Our Man In Canada
November 8th, 1999

Small Stream Strategies, Part 3

By Paul Marriner

Older readers will recall a once popular calendar print. In it, an angler is sleeping up against a tree at the edge of the water. His rod is learning against the tree with the tip out over the stream. A trout is leaping for the fly dangling in the air. Fanciful perhaps, but the purposeful equivalent, dapping, can be quite effective.

Take the situation where the branches of a willow tree completely enclose a section of stream. This combination of overhead cover and shade attracts trout. Casting of any sort is out of the question, but a quiet approach and the slow extension of the rod tip over the water may go unnoticed. Bounce a dry fly on the surface and expect action. A related tip from Gary LaFontaine netted me trout on a European stream. Pinch a good-sized split shot a foot up the leader from the fly. This keeps the leader straight and, if you strike gently, prevents the fly from flipping up into the branches after a miss.

Generally, a small stream techniques are simply a subset of those plied on larger waters. One consistent produced is the "drag and drop." To reach the unreachable with a dry fly, peel off enough line to get past the fish and, with the rod horizontal, let it extend downstream but off to the side. Gather in a couple of feet of slack, left and swing the rod to drag the fly into the feeding land. Then drop the rod tip and gently shake out the loose line.

A useful wet-fly technique is one Hugh Falkus suggests for trout (overhead casting is scary). To work the fly back and forth across the stream while extending line each time, after each swing move the rod briskly to the other side of the flow and simultaneously flip out a foot of line held in the hand.

Finally, mastering the gamut of roll casts reduces frustration and lost flies. Sidearm roll with a tight loop and the single-handed double Spey are two casts I use frequently. I describe the latter with a photographic sequence in my book, Altantic Salmon - A Fly-fishing Primer, and Hugh Falkus does likewise in Spey Casting.


Your fly boxes already hold the essentials for small streams, except perhaps for increasing the selection of wet flies. However I do have one suggestion that originated from my experience with Jack Eschenmann. Jack used a simple balsa-wood bug that roughly imitated an inchworm. The criticial feature of this fly is that it floats forever without false-casting. I opt for a black foam beetle in sizes 12 - 24 for the same reason.

Small streams offer intimate surrounds and sometimes surprisingly large fish. While a steady diet would bore me, I usually manage a score or more visits to a variety of little waters each season.

By adapting my tackle, tactics, techniques, and flies, I'm frequently successful. By the way, about that poisoned Nova Scotia stream. A young anglers recently caught a 14-inch brook trout near where it empties into the ocean. Nature had preformed her magic again.. ~ Paul Marriner

Fall Issue Paul Marriner
Paul is a seven time member of the Canadian fly fishing team (captain 1994-6). His numerous articles have appeared in Canadian and overseas magazines. He has four books on fly fishing to his credit. He has been fly fishing for over thirty years and resides in Nova Scotia.

We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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