Fishing small streams requires quiet approach and casting, not standing, where the fish are
There are numerous places where fishing extends well into the fall, but August marks the beginning of the end for anglers divining high-country streams with a fly rod.
One such end-is-near location is the stream-rich country in the broad arc of mountains running from Taylor Park to Kebler Pass.
Spring Creek starts well above Gunnison in the laps of Italian and American Flag mountains, works its way past the dam at 10,000-foot-high Spring Creek Reservoir and wends through meadow and canyon before joining the Taylor River at Harmel’s Resort north of Almont.
The picturesque stream has easy access, along with lots of trout and, on Sunday at least, an almost-equal number of fishermen.
A few minutes watching the action made it clear why some anglers struggle to catch trout known to slash even the most-awkward presentation.
Most anglers were committing several small-stream mistakes, including the cardinal sin, one best voiced by the late fishing guide Denny Breer of Dutch John, Utah.
Breer, who wasn’t shy at all of making sure his anglers knew when they were transgressing, loved few things more than quietly rowing up behind a sport standing 20 feet out in the Green River and then saying, quite loudly, “You’re standing where you should be fishing.”
Small streams require stealth, which usually means sneaking along the bank.
However, up and down this compact creek were anglers standing, wading and splashing through the water, moving as if being timed.
Shuffle, walk, cast. Shuffle, walk, cast.
I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but I didn’t see any fish caught on a stream with a reputation for easy-to-catch trout.
“On a small stream like that, especially one as clear as Spring Creek, you have to get a good approach,” advised Zach Kinler of Dragonfly Anglers Fly Shop in Crested Butte (800-491-3079). “Stay low, use long leaders and take your time.”
He should have been there Sunday, as numerous anglers repeatedly committed their trespasses.
A series of habitat and stream improvements provide ideal trout habitat with long pools, quick rapids and deep undercut banks.
“It’s a great fishing stream, especially for beginners because it’s so open, and the fish will take almost any dry fly you put in front of them,” Kinler said. “There’s nothing to get hung up on. Well, almost nothing. You still can’t let your back cast flop around.”
It’s puzzling why so many anglers would walk midstream when the stream is only 10 to 20 feet wide, shuffling along and chasing the trout ahead of them.
There is an option.
With most anglers heading for the wide-open meadows with its meandering stream, the best (and certainly more challenging) fishing is downstream in the canyon below Deadman Gulch.
“That’s where the best fishing is, and that’s where I head when I’m fishing it,” affirmed Kinler, who likely wields a fly rod more adeptly than most of us. “It’s pretty tight, and you really have to be careful, but there is a lot of pocket water, and that part of the stream hardly gets fished.”
Small-stream fishing is a game within itself, one where the challenges are set by the nearness of cliff walls, overhanging brush and the sudden rush of a 15-inch trout.
There is a nice balance between the country-club atmosphere of fishing a wide-open stream, with obvious holding water and plenty of company, and the faster-paced canyon stream where strikes come quick and strong, with no one to look over your shoulder.
It’s your pick, but the season ends soon.