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9. Epic Tips for Small Streams (9 of 15)

Ya know that incredible feeling when you make that monster cast across and downstream, almost clear the bank and a fish eats it going mach 10 across the top? Well this is not that.

Small streams present their own set of challenges and all runs are not uniform. Maybe more than most, creek lies require some preparation and planning and have obstacles on steroids. Branches overhead, logs in the way, tricky wading, concentrated flow and tight quarters. You might think they are so little it’s going to be a piece of cake but that would be a mistake.

So what to do?

1. Cast short!!! - fishing your short cast is an important skill everywhere you find steelhead. I sound like a broken record everywhere I guide - “start with your sink tip.” Once asked for an article “what is the most important piece of advice for beginners? How about advanced anglers?” My answer for both was don’t forget the short game.

On creeks keeping casts short is important for a number of reason. First is they aren’t wide so big casts mean hooking obstructions or overhanging debris. Second, less line is easier to flop into every likely looking spot as you pick your way down stream. Reeling in and starting again each time is a time killer. Also important is the more line you get out the less control you have over your swing as it navigates the currents. Lastly, is an eat at 12 feet away can be the kind of emotionally scarring event that will leave you hungry for years to come.

2. Angle of the Cast - determining the angle of the cast is vitally important to the depth of your presentation. While swings that are slower are generally better more important in the creek game is depth. Even the weariest winter steelhead will move for the occasional offering but there is usually a limit. Getting the fly within their window can be the ultimate challenge but a necessary one. The easiest way to achieve depth is. Casting across, or even slightly up with a small mend and allowing the tip and fly a few. Seconds to gain depth. Then just swing as your normally would. Typically the grabs with come the first few seconds of the sweep as the fly starts swimming.

One of my favorite stories was fishing a fast lie on a small creek where I was very confident we were fishing over some biters. My client just wasn’t managing to get any depth and I could see the fly riding the surface. I aggressively continued to push the slight upstream cast and mend over and over for 20 minutes. I just knew it would work! Finally he threw the fly in a tree on the far bank. Reefing back as hard as he could the fly came loose, hit the surface and a steelhead exploded on the top. Walking back to the truck after a violent tussle and release he turned to me and said “I’ll be taking credit for that one.” Can’t get it right all the time I guess.

3. Hangdown - The dangle accounts for astronomical number of hookups while maintaining the distinction of most hated tactic. Why the contradiction? Hangdowns are the least sexy part of any swing really taking no skill other that patience. You need to ooze patience. Ya need zen-like patience. Patience should be flooding from your pores. You need so much patience it’s aggravating.

There’s a place we guide where steelhead rest on the hangdown under dynamic dueling currents. It’s the kind of spot that boredom makes you do it wrong. Aniexty takes over and you find yourself rushing. You know you need to be patient but ya just can’t help yourself. The name of run is the annoying hangdown. If it’s not annoying, you’re doing it wrong.