When thinking about fishing small streams, keep in mind that different gear is required than what you use on a river, lake or reservoir. Small streams are, by very nature, smaller: they are not as wide, fish are smaller and trees often crowd the bank. All of this means shorter casts with less line out, lighter rods, smaller reels. Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis says about rod choice: “…leave your tip flex or fast action rods at home... You need a full-flex action to straighten the leader with these short casts—plus it’s just more pleasant when you feel the rod bending.”
I (Becky) carry a 2-weight rod and David uses a 0-Weight. We prefer a rod that breaks down into 5 pieces, 4 at a minimum, to make it easy to put in your pack. When you have to hike in a ways, it’s best to leave the rod in your pack until you’re ready to fish because hiking with a rigged rod in hand is just asking for an accident: one slip and you could be bracing your fall with your rod – not something you want to do.
Another piece of gear that’s great to have for the backcountry is a light backpack, especially one made to include a hydration pack such as a Geigerrig or Camelback. When hiking to and from a small stream, having enough drinkable water is essential. These packs hold a good supply and adding a filter makes it an endless supply, allowing you to scoop up water from the stream without fear of virus or nasty organisms that might live in the water.
A good pair of wet wading shoes is another key piece of gear when fishing the backcountry. There are several considerations here, and you will probably experience some trial and error. First of all, think comfort. You will be spending quite a bit of time in these shoes, both on the trail and in the stream, so make sure that they are not a poor fit. At the same time, consider grippability (yes, I made up that word.) Small streams, just like our rivers, have rocks covered in algae and you want to make sure that you’re not slipping with every step. Options in footwear include Chacos (I like the closed toe options), Keen, Teva and Simms among others. I like a shoe that I can wear neoprene wading socks in for colder days or streams, or go without on warmer days.
You’ll want to leave your waders and boots at home and wear instead a light pair of nylon pants or shorts. I prefer pants because backcountry angling has often including some bushwhacking and trail blazing and I’ve had my share of scratched up legs. On top I generally wear a light-colored long sleeved moisture wicking shirt with UV and sometimes bug protection built in. Stay away from bright colors because the fish are more easily spooked and you’re more easily seen on small streams. Of course, as always when fishing, have additional layers available, include a lightweight rain jacket for that occasional shower. A buff is also great to have, as are sun gloves, to protect yourself from the sun’s rays at higher elevations.
This is a fairly basic list of gear you’ll need to fish the backcountry. Check out the “Where to go” tab on our website and stop into the shop and we can help you find some great places to fish, away from the crowds, as well as tips on what else you might want to take with you. We’re always happy to help you prepare for your next adventure in fly fishing!
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Women's Fly Tying class series: Class 3, Advanced tying techniques, Dry flies