bill

A wild brook trout from a small White Mountain stream. (BILL THOMPSON PHOTO)

It is the time of year when we return to the hills and seek out the smaller streams. Over the years, I have come to love this type of fishing over all others.

On these smaller venues I can fish my light weight bamboo rods that add beauty and tradition to the sport. It is now warm enough that waders are no longer needed. A lucky fishing hat, a long sleeve shirt (to keep the bugs off and prevent sunburn), a pair of shorts and a pair of wading shoes make the perfect fashion statement for small stream fishing.

One small box of flies that will fit in a shirt pocket will suffice. My fly selection is simple. A couple of Elk Hair caddis, an Adams Parachute, a Royal Coachman and latter in the season a Dave’s Hopper will do the trick. It is best to carry a few of each, in case of loss, and a couple of different sizes in each pattern. Fish nymphs or streamers if you must, but I prefer to remain a purist.

My favorite method is to fish up stream. This goes back to my ideal of being a purist, but it is a very effective method of fishing small streams. Trout, for the most part, face upstream. By doing so they get the supply of oxygen that require flowing through their gills and they are in the perfect position to ambush their prey. If you think about it, the stream is a conveyer belt bringing the trout a constant flow of food.

Fishing upstream also gives the angler the advantage of stealth. A fisherman fishing down stream will probably spook the majority of the trout in the river. In defense of the down stream angler, it is an effective method of fishing wet flies or nymphs. For the record a downstream angler should yield to a fisherman fishing upstream. It is not only the polite thing to do, it will ensure that both anglers will continue to have success.

It is much more difficult to fish upstream and a special skill set must be learned. First in foremost wade slowly and with caution.

As the master Izaak Walton said: “Study to be quiet.” It is the casting that makes upstream fishing difficult. A poorly thrown cast will spook the trout. There are two different casts that must be learned to be successful. First master the parachute cast. This cast is accomplished by bringing the rod up short and high on the forward cast. By doing so the leader will turn over and the fly will drift to the surface without disturbing the trout.

The second cast is the “S Curve.” At the end of the forward stroke throw an “S” by moving the rod tip right and left. The line will land on the water in the form of an S. The reason for this is to be able to strip the line back without dragging the fly. Dragging the fly is the big obstacle to upstream fishing. Because the water is moving towards you the current will immediately move the fly forward. By creating the S, the fly rests on the water for a moment giving you time to get the line under your fore finger and slowly strip the line back without causing drag.

Notice I said immediately place the line under your forefinger, tight to the rod. This is your trigger finger. Failure to do so will cause you to miss the strike due to a slack line. If I had a dime for every time I have said to a client, while guiding, “Put the line under your finger!” I would be a rich man.

The whole process is a bit tricky and there is a learning curve. However, in the end, you will no doubt catch more trout and you will have become a purist in the process. Becoming a “purist” will increase your snob appeal ten-fold and endear you to your fishing friends. You probably should ignore that last piece of advice and just endeavor to be a better fisherman.

There are hundreds of small streams throughout the White Mountains that hold wild trout. They are special places and are fragile. Treat them with respect. Avoid fishing on hot days and carefully release your catch. Above all, leave no trace that you were ever there.

See you on the river.

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