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A Visit to Stream XXX (or, Small Stream Porn)

Posted by Tom Chandler 7/13/2011

Our winter blended seamlessly into spring, which is to say they both kinda sucked for a particular fly fisherman jonesing for a small stream fix.

That ended last weekend, when Wayne Eng and I hit a piece of little-fished small stream. The brown trout weren't anywhere near as abundant as the mosquitoes (nor as aggressive), but they would eat a dry fly in a way that was recognizably my kind of fly fishing, and suddenly, winter and our long, cold, high-water spring simply fell away.

And did so in what amounts to a rampantly beautiful... spot.

Small stream brown trout spots

Regulars know I refer to my local small streams with highly unoriginal aliases like "Stream X" and "Stream Y."

In a fit of creativity, I'm naming this stretch Stream XXX, because while the brown trout aren't fish-porn worthy, I'd suggest the location itself qualifies as Small Stream Porn.

Of the Triple-X variety. I mean, look at it:

Wayne Eng, small stream style

Fly fishing a small stream

If you're a fly fisherman, that's major wood action (I'm referring of course to all the downed timber, which provides exceptional trout habitat).

Stream XXX was running high -- higher than I'd ever seen -- but it was still wholly fishable. High water tends to discourage trout from taking dries (they've got a lot more water to move through), but thankfully, enough trout made the trip to keep it interesting.

I started the day throwing the vaunted new Mini-Hopper, which accounted for four trout (and several other grabs).

Then I found this #10-sized penny from heaven on bankside brush:

#10 Bug Porn

That prompted a switch to a #10 March Brown (Catskill style), which went to a watery grave a few fish later, precipitating a move to an Old Joe Kimsey Favorite -- the orange Skinny Humpy.

The beauty of a Humpy is that each fish frays it towards a state of grace; the more chewed it gets, the better it seems to catch trout (short of total dissolution).

The skinny humpy

That, my friends, worked like stink, proving that Joe Kimsey probably still knows more than we do, and we buried him a while ago.

It's gratifying to stumble on the fly of the day, but more importantly, I was fishing and casting and hooking trout instead of lobbing who knows what who knows where, and the sensation was, well... triple-X pleasurable.

The Clothing Angle

Firmly in the "unpleasant" column we find the mosquitoes, who attacked in force and got worse as the day progressed. They're irritating to the point of distraction, and at one point, I found myself trying to re-tie my leader while stumbling around in circles; stopping and sitting on a log was an invitation to insanity.

Some deal with mosquitoes via chemical weapons, though I've largely given up on Deet. The stuff melts fly lines and bamboo rod varnish, and works (I believe) by altering your DNA to the point that mosquitoes no longer recognize you as a mammal.

Is that really something I want covering my body?

Better, I think, is to simply cover up:

The mostquito-proof fly fisherman

This looks odd, but it's a damn bit better than constantly swatting your eyeglasses off your face.

Note the CalTrout-styled buff, which -- when combined with a hat -- leaves very little skin exposed, yet doesn't run nearly as hot as you'd think.

And yes, that's a long-sleeve, one-piece Patagonia Sun Hoody -- a lightweight, cover-everything piece of clothing -- the kind of which is currently found on a lot of flats fishermen, who are more concerned with sun exposure than bugs.

I'm trying it here in the decidedly flats-free Northern California mountains, and so far (that's two trips), I like the hoody better than your typical long-sleeve fly fishing shirt, which isn't nearly as snag-free.

Also in the ensemble (but not the pictures) were a pair of Glacier Glove sun gloves, which protected the back of my hands from mosquitoes and the sun, and if you'd ever seen them, you'd know that's a good thing.

There is plenty more testing to come, but as someone who hates both bug repellent and sunscreen (and who has some serious skin issues), I may just be looking at my mosquito-driven future -- a lightweight fishing rig that leaves only my eyes and fingers exposed.

The problem is that you look a little like you're from outer space (or France), and I'm going to immediately write a letter to Patagonia asking for a camo version of the shirt, figuring that buys you more acceptance in rural areas than silver.

The Footwear Angle

After deciding they were failures on freestone streams, I wore the Patagonia Rock Grip wading boots, and they worked beautifully, but then, of course they would.

This stream was all mud, gravel, grass and trees -- barely a slippery freestone-style rock in sight.

A downstream drift

They're wonderful wading boots when they're not filling the same niche as ice skates, but most rivers come equipped with rocks, and Tommy needs a pair of studded rubber soles for the tough stuff.

The search continues, though I might just opt for the studded Orvis boots in the right size. Sometimes searching's overrated.

The Fly Rod Angle

This visit concluded my test of the Orvis Superfine Touch 8' 4wt, a rod that has performed admirably, and I stand by my earlier thinking that it's a modern interpretation of the classic 8' 4wt small stream rod.

I'll write a longer review soon, but will say it's a nice, modern rod -- one that is (somewhat atypically) designed to fish at reasonable small-stream ranges, and has all the heft of a toothpick in your hand.

Rods so light you almost don't notice them are a manifestly marketable these days, though personally I'd probably still opt for my 8' 5wt Phillipson -- which has enough mass that you can feel it loading even when you're only casting a leader.

I also recognize the personal nature of that reality, and we'll explore that more in my review of the rod.

See you on a small stream, Tom Chandler.

Small stream brown trout

Small stream brown trout

AuthorPicture

Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

18 comments
[...] the self-employed can ignore work sneak away whenever they want, whether to Maine via Bass Pro or small streams so crazily beautiful they earn a triple-X rating. Over at Singlebarbed.com we're told that there may be no stopping invasive species, so the [...]
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Great lookin stream, and fish. Im going to be hitting Colorado's version of stream XXX next Monday and Tuesday, ac well as some time on the Arkansas. Cant wait. Great fish porn Tom
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What do you mean "if"? You only live once...
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Wow, a 1wt. I've got a 3wt glass rod that I rarely drag out. In any case, the SFT series are interesting rods -- they really are designed to fish at "normal" distances, and it's interesting they're considered pretty far out of the mainstream for it...
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Looks interesting, but warmer than the Sun Hoody, which did pretty well in the 80-degree weather. Probably a better bet in the real serious bug stuff tho...
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Steve: Thankfully, I wasn't struck dead. That makes it nothing Caddyshack then. You need to be struck by lightning...
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I'm going to take a trip up to some nearby freestone streams (Stream XXX is largely spring fed) and see if they've calmed down. Bet they're close.
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Kirk: This river you will not mention by name is no exception. What river?
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Great story Tom. Maybe it's just me, but I think over the years your posts have somehow always been about a small stream somewhere. If I get a chance to wet a line in a troutstream this year, I hope I find one as nice as this one.
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Hmmmm ... Yeah, stream "X" or stream "Y" is a better alias than stream "A" or stream "B" .....
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Mosquito net jacket with full hood that fits over your hat is my choice for dealing with skeeters
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Hi, great small stream porn out there, thanks for sharing. Im a big ultralight fan, and I do fish streams like that with a 1wt or 2wt rod. Ive also tried the Orvis Superfine Touch (761-4), oh man, what a lovely rod. If you like to cover up to protect from sun and mosquitoes, you can try the Buff with insect repellent on it. PD: I bought the SFT, Im not an orvis endorsed or a buff endorsed guy... just ... more saying
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This is the price we pay for a good water year: Skeeter City.For the bugs, take a pointer from the bow hunters: www.bugtamer.com. I used one of their jackets last year in Labrador, which has the absolute worst bugs--black flies, as well as mosquitoes--I have ever seen (and I have been to Alaska, and Africa, and...), and it made life tolerable. Those dumb head nets just tickle your nose and fall apart ... more after a couple of uses, and the bandanna is not enough when the sun goes down.Also, if you are introducing a youngster, female, or other individual with utility whom you would like to enjoy small stream fishing, keeping the bugs off them reduces their sources of frustration to a number under fifty. The Bugtamer jacket does not smell, or confine you to any appreciable degree. It works on a multi-layer principle (the outer netting stays about 1/2" away from the inner layer, so the bugs can't poke you through the net). I sprayed mine with DEET, but you don't really have to. And like all bowhunting gear, it is pretty cheap. Bowhunters, folks who sew, can vegetables, use black powder; they are frugal, not cheap, and don't fall for the fancy titanium nano-tech glitter the rest of us suckers do.
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Was on a small stream in Northern Iowa this past Monday. Had it all to myself for hours. It was weirdly like that scene in Caddy Shack where the minister is having the best round of golf of his life and is then struck dead. I was pulling fish out of every run, every pool, every bend. I couldn't believe this was happening to me--me, who is gifted at spooking fish, and more inept casting you cannot ... more imagine. Yet there I was. As they said in the Big Lebowski, "Some days you eat the 'baar,' some days the 'baar' eats you. " Was eating baar last Monday. Thankfully, I wasn't struck dead.
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Thanks for the report, Tom. That is a beautiful stream and those fish are gorgeous. I am jealous.
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Beautiful little stream! Beautiful photos, and beautiful fish! Still don't know how to fish up here. I think there are no fish in the American River, at least not at 5200 cfs. But the Orvis boots are good, although I think what you say about size is right. Sometimes I put on an extra pair of socks. Went to visit my daughter in Sequoia last week. Nothing fishable up there because of high flows; still ... more lots of snow in the mountains.
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I envy you. If I get a chance to fish an actual troutstream this year it will have seen thousands of hours of fishing. Experts and beginners alike. Oh, well...
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Small streams tend to have a certain physical beauty that bigger rivers (with bigger trout) seem to have outgrown. This river you will not mention by name is no exception.
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