3. How to find your own small stream (3 of 15)
How do you find these secret places? Probably the most fail-safe method is to explore tributaries to rivers known to harbor trout or to fish the very headwaters of famous rivers. Typically the further you get from the main river the better the fishing, so don't be disappointed if you don't catch trout right away. Keep going until you find better fishing or you're ready to give up.
Another way to find small streams is to use a terrain map for what's called blue lining. You must be in a place where temperatures are cold enough for trout. In many northern states that can be almost anywhere as long as groundwater temperatures are below 60 degrees.
In the warmer southern states, you typically look for elevations above 1200 feet where streams stay cold enough for trout year-round. Look for streams that have at least one or two tributaries coming into them because some of these blue lines are such tiny streams they might hold just very tiny trout or none at all.
Once you find a stream, you can zero in on exactly where you wanna fish. I like to look for places where the stream has lots of bends, because where there are bends there are typically deeper pools. Depth is almost always a limiting factor in small streams as much of the water maybe too shallow for trout. You need at least two feet of depth somewhere for a stream to hold trout of any size.
If a stream is straight for a long stretch look for narrow contour lines on the topo map because that usually indicates a steep drop in the stream valley with pocket water that may have enough depth. You may wish to look for streams that are close to a road if you don't want to do a lot of walking, but these spots are typically fished a bit so the farther you get from a road, the better.
Avoid places near campgrounds. These are usually heavily fished and campers often keep fish for dinner. Some of the best places to fish small streams are rocky, steep-gradient streams with plunge pools. They have enough depth to hold trout in slower pockets and they're often quite open along the bank, so there's plenty of room for casting.
Because of the tumbling water, trout in these mountain streams are often quite easy to approach and you don't need as much stealth as you would in slower water. Be careful of drag though, as the many conflicting currents mean that casts should be short and you should keep as much line as possible off the water to avoid drag.
As you get down into valleys with lower gradient, you'll find smoother water and more gentle currents. Look for bends in the stream or deep undercut banks that provide enough shelter for trout. Here stealth is a lot more important. Fish will notice you in the smoother water and they're always on the alert for predators.
Keep your profile low so you stay below their window of visibility. Avoid false casting over places you suspect will hold fish, and if possible, don't even get into the water. The waves you make from waiting can alert trout to your presence.