BOISE, Idaho -- The tiny, ultra-light Mepps Black Fury plopped in the calm waters just behind a rock in the cascading waters of the small Idaho mountain stream.
Flash! Bam! A small brookie hit it instantly. One for the frying pan.
Small stream fishing can be rewarding, but it also can be challenging and extremely frustrating, especially if you skin your knees on rocks, slip and fall in up to your nose or continually get your line hung up in thick brush.
Most of the tiny tributaries of Idaho's rivers are brushy streams where you have to get down and dirty (make that down and wet) to get in there and fish.
But on a hot summer day, nothing beats crawling around the rocks on a small creek and picking up a few small, scrappy fish for camp dinner.
Small stream fishing isn't very sophisticated.
A tiny spinner like a Mepps, Panther Martin and Rooster Tail will work. Get the smallest possible.
A short ultra-light spinning rod is easy to handle in brushy areas. You can just flip the lure upstream, or let it drift downstream and work the spinner from side to side.
You can also use a fly and a bubble, but make sure the bobber is tiny, too.
A popular method of fishing small streams by oldtimers in Southeast Idaho is to use a small spinner tipped with a piece of worm or salmon egg.
Other anglers use a fly rod, and some even use one with a spinner and just let it drift downstream.
The best method with either a spinning rod or fly rod is to stand in the stream and let the rig sink into the nearest hole. You'll surely get a strike.
When wading downstream, remember not to stir up the water and send mud downstream. Cloudy water is a sure way to alert the trout.
Fishing upstream is a much better practice because fish face upstream looking for food floating down, and won't see you coming if you are stealthy.
Fishing upstream is a little more difficult because you have to cast and avoid brush on the sides of the stream.
You're not really casting, but flipping the lure upstream.
Watch the sun and your shadow. A shadow on the water is an alarm for scattering fish.
Fly fishing small streams is fun, too. But handling a fly rod in such a confined space takes finesse. L.L. Bean advertises fly rods for pocket water -- small rods for those tight spots.
A fly rod and small attractor pattern work well if the fish are surfacing. Fish upstream flipping the fly.
If fish are deep, turn around and fish downstream, letting a nymph sink gently into a hole or under a branch.
If it's a hot summer day, you'll want to be wading in shorts, river sandals and a T-shirt.
In cooler weather, put on the waders and creep along the rocks and over the logs.
Move slowly. Small streams have gin-clear water, and fish can spot you quicker than you can flip a fly.
LOOK FOR FEATURES
When fishing small streams look for features like beaver dams. You'll almost always find fish on the upstream side of the dam.
The hole below beaver dams can also contain fish.
Look for deeper pools that hold fish. Look for small eddies, too, and calm spots just below rocks.
If you hook a fish in a pool, most likely the pool will be disturbed, and you won't get another fish to bite.
Wait a while and come back later to give the fish time to calm down.
Be especially careful when fishing brookie streams that you don't catch and keep a bull trout by mistake. Take a copy of the fishing regulations with you so you can tell the difference.
Check fishing regulations, too, for any special rules where you are fishing.
WHERE TO GO
Small streams are in the upper ends of major river drainages like the Boise, Payette, Weiser, Salmon, Lochsa, Selway and Upper Snake.
You'll find them in Idaho's famed Copper Basin and in the state's wilderness areas.
If you're looking for dinner, you'll be stalking mostly brookies or rainbows.
Most of Idaho's streams are restricted to catch-and-release fishing for cutthroats.
Still, the challenge of small stream fishing is rewarding because you'll probably be alone in your pursuit.
Most anglers head for bigger rivers and drive right past small, brushy streams with hidden holes full of fish.
Small stream opens up another world of fishing in Idaho, and you'll soon get hooked.
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