~ by Bob 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.
If that ain’t enough to put your shorts in a twist, This year’s big snows in the high country will soon be filling the river with tons of water, making the river muddy and unsafe to wade.
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 place.
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 hook set.
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, and breaking a rod tip is a real possibility.
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. Eagle Claw makes a nice fiberglass rod called the “Featherlight” that sells for $30 bucks. 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 under $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 gained some stream cred by doing a few trips with some of them. That is also a good place to make lasting friendships.
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 another fisherman.
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.