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Salomone: Small Streams

When it comes to small streams, Colorado has water everywhere. | Special to the Daily

Michael Salomone
Vail Valley Anglers

Rain has slammed into the valley, changing the whole picture when it comes to our local rivers. The low-water, high-temperature Eagle River that has been under an afternoon closure is now swollen from bank to bank. The Colorado River has seen its fair share of temperature issues this summer and now suffers from the effects of muddy runoff in burn scar areas. The reasons are many for seeking out small streams for fly-fishing success.

When it comes to small streams, Colorado has water everywhere. It doesn’t have to be at lung-searing altitude either, although our high country has some pristine areas that just beckon a dry fly. A couple prime examples that are close to the I-70 corridor would be Upper Piney Creek above Piney Lake. A well-worn trail leads to some of the most picturesque angling around. Gore Creek flowing right beside Interstate 70 through Vail is a unique, small-water stream where knowledgeable anglers can catch a grand slam: a rainbow, brown, brook and cutthroat trout in one day. And a little farther downvalley in Eagle is a cherished small water stream, Brush Creek. With East and West Brush Creek nestled in the alpine country, the lower section of Brush Creek flowing through the town of Eagle has some surprisingly good dry fly water.

Gear for small streams is catered to the size of the water and the fish. 2, 3 and 4wt fly rods fit into the small spaces little water possesses. Short fly rods from 6’ to 7 ½’ maneuver through the tight conditions that overshadow small water. Small, light rods load quickly for technical casting situations. Small streams will challenge your casting skills.



The fish in small streams are often brook and cutthroat trout. These fish are small in scale but voracious in appetite, devouring dry flies with a competitive spirit. Unexpected challengers can appear and test your fly rodding skills with roots, cut-banks and branches trying to dislodge your fly from the fish.

Marc Barnwell with a cutt in hand.
Special to the Daily

Casting skills need to be on point for small stream success. Overhanging obstacles tempt dry fly casts to where they reach out and grab your errant cast. If you aren’t losing a few flies to the trees and bushes, you aren’t pushing it enough. Wrapping a fly around a willow hanging over a grassy bank is easily retrieved when you continue wading upstream. You will end up spooking out that hole but there is always another spot around the next bend.

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Dry fly is the only way on small streams. Sure, you could catch fish with nymphs and small streamers, but little water is made for dry fly fishing. The summertime window closes quickly in the high country. Throw the dry flies while you can. Small rods, light tippets and dry flies are the only tools high country, small water anglers need for success.

The fish in small streams are often Brook and Cutthroat Trout. These fish are small in scale but voracious in appetite devouring dry flies with a competitive spirit.
Marc Barnwell, Special to the Daily

Another benefit of small streams is the opportunity to wet wade like a kid again. A pair of old wading boots and some neoprene socks is really all an angler needs. Once in the stream, anglers can walk easily along the rocky bottom. Standing in the water can give anglers a better angle to cast around challenging obstacles. Climbing over logs, feeling the cold water caress your toes and splashing through shallow riffles will make you smile. Watching a painted-up brook trout devour your high-floating dry fly never gets old.

Small streams are a great alternative to the current river conditions anglers are negotiating. Challenging casting conditions create unique situations to overcome. High numbers of dry fly-eating trout reward tight presentations anglers are required to make for success. Wet wading like a kid again is always enjoyable. And the vistas where anglers throw dry flies on small streams are breathtaking. The rewards from small-stream fly fishing go on and on.

 


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