Great fishing can be had in areas you wouldn’t expect, like small streams
Under the heading, “More here than meets the eye,” we offer the example of fishing a small stream.
Small, in this case, means anything too small to float and with only the occasional hole more than knee-deep.
Angling writer John Gierach talks of the differences between big and small waters in the opening chapter of his book, “Fly Fishing Small Streams” (1989, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Penn., $15 new).
In a chapter titled, “A Finely Balanced Environment,” Gierach writes that “small streams differ from rivers in a number of ways that are important to both trout and fishermen. They may both have the same kind of structures — manmade and natural — but the small stream carries less water and that makes a big difference.”
It’s a difference that almost goes without saying.
However, it must be said, because that difference in the amount of water affects everything an angler — and a trout — does in a small stream.
Whether it’s an angler trying to read the water or simply keep a shadow off the stream, or a trout seeking cover on a hot summer day, how much water, where it flows and the speed with which it’s flowing are important small-stream factors.
Andy Meehan of Solitude Outdoors in Cedaredge said too many people look at a small stream and immediately dismiss it.
He used as an example the creek between Bonham Reservoir and Big Creek Reservoir.
“It’s brushy and pretty much combat fishing, but we were pulling 12- to 13-inch fish out of Frisbee-sized holes,” said Meehan, who can be reached at (970) 856-6057 or (970) 623-4203.
“Most people just take a look at streams like that and say, ‘No way,’ but there is some great fishing in small streams,” he said.
The East, Middle and West forks of the Cimarron River flowing into Silverjack Reservoir southeast of Montrose offer decent fishing for cutthroat trout, said Kevin O’Hara at RIGS Fly Shop in Ridgway.
“We’ve been using yellow humpies and small Stimulators,” O’Hara said. “And it’s definitely a good time for terrestrials and ‘hoppers.’”
O’Hara also said Upper Cow Creek, which falls out of the Wetterhorn Basin and enters Ridgway Reservoir a few miles north of town, also offers plenty of opportunity but you’ll have to drive a bit.
“It’s mostly private until the National Forest boundary, which is like an hour or so from town,” O’Hara said. “And the road’s a little rough, but the fishing is worth it.”
RIGS can be reached at (970) 626-4460.
Kannah Creek just off U.S. Highway 50 is another example of a small stream offering good fishing with decent access.
There’s some downed timber to negotiate and plenty of line-grabbing brush, but if you go there knowing that, it’s no big deal.
Summer fly patterns usually mean terrestrials, with beetles, ants and grasshoppers leading the way.
Meehan said the grasshoppers haven’t made an all-out appearance quite yet on Grand Mesa but he’s had success using a black-foam ant.
He said a small parachute Adams mimics the ubiquitous mosquito so well “the fish can’t tell the difference.”
John Mahoney from Dragonfly Anglers in Crested Butte, at (970) 349-1228 or (800) 491-3079, added small Stimulators to the list, along with such traditional fly patterns as Royal Wullfs and the Royal Coachman.
“Most people stick with a single dry since the fish aren’t as picky as they might be in more heavily fished waters,” Mahoney said.
Perhaps the one area for a small-stream angler to remember is around Crested Butte, which in this case extends from Kebler Pass on the west to the high country above Taylor Park on the east.
Mahoney offered a wealth of information about the small waters in his area.
“Lets see, there’s Cement Creek, that’s a good one, and Brush Creek, and Spring Creek, that’s really a fun one to fish with lots of access and brown trout,” Mahoney said, without pausing for a breath.
The list goes on, including Anthracite, Coal, Willow and Texas creeks and the still-small upper Taylor River before it enters Taylor Reservoir.
“It’s fun to be able to see and stalk the fish in those streams,” said Mahoney, describing the spot-and-stalk technique used on small streams in terms any big-game hunter would recognize.
Lightweight rods make the smaller fish (not too small, some streams hold fish in the 14-inch and larger range) seem much bigger, Mahoney said.
“One of the guides here uses a double-zero weight rod, and I didn’t even know they made one that light,” he said. “I like using a 7-and-a-half foot, two-weight rod.”
However, even an experienced combat angler such as Meehan draws the line somewhere.
“Kannah Creek coming out of Carson Lake is too much, even for me,” said Meehan of the notoriously shirt-grabbing, rod-smacking stream. “In order to fish that, you need a stick and two feet of line.”