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Small Streams: The Approach

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Your approach to the stream can absolutely make or break your day on the water.


I’ve learned the hard way in my few short years of fly fishing that your approach to the stream is critical.

Truth is, most trout spook rather easily; with the kind of predators they face on a daily basis, it makes total sense. It also makes sense that your approach in seeking them out needs to be as stealthy and as quiet as possible. Your chances of catching a fish are greatly diminished, or enhanced, just by your approach to them.

I still struggle with approach sometimes, especially on new streams that I’ve never fished before. Let’s go through a few things I’ve learned that hopefully you can apply to your fishing.

Approach from downstream

Trout always face upstream. They do this because food is always drifting downstream. When approaching a small stream, always try to approach from downstream, up to where you want to fish. This lessens the chance of being spotted by wary trout.

Crouch down if you have to

There will be times when you’ll absolutely have to crouch down or get down on your knees to stay in stealth mode. If you can see the trout, it can see you, and crouching down can often give you the advantage needed to stay hidden long enough to present a fly.

Reduce your amount of river walking

When possible, always walk the bank, and not through the stream. This was my biggest mistake when I first started fly fishing. Once I was in the river, I would just move up or downstream to the next spot that I wanted to fish. Needless to say, doing this spooks every fish within a mile of you rather quickly.

Sure, it takes longer to get back out and hit the bank, but you’ll almost always have better luck in not spooking fish if you go this route.

Blend into your environment

Wear clothing in natural colors to help you blend in better. If you’re fishing small streams with a lot of growth and overhang, wear clothing that blends in with that natural environment. Natural, earthy colors are much more likely to blend into surrounding environment than that bright red shirt you might be thinking about wearing.

You can’t completely conceal yourself, but wearing gear that matches the environment always helps.

Water type matters

The type of water you’re fishing, such as a pool or fast moving pocket water makes a big difference in how you can approach.

Trout in fast moving current are harder to spook, so you can be a little quicker with your movements and actions. A good rule of thumb that I like to use is if the water is fast and choppy, you can be too. Fast moving water with several lanes should be treated much differently than a longer, slow moving run of water.

Small stream fly fishing is pretty awesome, but it can be challenging in many ways. Your approach to the water is one of the most important things you need to learn in order to truly have awesome days.


Have you found some useful ways to approach fishing on small streams? Drop me a comment below and share them!

Cory Perry
I'm a husband, father and fly fishing geek living in Greenville, SC. I'm down with slinging flies, tying flies and spending every minute I can enjoying the vast outdoors with my family and friends.

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