are going to tend to surface feed more on that slower water, and you're fishing nymphs in the same place. I would find out where there's a good concentration of fish that you see in the evening dry fly fishing. And I go into the faster water upstream of that or downstream of it, but generally upstream, and fish that riffle. And hopefully that will help. But just hang in there. If you're good with dries, you'll be able to catch fish with nymphs.
Here's an email from Frank from Wisconsin. "All my local trout water is small stream fishing. I have caught an uncountable number of fish by following your advice. For example, size 10 black Wooly Bugger has been exceptional for large trout after a rainstorm or when nothing else seems to work.
However, I'm not a big fan of the dry dropper setup. If the fish are taking nymphs, I like using an indicator which allows me to quickly and accurately adjust for depth. The depth adjustments can make a huge difference in the number of fish that I catch from a given hole.
With a dry dropper setup, I can't do that without tying or removing long lengths to tippet on between pools, riffles, and runs. If the trout are taking dry flies, I might use a dropper. But generally, I find my casting is compromised and my line tangles. It becomes more frequent, which cuts into productive fishing time and my patience. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this, since you are the one who wrote the book. Thanks for the podcast."
Well, Frank, if you don't like fishing dry droppers, don't do it. I personally like it, and, you know, I find, I get almost as many tangles when I'm fishing with an indicator as I do with a dry dropper. A couple reasons I like dry dropper fishing, one, is that the dry fly when it lands on the water, lands much more naturally than a bobber. A bobber kind of plunks down on the water, and it can spook fish. Whereas a dry dropper the dry lands a lot softer. And it's the dry drop, but dry flies are really sensitive indicator. Any little hesitation or dip in that dry fly indicates a strike.
And honestly, as the water clears and gets lowered during the season, and if I'm fishing a small indicator, I have so many fish that take the indicator, come up and whack the indicator, that I think, "Damn, I would have caught that fish if I had a dry fly on there." So that's why I like it. I far prefer it in small streams. I never fish indicators in small streams.
And, you know, if the indicator is working for you, that's great. And yeah, it is more difficult to change the depth of your nymph with a dry fly because you do have to retie. People have sent in all kinds of clever ideas for an adjustable dry dropper rig, and I've tried them all. And they don't work very well for me. And, you know, it's not that hard to tie clinch knot around the bend of a hook.
And what I generally do is I kind of look at the shallowest water I'm gonna fish and the deepest water I'm gonna fish and I kind of just put my dropper link somewhere in the middle. And if I'm fishing really shallow, I'll put on a lighter weighted nymph or an unweighted nymph. I'm fishing a small brook trout stream or something, I'll put on a lighter unweighted nymph, little pheasant tail or something. And then when I come to a little bit deeper run, I'll just untie that fly and put a little bit heavier beadhead or something on it. And that will sink a little bit better.
So I kind of adjust it by weight instead of by length of the dropper. And yeah, it's not ideal, but it works. And I'm not going to give up my dry dropper. You should try it. You should give it a try. I think you'll have fun with it.
Here's an email from... Oh, I don't know who it's from. Okay, anyways, anonymous. I think I forgot to write down the name.
"I'm reluctant to even ask this question. But here it goes. I live in the Catskills near public land and have access to a private stretch of a beautiful small stream about five minutes walk behind my house. There's a good population of wild brown trout in it. I've got plenty of 10-inch fish in its riffles and pools. I've seen and tried catching the larger fish, which I'd assumed were about 14 or 15 inches, but could never get the big ones to eat anything until today.
Today, on my lunch break. I tossed a sized 10 Muddler Minnow into one of the bigger holes and hooked and landed one brown that was 11 or 12 inches and was pretty happy about that since it was already the biggest fish I've caught back there. The hook came out of his mouth easily with just a little tug. A few casts later, I hooked what I knew is one of or the biggest fish in the hole and the largest fish I've ever caught on a fly rod.
Since I'm new to the sport, I only have one 8.5 foot 4 weight. It was a fantastic fight and I got it in quickly enough and it was in great shape. However, the hook did not come out of the fish's mouth easily. I had to really tug on it. And when it came out, it ripped off a small piece of the fish's mouth with it.
I looked at the hook and found that I had not crimped the barb, which I always do at home before getting out on the water. But I clearly missed the barb and I do feel terrible about that because I always try to make a point of crimping my barbs. My question is the hole I made in that trout's mouth a death sentence for it?"
No, not at all. If you fish some of the harder fished rivers in this country where fish are caught over and over again, you will see all kinds of mangled jaws from fish that were either caught on a barbed hook and the hook was yanked out or caught on treble hooks and, you know, some of them will even be missing a mandible, the lower jaw. And some of them are in really rough shape. And they're not very pretty. But they're happily feeding and surviving.
So, no, I don't think it was a death sentence. It's unfortunate because, you know, we want to keep these wild trout in as pristine shape as we can. We don't want it to look like a pin cushion. But no, it's not at all a death sentence any more than, you know, a cut on your finger or a cut on your lip would be. So that that fish is most likely going to be fine if you release it quickly. So I would not lose any sleep over it.
Drew: Hey, Tom. It's Drew Lamb from Callus, Vermont. I have a question and a quick suggestion. The question is regarding using floatant on foam-bodied flies. I've heard different strategies for how to apply the floatant that some like to apply the floatant to the entire fly including the foam body and that others will avoid the foam body for fear that water that gets into the foam will have a hard time getting out of the foam where the fly will have a hard time drying out if it's got floatant on it.
So just wondering what you do or would suggest if you apply floatant to the entire flight including the foam body, legs, wings and everything, or if there's a different way that you do it?
I hadn't intended to ask this question, but I'll go ahead since I'm thinking of it too. It's that I almost always after, I don't know, an hour or so of fishing, especially if the flies gotten a few eats, and I'm talking about foam-bodied flies, I have a hard time keeping it floating regardless of how frequently I use a desiccant. Certainly using the desiccant will keep it up for another eat or two, but it will never quite float as well after being in use for an hour, hour and a half, or two hours as it did initially. And I just can't return it to that state. So I wonder if that's pretty normal. Or if I'm maybe doing something wrong in my application.
The suggestion has to do with the fly tutorials on the Fly Tying Learning Center on the website. I have a hard time finding which flies I want to tie there even though I use it all the time. And it's fantastic. Because in the little image clips that are with each video, it will show some process of the tying stage rather than showing the finished fly. Certainly the finish fly appears frequently, but it would be helpful, I think, if those images that go with each clip showed the finished fly so that you could scan through the flies and, you know, see what you wanted to tie rather than having just a more random image there.
So that's it. As always, I appreciate everything that you do, love the podcast, and thanks for answering my question.
Tom: So, Drew, I think we may be overthinking this issue. When I put floatant on a foam dry fly, and I use a lot of foam dry flies here in Vermont, I just smear the dry fly dressing over the whole fly, the foam, the wing, the hackle, whatever, the hair. I don't carefully apply it just to certain parts of the fly. And they seem to work fine.
You know, floatant will actually help seal the little bubbles in the foam, and I think it will make them float better. And if you're fishing a foam fly, you know, after a couple hours, yeah, they're gonna absorb a little bit of water. I find though that when I applied desiccant powder to a foam fly and squeeze it, and squeeze the desiccant powder... Actually, take the fly and jam it into your little bottle of desiccant and maybe even squeeze the foam fly in your shirt first or a cloth or a napkin or a Kleenex or something and get all the water out of it and then dip it in that desiccant powder. It should float all day long.
There are different kinds of foam and maybe the foam that were used on your flies, you didn't say whether you tied them yourself or not, maybe the foam wasn't the greatest quality, and maybe all the cells weren't closed. So I would either, if you're tying, I would try switching to a different foam. Maybe trying a different fly pattern or getting your fly somewhere else because, you know, a foam fly should float for a couple hours, as long as you're re-treating it.
And thank you for the tip on the thumbnails of the finished flies. Those come from my friend Tim Flagler, and I'll have to ask him if, in the future, he can always put a thumbnail image of the of the finished fly. That's a good idea. And I can see where it'd be difficult to find the right fly. So we'll see what we can do. I appreciate that tip.
All right. That is the Fly Box for this week. Let's go talk to Timbre Pringle about fishing in small streams. So my guest today is Timbre Pringle, who I think I've mentioned before when I had her on the podcast, as the greatest name in fly fishing, the most melodious name in fly fishing.
And you probably know Timbre's picture because you'll see Timbre in the Orvis website, Orvis catalogs, in ads. Timbre is one half of the faceless fly-fishing duo. And Timbre and her partner Darcy photograph each other and fish and just have a good time on the water. And we want to thank you for all the great images you've given us over the years or you've sold to us. You haven't given them to us.
Timbre: Thanks, Tom, and thanks for having me. And we also have a third part of the fly fishing, which is our dog North. So, yeah.
Tom: Oh, I'm sorry I forgot. I'm sorry I forgot. So anyway...
Timbre: She's dominating the dog catalog right now.
Tom: Is she really? Is she appearing in a lot of the Orvis shots?
Timbre: Yeah, she is. Yeah, she's been modeling some stuff. And so it's been fun. She's a great fishing dog, too, great to have on the river. Not one to go charging into the water, so she's great to have on the river, a great dog.
Tom: That is a real special dog that can be a good river dog because, boy, dogs can be a pain on the river as you know. And people are always asking me, "How do I train my dog to be a fishing dog?" And what I tell them is, you got to train that dog to sit and stay until you release the dog, no ifs, ands, and buts so that the dog, you know, doesn't get in the river and tangled up online and flies and everything else. And so I'm sure your dog has those qualities.
Timbre: Yeah, she's pretty good. She just kind of stays in the background like hunting birds, like Tweety birds, or whatever. She'll stay pretty close. But she's not too interested in the water. But if I cross, she'll cross. You also don't want a dog that you have to carry across the river. That's no fun either, right?
Tom: No, especially a big dog you don't want to have to carry across the river. All right. But we're not talking about dogs today. We're gonna talk about Rocky Mountain small stream fishing.
You know, a couple of reasons I think people are going to want to spend more time on small streams. One is that rivers, larger rivers, particularly, ones you can float, are getting crowded. They get more crowded every year. And also hot weather and dry weather. You know, the small streams, most of them being born up in the mountains, are gonna stay cooler, less likely to have water temperatures where you have to quit fishing, and lots of fish, and typically, not a lot of people.
Timbre: Yeah, so the streams around here, they can get busy at times, but not anything compared to the Bow, which runs through downtown Calgary. So yeah, we're super lucky to have a lot of fishing opportunities really close to where we live. So, you know, about an hour, hour-and-a-half drive, I have all kinds of opportunities to the north and to the south. And yeah, so I really consider myself very lucky to be able to go to these small streams. And you can have such a, like, intimate day on the river with, you know, just reading the water on these small streams and catching beautiful fish. And it is just a treat.
Tom: What's the best part of small stream fishing, Timbre?
Timbre: Walking. I like seeing the scenery and checking out the river. And you're like, "Oh, what's around that next corner, that next bend?" Like, so when you're on a bigger river, it takes a while to get around a bend, right? So I like going around the corners and then checking it. "Oh, there's a good hole there." And it's just a lot of fun. And it's easy to cross the rivers. And sometimes, you end up getting so far away from where you parked, your like, "Oh, God, get me back near the track."
Tom: Yeah. Well, back when I was working in the office, I used to sneak away on my lunch hour and fish a local brook trout stream. And boy, some days I had an awful long lunch hour because I realized I was really far from the car by the time I looked at my watch.
Timbre: Where's Tom? Exactly. Yeah, so you can get pretty far away. But some of the best streams around here are really winding. So you can fish for a long time, go around all these corners and all these bends. And then, if you know the area really well, you're like, "Oh, my car's not too far."
Tom: Mm hmm, so you...
Timbre: So you can have a... Go ahead.
Tom: We should just say it, by around here... You live in Alberta. So I don't think we said that before. So I just want to talk about, you know, we're talking about Rocky Mountain streams but, specifically, a lot of your references are in Alberta, right?
Timbre: Yeah, yeah. We will fish a bit in Montana. And we'll fish a bit in BC. But I feel like the fishing around the Alberta area is pretty darn good. So that's where we do most of our small trout fishing, or small streams fishing. Yeah.
Tom: So, Timbre, let's say you're in a new area and you want to look for a small stream, you know, the big river is crowded or the water is too warm or something, you're traveling, you want to do a little trout fishing on a small stream, what do you look for?
Timbre: So I look for somewhere where I can get access that I know I can get access without getting myself in any hot water, so definitely, looking for an easy way to access, or a legal way to access the stream. So it's a bit different around here. So that's one thing.
I want to find a river that is or stream that is not flowing too fast. I don't want the water moving too fast. I want it to be pocket-y. And that's mainly having pockets, and the flow of the river is such that fish can hold in it.
Tom: Now, as far as getting access or finding out who owns the land, do you use an app for that?
Timbre: Yeah, yeah. So around here, we use iHunter. I think in the states you use onX, is the preferred app down there?
Tom: There's onX. There's Gaia. There's... Oh, God, I have three of them on my phone. And there's another one. I'm looking for it here. Basemap. So I use Basemap, Gaia. I use Basemap and Gaia. I don't use onX. No reason, just that I have the other two. But yeah, there's some good apps that, if you want the premium version, you can get a property overlay so you can find out where the public land is and who owns the land to see if you can get permission.
Timbre: Yeah, for us, we can. So yeah, there's like, I think, it's a yearly fee. And then you can buy different overlays for the different [inaudible 00:54:28] for the different lake areas. And so, you can find out who owns the land. Around here, there's like crown land, but it's leased out and then you have to contact the lease owners. Sometimes, they're easy to get a hold of. But sometimes, they aren't so easy to get a hold of and get access that way.
So, but we've built relationships over the years and have, you know, been able to find access, maintain those relationships, and we have some good spots to get in and get into some fishing where we're lucky enough to not see a lot of people.
Tom: And when we're talking small streams, of course, it's a subjective term, but what do you consider a small stream? How wide?
Timbre: Anywhere from 5 feet to 50 feet because they can be, you know, wide in areas, but just shallower, so I'd say anywhere from 5 to 50 feet.
Tom: Okay. Okay, yeah, 50 feet is big.
Timbre: Well, there is sections where it's really wide so that would be the largest. So generally, about 20.
Tom: Okay, yeah, yeah. And, you know, people always think, or they say, or they think that they need a really short rod for small streams. How do you feel about that? What's your rod of choice when you're going to fish small streams?
Timbre: I like fishing a 3 weight. The length of the rod isn't as big of a deal to me, unless you're in a really tight space. Some of the streams have a lot of overgrowth, but I'm lucky enough to fish ones that don't have too much overhang and stuff. So I have a 9 foot 3 weight. And that's my rod of choice, for sure, the Orvis Helios.
Tom: A 9 foot 3 weight, good for you. That's a longer rod than most people would think you could use in small streams.
Timbre: I'm pretty sure it is, yeah. Now, you're making me question it. I'm pretty sure that's the length of my rod, but...
Tom: I don't know if Orvis makes a 9 foot for a 3.
Timbre: Maybe it's an 8.
Tom: There's 10 foot for 3. And I think there's an 8'5" or an 8'3" for a 3. Maybe, it's that. Maybe it's the 8'3" for a 3.
Timbre: Like I was saying, the length of the rod doesn't bother me too much. It's the weight of the rod. Like the 3 weight. I like to have a smaller rod. I definitely don't want a 5 weight or even a 4 weight. I like to have a nice light tackle.
Because you can catch fish that are, you know, from 12 inches up to you can even get like 20-plus inches for fish. And so, I like to have, you know, a lighter rod. Darcy was fishing at 2 weight for a while, but that was a little too light. So I think 3 is perfect for the size of streams we're fishing.
Tom: Yeah, I would agree. I like 3 weight on my streams here in New England, too. Actually, I fish a 3 weight, but I'd sometimes put a 4 weight line on it if I'm most of my casts are going to be really short because it slows the rod down a little bit. And I can make a short cast or short roll cast a little bit easier with a 4 weight.
Timbre: Yeah. You know, I could fish a 4-weight rod too. Like, I wouldn't mind that. But 3 is definitely the rod of choice. And I'm lined up with like a 3-weight line. Maybe I should consider putting a 4-weight line on there.
Tom: And then, what size leader do you guys use for small streams?
Timbre: So I use 3X leader. And if I'm gonna fish like a hopper dropper or something like that, then I will put like 5X between like the hopper and the dropper. So, you know, if something gets snagged up on like a branch or something, I'll hopefully only lose the dropper portion of the fly. So, yeah, I use 3X and then 5X in between with the hopes of bearing a fly if I'm using hopper dropper.
Tom: Okay. And how long is your leader, usually?
Timbre: It depends. So if I'm fishing streamers, I will have a shorter leader, you know, between 4 and 5 feet. And, you know, but if it's a picky fish, that has been dry fly, I'll have something longer and perhaps tie on some fluorocarbon or something smaller than 3X too at the end of it, if the fish is very picky.
Tom: So do you go as long as a 9-foot leader? Do you generally use 7.5 footers in small streams?
Timbre: Yeah. I wouldn't go as long as a 9-foot leader. No, I think we have a 7-foot leader that we usually start off with. On bigger water, I would use a 9-foot. But a 7 foot would be fine for me. Yeah.
Tom: Okay. And then, the all-important question, what are your favorite flies?
Timbre: Oh, yeah. So if I'm fishing streamers, because we actually have been doing that quite a bit this year, which is not usually, my choice or go-to is usually dry flies. But streamers, I'm definitely into the Marabou fly, so like a Woolly Bugger or a Marabou Muddler. And I like those. I like them like a size 6. They're my go-tos for streamers. It's usually black or olive or something like that.
But my fly of choice, if I'm doing dry fly, I honestly like to start with a hopper dropper, because I can explore the water that way, right? I can check underneath and on the surface. So I would do something like, I don't know, I could do like a big green drake with a really light dropper on it. So something that could be held up by a drake, that would be my first choice.
Tom: So a big, like size 10 or 12 green drake dry fly and then a small nymph.
Timbre: And then, yeah, then a really small... Yeah, like some kind of small nymph. Yeah, maybe like a little caddis pupa or something on there.
Tom: And you have a favorite hopper pattern when you're fishing fish in a hopper?
Timbre: You know what? It's funny because I don't know the name of the fly. And I tried to look it up before I got on a full sales force when they were closing, I even did a post about it. And I was like, "I don't know what this flyer is called." I asked people, and people came back with different names, or whatever. No, that's not it. I looked it up. It's not it. So I don't know what the name of it is. But it is deer hair. It's got some deer hair on it and like a yellow post on the top. But that is my favorite fly.
And I feel like it can look like a hopper, and I feel like it could look like some kind of terrestrial pattern. It could pass as a lot of different things. So I feel like trout like to eat that one up. Sorry. I don't know the name of it. Because I honestly have tried to find out. And you know what? I don't know where I'll get more and my box is running a bit low and I...
Tom: Oh, it sounds like you don't tie.
Timbre: I do tie. But it's a little more intricate than... I'm more of a streamer tier and a nymph tier. The dry flies can get a little bit intricate for me. So I might have to, yeah, get into doing some more deer hair. Like I'll do spun deer hair on the front of like my streamers, but doing any kind of like mayfly, anything that's, you know, delicate, I'm not into. Mostly dry flies, I don't tie. Yeah, I...
Tom: Okay. Well, we got to find out how to get you some of those secret flies. We'll just call it the Secret Fly.
Timbre: The Secret Fly. Yeah. And the funny thing is, I got them on sale for 99 cents. I was like, "There's those flies, Darcy." It was about five years ago. And we bought like 100 of them, literally. And so I'm running out of them now. But yeah, and the store is out of business. So I don't know what I'm gonna do. I have to figure out how to tie them.
Tom: Yeah, you might be able to find a good substitute, too.
Timbre: Yes, yes. I have found, you know, one that kinda look like it. But it's like, when I see that one in the box, the one, the Secret Fly, I'm like, "I'm picking that one." It works on cutthroat. It works on brown trout. All the trout love to eat it up.
Tom: And what species are you generally fishing for in your small streams?
Timbre: So to the north, you can get brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout. And if you go to the south, you can get cutthroat and you can get bull trout. And obviously, there's white fish in both of them. There's white fish in all those streams. And yeah, so there's a good variety around here, what we can go for.
Tim: Do you find any difference in the species? You know, are brookies different than rainbows or browns different than cutthroats? You know, when you're approaching a small stream and you know it's going to be mostly brown trout or mostly cutthroats, do you do anything differently?
Timbre: Yeah. If it's brown trout, I'm definitely walking much lighter like on the ground. I feel like they're way spookier. They're gonna go hide under the bank if you put any pressure on the ground as you walk up. The cutthroat, they're just happy eating away in the riffle. And I feel like you can be a lot looser when you're approaching them on the river. So, definitely more subtle, more sneaky. Maybe you're gonna see the like slingshot cast in there to like, not even cast over their heads.
Some of the brown trout streams around here, you just like go to lift your arm up, and you'd see the trout take off and go on at the bank. "I didn't even move. I swear."
Tom: How about brookies and rainbows, anything different you do with those two guys?
Timbre: So, brookies, there's not a ton of them around here. I wish there were more around here because they're so aggressive. And they're such a... I know that they're invasive, but I like the brook trout. They're aggressive. They're, you know, a good-looking trout. So I don't get the opportunity to actually go target them.
Rainbows, they're kind of just mixed in with the cutthroat or with the brown trout. It's either I'm going to the brown trout streams or the cutthroat, and then the rainbows are just there.
Tom: Do you find that any of these species have different fly preferences?
Timbre: Yeah, I definitely think that the cutthroat really, really like the blue-winged olive. But, hey, what trout doesn't like the blue-winged olive, right? But I do feel like a cutthroat is going to be more willing to take a fly of any pattern than any other trout. I don't know, is that your experience?
Tom: They can be tough sometimes. I find cutthroats, in my experience, to be very surface oriented. They seem to almost prefer their food on the surface. You know, I'll fish a dry dropper through a cutthroat stream and hardly get a touch on the nymph and they're all eating the dry. That's been my experience anyways. But I don't have as much experience with cutthroats as you do.
Timbre: Yeah. So our cutthroats, they're willing to do the dry or the dropper. It's a great combo for the cutthroat, for sure. But if they're not eating off the surface, it's definitely harder to catch cutthroat. If they're eating off the surface of it, they'll take the fly underneath too. That's my experience.
So, but if they're not eating off the surface, since I don't like putting a streamer in there. And they don't seem to want to eat it as much as a brown trout will go after a streamer.
Tom: Yeah, yeah, very true.
Timbre: And fishing for brown trout and like off-color water, you're gonna have more success than trying to fish for a cutthroat in off-color water. Like I will go north and go for brown trout if it's like off-color. And they're way more willing to go for a streamer. It can be pretty fun fishing streamers to brown trout and in the off-color water.
Tom: Well, that's a good tip, fishing streamers, so if you're faced with high water from a rainstorm, or runoff or whatever.
Timbre: Yeah, so like we're getting close to the end of June here and the rivers are pretty high. And right now, we can't fish the small stream. So we were up there about two weeks ago, and it was just starting to turn and the waters moving pretty good through the stream. So we're like, "Well, I guess we'll try some streamers and see if we can get some action." And Jesus, the fish were hitting the streamers like it was going out of style. I was like, "Oh, man."
So we had a couple of really good days up on the streams there with off-colored water and you don't have to be super sneaky. And you can, you know, come up on the run. I don't know. For me, when I'm fishing a streamer in small stream, I like to start at the top of the run and kind of work my way down and drop the streamer into the pockets and kind of mend it so it just like falls down in there. And they seem to really like that, so we had a pretty successful weekend about two back.
Tom: I was going to ask you how you approach a small stream, fishing a streamer, because it's a different kind of deal. Most of the time you think dry or dry dropper in a small stream, but you like to work downstream with a streamer.
Timbre: Yeah. So usually, if I'm fishing dry dropper, I want to fish upstream ideally. With a streamer, I feel like coming in from the top of the run, is I have more success that way. I feel like the fish are just kind of sitting. Because from my experience, the brown trout are kind of just sitting on that inside kind of bend. They're up at the top. And so, if you come in, drop the streamer in there, kind of bounce it through, that's the best opportunity in the run, up at the top. And then you can just kind of work your way down and keep going downstream. That's the only time when I fished downstream [inaudible 01:10:18].
So yeah, it's definitely a different way to approach the run and the river in general. So it's quite a bit different than the dry-dropper scenario.
Tom: Do you ever swing wet flies or soft tackles in small streams?
Timbre: No, I never have. I don't have any wet flies in my box. But it's something I should consider. I just don't have any in my box.
Tom: Well, it's hard. So, it's hard to get a good swing because the stream is so narrow, you make a cast, and it's already swung across the run. So it's more difficult, definitely, to swing a wet fly or a soft tackle in the small stream.
Timbre: You know what? Actually, when you were asking earlier, what's my favorite. My favorite fly and my favorite kind of fishing is in the small streams, now that I'm thinking about it, is fishing the ant pattern in the fall.
So when you get a flying ant hatch, it's insane. Like every fish in the river is eating. It's like your fly doesn't even have to be floating because it's been eaten so many times. It just goes like below the surface and the trout are just eating it up. So if you ever hit the flying ant hatch on a small stream, that is just the best.
Tom: There. It's amazing, isn't it? The way the fish love those ants. It does, it brings up every fish in a stream.
Timbre: You're like, "How are there this many fish in this stream?" Like the size, it's insane. And you could go back the next day and that hatch isn't happening here. You're like, "Is there any fish in here?"
Tom: What do you like for an ant pattern?
Timbre: Oh, I like the Epoxy Ant. So I like it to be the red ant, if I can, because then I can kind of get an eye on that because the fly patterns are pretty small for ants and when they're sinking half the time. So I like to have like at least one end of it red. So the Epoxy Red Ant, they're black in the front, red in the back.
Tom: Oh, so you're using a sinking ant.
Timbre: Those are like you have a hackle wrapped around the middle, so it will stay out a little bit. But just below the surface. I find that that's a good one.
Tom: Those must be...
Timbre: I also have ones that are with foam to like straight foam, but I feel like they just get eaten up so much anyway that they just sink right away.
Tom: It must be hard to see that little epoxy ant in a small stream. It must be really hard to spot it.
Timbre: It is. But you can see when the fish eats it, right?
Tom: Yep.
Timbre: So yeah, definitely my favorite hatch is 100% the flying ant hatch for the small stream, for sure.
Tom: Yeah, we don't get a lot of flying ants where I live. We get, like, two or three days a year when they're out and flying around. And boy, you have to run to the river. You have to drop everything.
Timbre: Yeah, we don't get like a ton. We don't get a ton of like prolific hatches, but when you do, it's lights out, so it gets to me.
Tom: Do you see many hatches on your small streams or are you mostly just kind of blind fishing and prospecting?
Timbre: Oh, no, there's a ton of hatches. So, like I said, the green drake. Those are pretty prolific. There's tons of mayflies, caddis, all kinds of stuff. You get really good hatches. And like they say, "Match the hatch," right?
Tom: Yeah.
Timbre: So, and another thing is like when you're fishing, I don't know, my experience is when it's sunny and you get a little hatch, a little bit of rain, it's going to bring on, you know, those bugs and it can be... If you just had a little bit of overcast on those sunny days, it really seems to make fishing better. It's more productive. I don't know if that's your experience.
But for me, whether it's streamer fishing or dry fly fishing, a little bit of overcast and it may be a little bit of rain like that seems to help the fishing conditions for me. When it's straight sun, it doesn't seem to be as good. That's my experience in our area is that a little bit of overcast and warmer temperatures really makes for good fishing conditions.
Tom: Now, do you generally wade wet without waders in these small streams?
Timbre: So I do anything I can to not wear waders because they can really hold you back. Like I said, walking is my favorite part about fishing in small streams. So, if I don't have to wear waders, I won't.
But the water this year has been so high and then the runoff has been really slow. And so the water has been cold this year. So I have been wearing waders all year. I don't think I've wet waded once. But I've had seasons where I didn't wear waders on opening day and then continued to wet wade the entire spring and summer. But not this year.
Tom: Well, that's a nice thing about small streams, you're not wading very deep, you're not getting cold, and don't have to deal with waders. And you're walking and it can get hot, right? So it's really nice to...
Timbre: Yeah, if it is colder, I just try and like bundle up on top. And you know what I actually do? I don't know if anybody else kind of thinks this is weird, but we will wear like long johns underneath our wading pants. And even though they get wet on the bottom, it still it keeps the top part of your body warm enough that it's worth it, even though you have partially wet long johns on underneath. I don't know. Do you do that ever?
Tom: I don't.
Timbre: I don't know if that's a normal practice.
Tom: But our summers generally gets warm here. We've had a very cool spring, but, well, once it gets warm here, our summers are pretty warm. And I wouldn't need to wear long johns in my small stream fishing.
Timbre: So in spring and in the fall, not in the dead of summer, but in the spring and in the fall, I definitely... When most people are wearing waders, I'm usually just wearing long johns underneath my wading pants and hoping that I don't get too cold. But I rarely regret not wearing waders.
Tom: So I'm going to have to try that earlier in the season. Maybe I can extend my wet wading season. I'm going to try your tip and see if it works. See if I can stand it.
Timbre: I think you won't regret it. It's worked out really well. We've been doing it for a few years and, you know, it's been good.
One thing is bring a dry pair of pants if you have to make a drive home because, if not, you're sitting and they won't dry like you're wet wading johns. So I always bring a change of clothes to get into after because we usually have to drive for about an hour, hour and a half after we get off the small creek.
Tom: Now, Timbre, I think one of the pleasures of small stream fishing is that you don't need a lot of gear, right? You can pack really light. I mean, I take one fly box, two spools of tippet, and just have a little waist bag. What are the essentials that you think someone needs to go small stream fishing?
Timbre: Definitely, you need to have some tippets. And you know what? I carry about five fly boxes on me at all times. Like, it's too much, I'm sure. But if you're having a good selection of flies... Because sometimes you get up there and you know the river, they got some rain up there, it is blown out, all of sudden you have fish streamers or you know or there's this hatch or the flying ant hatch is there and you need to have that. So I bring all my fly boxes and a rain jacket. I usually have fly boxes, a rain jacket, and tippet. Those are my must have.
Tom: No snips, no forceps?
Timbre: I have my Darcy. Darcy always like uses his teeth. Of course, yes, I have forceps with the little scissors in them. And it's funny, though, because Darcy, he'll bite it right with his teeth, and then he's got a blunt end, too, right?
But our dentists, he's a fly fisherman as well, and when Darcy was in, he's getting his checked. This is probably, I don't know, more than five years ago, but he goes, "Like, do you cut the fly line with your teeth?" He's like, "Yeah, you can tell." He could tell that he's been doing that for years because it's like, I guess, a little bit of damage to his one tooth. I know it's funny.
Tom: Yeah. My dentist tells me that, too, all the time. And he threatened me once, he said, "You know I can sharpen those for you. I can grind them down." I said, "No. Thank you."
Timbre: Yeah, so I never do that because I don't want to do any damage to my teeth. So yes, I have a pair of snips on me as well. Oh, and obviously, you need to have some floatant. A must have.
Tom: Got to hit the floatant.
Timbre: I like using the shake. I got addicted to this shake recently, like in the last couple of years here. Like I gotta have the shake. I want to have the gel stuff or the oil stuff. But the shake is, I like having the shake.
Tom: I do too. Yeah, you gotta have the shake. You gotta have the dry stuff because you're fishing sometimes the same dry fly for hours on end, and you got to keep it floating.
Timbre: Yeah. And so I feel like when you're fishing those ant patterns, too, that we're talking about. if you give it a shake and the wank so that you can see it, you know, you can see it for a little bit longer because it's got a bit of the white stuff on top. So definitely some shake is a must have.
Tom: So that's all you take? Well, I also bring... I have split shots in there because, you know what? Another thing I will do, if I have to, is sometimes the dropper won't sink fast enough. So I'll have to put like a heavier fly on the top and then have a really long, you know, I'll have a long dropper like 2 feet. But it won't sink fast enough to get down. So I put a teeny tiny little split shot on there to help get the nymph down. So I like to have small split shots like really small. I don't know the size. Sorry.
Tom: So you have to use a pretty big dry fly, if you're putting a little shot on your dropper, right?
Timbre: It doesn't have to be that big. It just has to have some foam on it so it can stay up. But I feel like it's a really good technique though, because I always want to have the dropper to be pretty small, but I want it to be heavy enough to get down.
So sometimes the split shot will work, you know, to get it down and the fly can still stay floating. But I have found that when I'm not catching fish on the dropper or the top, and, you know, it's a hard day and the fish aren't really into eating, that if I put that little, tiny split shot on there, that it just get down faster and get some to the prime part of the run. And actually, you know, it manages to produce some fish for me when it's been a hard day.
Tom: You know, I've never tried putting a little split shot on a dropper with a dry dropper. But I'm gonna do it the next time I get out there and I'm fishing some deeper pools. I'm gonna give that a try. It's a great tip.
Timbre: Yeah, we were fishing up in the mountains and it was just really, really hard. I don't think it's getting down there fast enough. But they weren't taking the bigger fly. We only got them on the smaller nymphs. And we're like, "We got to get it down there," so just the tiniest little split shot.
And then we started cleaning up, and it was funny. Because these guys, you know, they came up from behind us. We were wondering why we weren't catching fish all day. And because you guys are in front of us.
And I was like, "We literally just started catching fish. And because we were doing the little split shot and getting that fly down there faster because they were just kind of hunkered down and they were eating, but just they were down." So that is definitely a hot tip.
Tom: Boy, there's another good tip is you don't want to draft somebody on a small stream because they're so narrow that you're gonna spook every fish you walk by and you want to make sure there's nobody ahead of you when you get into a small stream.
Timbre: So the cutthroat stream I feel like, yeah, you could fish up behind someone, if they're not a super experienced by fisherman or woman. But a brown trout stream, you're fishing behind someone, you just like, "What's going on? There's no fish." But it's when they're crossing the rivers and, you know, any fish that were there that they didn't catch, they're long gone.
But cutthroat streams around here, you can fish up behind someone if they're not a great fisherman, like they're not super experienced. The cutthroat are going to move back in. They're going to be eating. That's why cutthroats are some of the best fish to fish for because they're so willing to eat.
I tell people that are just getting into fly fishing and, you know, they're like, "I can't catch fish, da, da, da." I'm like, "Try going up to the cutthroat stream that's they're the most willing to eat and off the surface." And then you get that visual too, which is always good for someone who's just starting out. I feel like that cutthroat is a good fish to learn how to fish.
Tom: So they don't stay spooked as long as a brown trout, huh? There you go.
Timbre: No, I don't think so. No, the brown trout around here, they just seemed like they're just really spooky. They're gone. The cutthroat, they're like, "I'm back on the riffle. I'm eating." That's my experience anyway.
The brown trout, they just seem to, "Oh, the sun. Oh, some of the watch fly." They're just really, "I'm done for a few hours." You're not gonna see them.
Tom: In your small streams, any estimate of how long a brown trout stays spooked? I've often wondered how long they stay spooked.
Timbre: I don't know. But I think that brown trout hide out for a while. I don't feel like you can fish up and then come back down in that brown trout. You might have another chance at them. I don't know, maybe four or five hours. But I don't know. And the bigger they get, the spookier, the smarter they are. They didn't get that big for no reason.
Tom: Yeah. No, I've experienced the same thing. And I'm just wondering if you had any idea of how long they stay spooked.
Timbre: No. I think a while. So I've never gone back and been able to like, get that brown trout on that small stream. When you've gone through that section, it's done. Maybe you can go back the next day and try and get them. But that would probably be about... You know, you need to let them rest for the day.
Tom: Yeah, and you definitely don't want to follow anybody up through.
Timbre: No, definitely not. I saw your little video you did on river etiquette. And that really, really applies on those small streams. If you see someone, just go up and talk to them. And they're going upstream, which they probably are, like, "Do you mind if I go downstream?" Just have a conversation with somebody if you see them. It's the polite thing to do. Everybody's gonna have a better day. And, you know, it's just good etiquette on the river.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. You know, and I'll often, if I'm going to work upstream, if I can see that stream from the road, I'll often drive a ways up from where I'm going to fish to make sure there's no cars parked there. I don't see anybody. And then I'll go back down and fish up just to make sure that I'm not following anybody up through.
Timbre: It's been crazy here. So I know the gas prices are high everywhere. So I don't know if that's a contributing factor. But usually, the streams are so, like they're busy around here, especially like this time of year, just before runoff. But there just hasn't been people on the streams. I don't know if that's because we have to drive over an hour to get out to the stream.
Tom: Yeah, it could be.
Timbre: I'm not sure what it is. But they just haven't been as busy as they usually are. So I'm not exactly sure why. But we've been, you know, me and Darcy, have had lots of luck this year getting in and getting access. Some years, it can be pretty busy. And so what we'll do, because we have a GPS, we'll find a way where we can cut in, like, where the furthest point from the road where like, if we cut in, like bushwhack and get in there, then we're probably not going to run into anyone.
So, you know, sometimes it's painful to get through the forest when it gets really thick, like, "Oh, my God, why do I do this?" But you get in there and fish aren't pressured like they are in some of the easier access spots. So, you know, that can be a fun adventure.
Tom: You don't have grizzlies on your area, do you?
Timbre: Oh, yes, we do. We do.
Tom: You do.
Timbre: We have grizzlies and we have black bears. And yeah, so I read a book recently. I just stopped reading it. I can't remember the name of it. I was like, "I can't read those because then it makes me think too much about bears." And because we have North now, we have our dog. So you're out in the backcountry, and I don't have my dog on a leash. And they say they can draw on a bear. But I'm like, "You can't fish with a dog on a leash." But yeah, so yeah, we definitely, we have cougars around here, too.
And, you know, me and Darcy both carry bear spray. I just make sure it's not in my backpack. I have it on a holster on my belt on the side. You know, I have it on my wader belt, so I can get it right away. And I've watched videos on how to deploy it. Like, you want to make sure you can get to it quick and that you know how to use it. It's so important.
I've just been, yeah, the last couple of years, I'm like, even more bear aware. So yeah, we definitely have grizzlies here.
Tom: I think that's what keeps some people from small streams. You know, I can think of all the great little streams in Yellowstone Park, although they're probably inaccessible now. But, you know, there's some great streams, but I think that a lot of people are reluctant to, you know, hike back in the small stream because they might encounter a grizzly.
Timbre: Yeah, so we, luckily enough, me and Darcy always fished together. So it's the two of us. So, you know, if there's more than... You know, if you can get someone else to go with you, if you're going to a real bear-heavy area, the more people the better in that kind of scenario.
We have our friend Rob Cormack. We've fished with him quite a bit. So when there's like a bear warning kind of for the area and things are kind of heightened, we'll try and go together, and everybody has bear spray. We're all pretty experienced in the outdoors. And so I feel like if you have a couple of people, you're a little safer.
Tom: Yeah. Okay. Have you ever had an experience with a grizzly in a small stream fishing?
Timbre: I have. I think last year we saw about seven or eight bears. They're all around the small stream. So luckily, any of the encounters we had were from a distance last year.
But I remember a couple years ago, we were in Fernie, and it's a pretty bear-heavy area. And I came just up to the bank. And I was like, "Oh, my God, there's a bear right there." It was like right there. And Darcy was like, "Oh, my God." We were by our car, though, luckily. Darcy goes like, "Get in the car."
And I was like, "It's running away from me, though." I came up and I scared it. And it actually ran away. But it was like right there. And so, that was pretty scary.
But cougars, I feel like, are, you know, a sneaky predator, too. And there's something you definitely need to be aware of. There's quite a few around here. So that's another thing on my list of things to watch your back for. And, you know, I get nervous a bit about it.
And I haven't, just in the last couple years, I think it's because we have the dogs, right. So that's just another element. She's kind of doing her thing, and they can bring in the bears. Just, you know, you have to be prepared, you know, to have the bear spray. And you know, if you see bear scat or something in the area, you should probably reconsider if it's pretty fresh. Yeah, it's not worth it. But it definitely shouldn't hold you back from going out and exploring the backcountry.
Tom: Yeah. Does bear spray work on cougars?
Timbre: I would say it does.
Tom: They're probably so fast that you might not have time.
Timbre: Yeah, I know, right? I don't know. Maybe if the wind is going in the right direction, you might have a chance. But yeah, I brought in some bear spray. And Darcy thought it would be a fun idea to... He was like, "This bear spray is expired. Like let's just... I never really shot one off."
And then he shot it off when he was with our friend. And I was down at the river and I just had walked up, and I was like, walked into, I was like, "Oh, my God." It was a terrible experience. So I feel like that any animal would not like that because it was pretty unpleasant. And I just felt like a little bit of it in my eyes. It was making me sneeze and cough and everything. It was terrible.
Tom: Well, we shouldn't be trying to discourage people. We shouldn't scare them. But, you know, it's something to be aware of. But it's highly unlikely that you'd ever have a serious encounter.
Timbre: No. But it's something you should be aware of. And if there is bear in there, and definitely be prepared. That's all you can do. You can't live your life being scared. You have to go out and explore and, you know, I think driving down the street is probably more dangerous, right?
Tom: Probably.
Timbre: There's all kinds of... Yeah. So, you know, just be prepared and, you know, try not to think about it.
Tom: Well, Timbre, have we missed anything? We missed any...? Do you have any more advice for people that are going to fish a small stream?
Timbre: You know what? You just have to get out there, explore it, check. You know, worst case scenario, you're spending the day on a river, you know, taking in the outdoors. It's really nice to get out of town, like, [inaudible 01:34:47] out of town, detach from your phone, all of that stuff. And just even if there's small fish in the river, it's a good time. It's a nice environment.
And, you know, if you're lucky, you'll get out there and you'll be able to fish the flying ant hatch. You got to put yourself out there to experience these kinds of opportunities. It's like a numbers game. You get out there lots, you're gonna get into the good hatches, you're gonna get into the big fish, and you're gonna have a good time.
Tom: That's a great thought. Just get out there and do it.
Timbre: Yeah, because if you're not out there doing it, you're not going to hit those magical days where everything aligns. The weather is right, the fly is right, the fish are eating. And if you're not out there, the stars will never align for you. So yeah, just get out there, enjoy the great outdoors and hopefully catch some fish.
Tom: Oh, and the one thing, before we go. One thing that neither of us have talked about but we should, is that you should always use barbless hooks on small streams because a lot of the fish are going to be small.
Timbre: Absolutely.
Tom: And they're delicate. And the smaller they are, the more vulnerable they are to being banged around and cut up.
Timbre: Yeah, and if you have the barb in there, it can rip their little lip. Definitely when they're tiny. So you don't want to do that. So de-barb your hook. And another thing is, always carry a net with you. I feel like this is a huge like, this is a big part of fishing, getting the fish into the net and doing it quickly to lessen the stress on the fish.
So having a net, it helps the fish, it helps you land the fish, and get the fish going on its merry way after you caught it. So if you don't have a net, you're trying to grab like your leader and get it in and to get the fly out. When you just have a net, caught the fish in there, fly out really quick. And the whole process doesn't take too long.
Tom: Yeah. You may not feel you need a net for these little fish in a small stream, but it does help a lot in the handling time. And you know, sometimes in a small stream, they're so small that you lift them up and you might be holding them above the rocks and they flip off and they bang their heads on the rock. So that is a really good idea. All right, Timbre.
Timbre: I think we've hit on all the wonderful parts of, you know, fishing the small streams. And yeah, thank you for having me, Tom. It's been great to chat with you.
Tom: Well, it's been great to chat with you, as always. I'm sorry I missed you at the Guide Rendezvous this year.
Timbre: Oh, yes. Yeah.
Tom: I hope to see you soon. And you guys have your own podcast.
Timbre: Oh, yeah, we do. We have the "Faceless Fly Fishing & Upland" podcast for everybody that wants to listen. We talk about our adventures fishing and have guests on. And we talk about upland hunting, too. I feel like it's a bit of a progression from fly angler to upland hunter. And people that have been fishing for a while somehow make that transition into upland hunting pretty easily. And so, we just talk to people that are, you know, doing both, kind of. And it's been fun.
Tom: Yeah, I listened to one this afternoon with a great Pete Kutzer. That was a great podcast.
Timbre: Yeah, so I'm gonna have to have you on as a guest too, Tom.
Tom: I would be honored. I would be honored, Timbre, and I'm looking forward to it.
Timbre: Awesome. We'll line that up.
Tom: Thanks for listening to "The Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast" with Tom Rosenbauer. You can be a part of the show. Have a question or comment? Send it to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in the body of an email or as a voice attachment. You can find more free fishing tips on