– by Robert Volpe – You’ve been fishing the same ol stretches of the Platte River for
years. You’ve battled the crowds at Deckers, Cheesman Canyon,
Elevenmile Canyon, and the Dream Stream. It is getting to the point
where you have begun to question whether you want to continue this
past time you love so much, because it’s just getting too crowded.
In case you haven’t noticed, there are hundreds of miles of small
streams and beaver ponds coursing through the mountains that feed the
Platte which are filled with hungry fish.
Granted you are not likely to find a 20” plus fish in most of these
out of the way places, but the challenge and solitude will bring you
back a renewed sense of why you started fly fishing in the first
How to get started
You don’t want to use your 9’ 5wt for this kind of fishing. There are
several reasons why a 5wt is too much rod for small streams. For
starters, you will generally be fishing for fish in the 4” to 12” size
range. If you are fishing a fast, or even a medium fast 5wt rod, you
are likely to yank these smaller fish clean out of the water on the
Another thing to consider is, you are going to be doing some bush
whacking to get to most of these small waters. A 9’ rod will
continually get snagged on trees and bushes as you make your approach.
Consider buying a 6’ or no more than a 7,’ 2 or 3wt rod. You can spend
upwards of $1000 for a Sage or other high end short light rod. Don’t
do it. You can find a suitable light rod at Sportsman’s Warehouse or
other big box sporting goods store for $30-$50 bucks. Okuma makes a
nice 6’ 3wt rod for around $35.
If you prefer to spend a little more, Reddington makes a great 6’ 2wt
fiberglass rod called “Butter stick” for $200.
Fiberglass rods are an excellent choice for small streams and beaver
ponds. These rods are slow action. They have a lot of flex in them. A
major advantage to using a slow action, short rod is that in tight
quarters you will find yourself using a bow and arrow cast to avoid
snagging surrounding vegetation.
What about reels? Here again you can spend a lot of money on a 2 or
3wt reel. If that is what your thing is, do it. If you’re going to
make small stream fishing your main source of fishing, spend a little
more. If you’re only going to do it a few times a year, get a cheap
reel. Avoid plastic reels at all costs. They are just going to break
on you. A good choice at a modest price is the classic, Pflueger
Medalist. Cabala’s sells them for around $100. You can also find
plenty used Medalists on Ebay for about $50.
How to find where to fish
A good place to start is finding a fly fishing forum with members who
fish small streams. It’s not likely you’ll get much information out of
them until you become a respected member and have done a few trips
with some of them. That is also a good place to make lasting
Pouring over USGS topo maps and Forest Service maps is a great way
for the adventurous fisher to find hidden gems in the back country.
The disadvantage to these maps is they are rarely updated. There are
several commercial fishing maps you can also purchase online or at
your favorite fly shop.
There are some very good internet apps you can download that show
topographic features such as Google Earth that will also provide hours
of searching opportunities.
Another good way to find special spots is just drive. Get out those
Forest Service maps and look for off the beaten path roads that wind
through the forest. Many of these roads cross small streams and reveal
beaver ponds that may not be on those maps.
While wandering around back country roads and scouring maps for small
streams and beaver ponds isn’t for everyone, if you are the
adventurous type you will find places to fish where you may never see
Often times these streams and beaver ponds will be full of small
browns and brookies eager to take a dry fly.
On small streams stealth is the key to success. Stay low and creep
slowly upstream keeping an eye well ahead of you for small plunge
pools and deep undercut banks. That’s where the money is.
Have fun exploring and good fishing