If you give Darwinian theory any credit, human beings have evolved from cave-dwelling primates to the most advanced species on earth by responding and overcoming environmental and intellectual challenges. Whether we’re training to run a marathon or figuring out how to beat a boss in a video game, we’re genetically hardwired to take on what’s hardest, learn to succeed, and eventually take it to the next level.
In the world of fly fishing, there are many such challenges. From discovering casting, learning entomology, and catching a notoriously difficult game fish like rainbow trout or permitting, there is a seemingly endless number of tries in the sport. However, if you were to take a census of seasoned fly anglers to determine what the most frustrating and difficult task in fly fishing is, you can bet a good portion of them would vote to catch a trout in a spring stream.
What’s wrong with Spring Creeks?
Spring streams are fantastic and truly unique water systems formed when underground springs produce enough water to supply a free-flowing stream. Permanently filled with crystal clear water, these coves are pristine environments with consistent water flows and temperatures throughout the year. The purity and consistency of the water cause the spring streams to teem with life. From aquatic insects like mayflies and stoneflies living below the surface to frogs, muskrats and waterfowl that inhabit streams, everything that lives in these pure little oases often grows large, healthy and plentiful, including trout.
Trout living in spring creeks are so sought after by fly anglers because each one, from the heaviest brown to the smallest brookie, generally lives its best life and has the muscle and good looks to prove it. There’s just something special about Spring Creek fish. However, successfully landing one is a whole other story, and therein lies the challenge.
We tend to give trout a little too much credit for its intelligence when in reality its brain is the size of a BB. Yet it often seems like Spring Creek trout have a mastery to avoid being caught. No matter how deep the fish feed or how deep they are stacked in a pool, they will avoid any fly that is not perfectly presented. Moreover, all it takes is one bad drift or a splashy cast to cause the fish to completely shut down and rush for cover. This is not because spring stream trout are particularly intelligent, but rather because they are a product of their environment.
In the clear, often slow-moving water of a spring stream, trout can scan every potential food item that drifts past them. Insect hatches are timely and consistent, so if your fly isn’t the right shape, color, or size, it just won’t eat it. Calm water conditions in spring streams also give trout the ability to detect every movement in and just above the water. They are able to sense every little shadow and movement of potential predators, which makes them extremely wary. You need to approach them stealthily and use the right gear to succeed.
The Best Gear for Fishing Spring Creeks
Mastering the art of spring stream fishing is all about making precise casts and fishing with tiny, delicate presentations on gear that can still tackle a big fish if necessary. Because spring creeks are such life-rich environments, what trout feel like doing can change almost hourly. You may be faced with a scenario where you fish a size 22 gnat nymph in the morning, a giant moss hopper in the afternoon, and a small short-lived spinner model In the evening. You never know what the stream will throw at you, so you have to be prepared to throw it back.
Fly rods for spring fishing should either be a size or two smaller than your average trout rod or have a relatively slow action. A 5 or 6 weight rod will work for most Spring Creek scenarios, but should have a full flex action. However, if you are looking for a Spring Creek specific rod, your best bet is a 3 or 4 weight rod. mid-flex upper.
“I think Weight 3 and 4 were designed for spring streams,” said David Force, head guide at Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge in the paradise valley filled with spring streams. “The rods have a rather slow action, giving you the ability to spot tiny nymphs or small dry flies, yet still have enough spine to give you full control over your flies and the big hook-jawed monster of a trout that you I will end up hooking.
Rigs for spring stream fishing should be as long as you can make them while still being able to comfortably cast, set and set the hook – usually 10 to 15 feet is best. Fishing with such long leaders greatly decreases the chance of spooking a fish with the shadow of a fly line and creates distance between the fish and a splashing fly line. You will want to choose a lightweight tapered leader in the 5X or 6X range with 6X or 7X advanced fluorocarbon material.
Fly selection is critical when fishing spring streams. Although you can often get away with general attractor models like the Stimulator Where Adam on other rivers it is mostly an unnecessary practice on a spring stream. The fish are incredibly selective, so you should familiarize yourself with the entomology of the creek you are fishing and use high quality flies and match the hatch as closely as possible.
“I usually spend at least half an hour or more looking at the creek before I let my client fish it,” Force said. “I’ll try to see what’s buzzing around the water and even try to catch a few bugs and examine them if I can to find out I’m a perfect match for my dry fly.”
The best techniques for fishing Spring Creeks
The nymph will by far be your best technique to use whenever the fish don’t come up. Your best spots for success on a spring stream are any narrow areas of the stream where the water moves quickly and fish have less time to look over your flies. Set it up by attaching a length of fluorocarbon to your leader, then adding a small pearl-headed nymph design such as a size 16 or 18 hare ear Where pheasant tail until the end. This fly will act as both an attractor pattern and a weight that will pull your presentation down into the strike zone. Next, take a lighter section of tippet between 8 and 12 inches long and tie it to the bend of the hook with a knot so that it hangs directly below the nymph. Add a second weightless nymph like a size 18 to 24 english pheasant tail Where disco gnat to the terminal end. Finally, attach a small yarn or yarn hit indicator to your leader at about twice the length of your first fly as the depth of the water you are fishing.
Start flowing at the top of the pour where the water is moving fastest, fixing if necessary, so the indicator is moving at the same speed as the bubbles on the surface of the water. After you’ve done a dozen casts with no strokes, take a few steps downstream and repeat the process until you find where the fish are feeding.
Getting a drag-free drift is essential when dry fly fishing on spring creeks. The best way to do this is to perfect the downstream drift. Hard to learn but easy to master, downstream drifting involves casting a fly well upriver but directly in line with a rising trout, then picking up any slack so your fly drifts downriver and past. directly above the fish.
When you spot a riser, position yourself 50 to 60 feet upstream of the fish with the current line that the trout are coming up a few feet from the end of your rod. Peel off a few handfuls of line from your reel and loop it in your free hand until you feel you have enough slack to drift the fly over the fish. Cast a short cast directly in front of you so your fly is lined up with the rising trout. Then start mending upstream, dropping loose curls into your free hand as you go. It takes some practice to mend gently enough so as not to move the fly as it drifts downstream while still maintaining enough tension in the line to set the hook. However, one of the best things about spring streams is that there are usually enough trout coming up that you have plenty of targets to practice on until you master the technique.
Welcome to the show
Spring streams are perhaps the most technical waters an angler can fish. Picky trout and random hatches make them places of continued uncertainty that can frustrate fisherman madness into pulling hair and breaking rods – and therein lies the real attraction of a brook. source. These flows are a challenge to be met. It helps a lot to approach these waters as if you were hunting: slowly, analytically, discreetly, and on your hands and knees if you must. If you scare a big trout, it’s gone. Game over.
When all goes well and you end up holding a beautiful Spring Creek trout in your hands, you find an unforgettable feeling of satisfaction. Having a good day out on a spring creek is a sign that you’ve reached the top echelon of the fly fishing class, and there’s no challenge in the world of angling that you can’t. not overcome. After successfully fishing a spring stream, the sky’s the limit.
Featured image via Tosh Brown.