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Colorado's Creek and Stream Fishing

- Rick Schroeder

Colorado has thousands of small creeks and streams that run off tributaries of the larger rivers that get little to no pressure. 2wt TFO and Okuma SLV reel
One of the reasons I started fly fishing was to test myself against those wild high country trout. Why? I enjoy fishing and enjoy the solitude I find alone on an unknown stream in the Colorado back country. If you ask most fly fisherman they will tell you a something similar about enjoying the beauty of their surroundings while fishing. The ironic part of this is when fishing popular waters, which I often do like the South Platte it sometimes resorts to combat fishing. So the conundrum is why do these fisherman stack up on top of each other on these popular big waters? The obvious answer is fish but the other is access, when it is easier to get to a place to fish that is known to have good fishing it will always be busy. With a little work and an adventurous attitude one can find that hidden feeder creek or meadow stream without a soul around for 50miles. One of the big myths about fishing this type of water is they do not hold big fish. While this has some truth to it you can and often will find large trout in these streams or beaver ponds. Hopefully I can help you figure out these large lone wolf trout that hang out on these feeder waters. Brook trout
Before we get to the water lets first talk about equipment. One of the misconceptions about fishing small water is you will want a shorter rod. This is not necessarily true. It�s hard to find water where an 8 ft rod is too long. If the trees start to get thick and it gets harder to cast without getting snagged up, break the rod down and make a cast with just the top sections. Most fish in a small stream can be played by hand but do not use this technique all the time. My preferred rod is a 6ft 2wt rod; it allows me to cast in those tight spots between scrub brush and trees. The reel is not as important as it is when fishing the larger rivers, but make sure you have a good drag to handle those big lone wolfs. You do not need those super long leaders 12ft or above. Most of your casts will be ten feet or less. Make sure your leader is short enough that it allows you to still cast fly line. A 7ft leader is plenty and don�t be afraid to go even shorter than that. Whatever you need to keep your casting precise as accuracy is very important on small waters. Because of the nature of small streams winding through rocky canyons, forests, and scrub brushed meadows there are a ton of obstacles in your way. You will get snagged. Leave the 6X tippet at home, most of these fish have never seen a fly before and will not be line shy. Use 3X or 4X instead, it will help you get your fly back from those branches or rocky snags. This will also help you fight those few large fish since they will have more opportunities to break you off on those snags. After getting snagged or catching a couple fish I will often check my line to see if it needs changed. Lastly the flies, this is not as important as one would think. Most small stream fish are not particular about the fly pattern you are throwing. Unless there is a big hatch coming off, in which you will want to match that hatch. Make sure the flies you use are well tied and durable. Often times you will catch large numbers of fish in a day on small streams and the trout�s teeth are rough on the flies.working pocket water
When approaching the water be sneaky. Small streams have less room for fish to move around in. The good news is that there are fewer places for the fish to hide. The bad news is that the fish are far more sensitive to disturbances. Any trout that has become aware of your presence is very unlikely to feed, while the one that is unaware of you will keep going on about his business of looking for food. Before heading to the hole you want to fish assess the situation. What are the obstructions? Do you need to roll cast because of the trees behind you? Does the overhanging tree near your target require a sidearm cast? Every pool, pocket, and run will be different and should be treated as such. This is one of the reasons small stream fishing is so challenging. Decide how you are going to fish that water. If you cast to the start of the run like you might on a large river you may catch a fish but how many did you spook? Fish face upstream so it may be more effective if you make your first cast to the tail of the run, then your next cast to a good lie off to the side, and lastly to the start of the run. Working your way to the start of the run may give you shots at several trout. Now that we know how and where we are going to fish, move to the spot slowly. Do not wade if you do not have to. Creep along the bank in the quietest way you can to a good casting position. Wear subdued colors of camouflage that blend into the background to help mask your presence. I have often seen a trout turn and swim downstream to get a fly only to spot the bright colors of my shirt and turn away. If you have to wade do not splash around or stomp. Try to put your feet in gravel or sand to keep stable smooth footing. Large rocks are often covered with slick algae which can make you stumble around spooking fish.
Be prepared to move. You should cover a lot of water when fishing small streams and creeks. Most strikes will occur on the first or second cast to your run. I know it�s hard to want to get that perfect cast. However, if your first cast was bad and smacked the water there is little chance that there are any trout that stuck around to go for your second offering. It�s better to move on to another run to better your chances. Even if you make a good cast, and still get no response, you should move on. If you can see the fish and they are not biting you probably spooked them, however if there is a large fish there and you want to keep trying for him switch flies.Make it a drastic change. Small stream fish will usually be willing to take any fly so if your fly is not working only big changes in your fly selection will make a big difference. If you are fishing a dry fly switch to a nymph or streamer or if you are throwing a small fly try the biggest gaudiest fly you have in your box. Don�t work the fish to hard. If he still won�t take it move on maybe come back to him later. You want to put your fly over as many fish as you can so keep moving. Putting your fly over more fish means you will find more willing fish, which means more strikes and hopefully more hookups and more Small creek rainbow caught fish.
After fishing a few small streams, you will most likely spot a few prime pools that you will want to rush over and start casting in to. Do not get into this habit. As you move to that pool you will blow out some nice fish in your haste. It is common for large fish to reside in these rare large pools, but they regularly feed just upstream or downstream. It is important to fish the unlikely waters that you normally wouldn�t on a large river. I have spooked more big fish and sent them darting upstream than I care to say ignoring riffles or pockets on the edges of big pools. On small streams you should never ignore pocket water. (In my opinion you shouldn�t ignore pocket water on large rivers either but that�s another article.) The majority of trout on small streams are caught out of pocket water. It�s well oxygenated, provides cover, and plenty of food moving down stream; everything a small stream trout needs.
Get out! Enjoy the beauty of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the solitude, and the wildlife of the thousands of small streams and creeks here in Colorado. Small streams may hold fewer large fish but for what they lack, they usually make up for it with tons of aggressive little trout in an extraordinary fishing environment. The numbers of small trout streams far outnumber those larger rivers which get the most pressure. With all the hiking trails that follow the tributary streams or cross them here in Colorado you have endless possibilities. If you need more help finding some small streams to fish stop by our website Join in the forum and we will be glad to help. Rick Schroeder