We all want to catch big fish. Feeling the headshake of a two-footer is a great feeling for a fly angler. Truly massive fish tend to live in bigger bodies of water and around here, except for tailwater streams, those bigger bodies of water do not fish well in the summer because of warm water temps. Stumbling into one of these monsters during the dog days of summer may actually endanger the fish because of the stress put on the fish in warm water situations. During the height of summer I like to adjust my goals to catching a big fish for the body of water I am fishing. It may only be 12 inches, but after catching a bunch of 4-6 inch fish, a one-footer feels like an accomplishment.
On a small creek, bigger fish tend to be visible if you take your time and carefully scan the water around you. Often times, given the shallow and clear conditions of small creeks, these big fish, if out feeding stick out like a sore thumb if you looking for them. Carefully scan riffles and look for dark shapes moving back and forth. You can also easily spot bigger fish in eddies, cruising around sipping bugs off the surface. Bigger wild fish in small creeks are very wary and remaining stealthy is a big key. Once a big fish has been spotted, keep yourself out of view. Take the time to get in position and be ready once the fly hits the water. You don’t want your hands tied when that fish eats your fly.
Landing a bigger fish in small water can also be a considerable challenge. In tight conditions, you must be extra aware of hazards to avoid with your rod like the rhododendron tree you are standing under. It is advisable to create a game plan before the fish is hooked. Without horsing the fish, try to get it to the net as quickly as possible to avoid something bad happening. Fish on small wild creeks, although spooky, do not necessarily tend to be line-shy, so switching to some heavier tippet before making your presentation might be a wise idea. The more control you can exercise, the better chance you have of landing the fish.
Given the challenging nature of landing bigger fish on small creeks, you will feel a major sense of accomplishment taking a 12-16 inch fish out of a little stream. It’s just a matter of adjusting your expectations this time of year. And, feeling the chill in the air this morning was a good reminder that fall is right around the corner and those truly big browns will be moving around and feeding heavy soon.