Spring creeks are amazing, beautiful things. Not only do they often offer some of the best ecosystems for trout around, they offer some of the best trout fishing year round. Nutrient rich water fosters a healthy, diverse biomass. Consistent water temperatures are warmer in the winter and cool in the summer. Fish thrive in spring creeks. Anglers have the opportunity to thrive.
However, what creates great fish can make for tricky fishing. There is so much food that the trout can be picky. The reputation of spring creeks can add pressure. But before either of those issues can cause headaches for the fly fisher, he or she must cast a fly that drifts before a fish and drifts well. In a spring creek, that isn’t as easy as it might sound.
While there are a number of factors that impact the dynamics of spring creek flows, one of the major ones is aquatic vegetation. Thick and ubiquitous, the various species of underwater plants create spectacular habitat for macroinvertibrates, forage fish, and trout. They also create undulating masses that break currents. Water speeds up and slows down. Flies stand still, quickly rise to the surface, or get kicked into another current entirely.
Now multiply those variables three or fourfold across a twenty-foot wide river. That is what one must contend with when pursuing spring creek quarry.
There are some techniques that certainly help. Three are outlined below. They can be used independently, based upon preference for style of fishing. Or, they can be used in tandem.
Long Leaders, Heavy Flies
Having a fly sit still and motionless in front of a weed bed isn’t a bad thing. If your fake can do that, the real thing could as well. The same can be said for flies that rise in the water column or dart sideways. The key is to let the current move your fly, not your dragging line. If you’re fishing a subsurface pattern, weight (especially a wrapped body or beadhead) will get your fly down. A long leader (up to 18 feet) will mitigate interference from drag. Fished well, this can promote a natural surface drift for dry flies.
Light Line, Lengthy Rod
Mending is necessary. Regardless if you are fishing nymphs, dries, or streamers, only allowing the current that your fly is in to impact it’s drift is vital. The more narrow and lightweight your line is (think 4- or even 3-weight), the less surface tension impacts your mending. A longer rod (9 feet or more) also means easier and more versatile mending options. Coupled together, there are less interfering points between your hand and your fly.
Move Slow, Wade Right
If altering tackle significantly is too much to bear, modifying the approach might be more palatable. The weeds and other cover that causes problematic fishing can also make for a buffer between angler and fish. With slow and methodical movements, the fly fisher can get “on top” of a casting lane and a drift. Thus, there are less variables to overcome. This is also potentially dangerous, as wary fish will be more aware of your presence if your motion or profile disturbs their baseline.
Fly selection is usually seen as the primary focus for finicky spring creek trout. While matching the hatch or prevalent forage is important, it is all for naught unless you get it in front of the fish and then present the fly well. Minding your terminal tackle and approach can be key to giving yourself a chance against the sometimes difficult odds.