Solitary flyfishing is a great way to temporarily immerse yourself in wild nature. Guiding yourself into territory of the small wild trout, you get acquainted with an unmatched beauty. Micro-flyfishing is unlike any other aspect of the angling world. It asks you to step inside the trout’s world and to look out at your place with a new perspective.
Small trout streams range in size from step-across to occasional pools that measure 30-feet in width. Fishing these minimalist flows can be especially stimulating in the spring or autumn when the water levels are up and the temperatures are good for fish activity. Brooks and streamlets tend to have less in the way of insect hatches than their larger counterparts, but their trout will often feed on whatever comes along. These fish cannot afford to be choosy in their feeding habits. The fly angler would do well to be prepared with attractor patterns like the Royal Wulff or Adams in the warmer months, along with terrestrials like the Ant or Black Beetle, and with beadhead nymphs and small streamers in the cooler seasons.
Just because the trout of small streams will be less selective in their choice of fly doesn’t mean the angler should forget about a careful stretegy for approaching the water. These are wild fish and they need to be extremely wary in order to survive. The angler would do well to stalk as cautiously as a great blue heron– fly rod taking on the role of a heron’s long eye and beak.
I’ll typically approach these small streams with a fly rod as short as a 5’9″ three-weight or as long as a 7′ four-weight. I use a floating line with attached leader that is tapered to about 5x tippet and that measures slightly shorter than the rod. You’ll often do a lot of dodging, climbing, crawling, and cursing on these streams, so you don’t want to be overburdened with equipment. Fishing lightly here is part of the attraction, and fun, in micro-flyfishing.
Often, using less of everything on these streams is tantamount to success. Use less rod, less line and less leader than on larger waters. In the beautiful, constricted worlds of the small wild trout, you’ll employ less power and casting distance. If the artificial fly has a barbless hook, it’s easy to make a quick release of the fish that’s seldom injurious. The fish you catch will be mostly small, usually colorful, and always valuable to the stream and landscape. In my humble opinion, captured trout should be returned unharmed to their original haunts. I don’t have a problem with campers who want a tasty meal fried from a legal catch, as long as they know the stream is healthy enough to offer a sacrificial few.
[Part 2: a look at approaches to the water and at casting strategies…]