Knees creak by wee creeks

First brookie of the day in hand.

Knees creak by wee creeks

This spring I have spent more time than usual creeping around the “little blue lines,” those streams that show up on good maps as, yes, little blue lines.

This is where to find wild trout. Often brook trout, occasionally browns or rainbows.

The first thing to do is get used to kneeling. The fish are generally aggressive, but they are also incredibly spooky.

Once they catch sight of an angler, or even a rod going back and forth, they will zoom off to their hidey holes and sulk.

If you don’t believe me, go to one of these streams and wade right on in. Watch as the little dark shapes whizz around.

When I was a callow youth of 45, kneeling was no big deal. At my advanced age, I have gone to knee pads, as worn by roofers and the fellows who restock potato chips at the grocery store. (It was one of the latter who kindly took his pads off and showed them to me.)

Reading the water is more important than ever in this context. What you want is “soft water.”

Imagine a pool that has a chute or plume of water coming in from above. As the faster-moving water enters the pool, it creates white water. On either side of the chute, there is calmer water. That’s soft water.

You’ll read about finding the seam. The seam is the line between slower and faster moving currents, or white water and soft water.

Trout like to hang around somewhere that offers protection from predators, not too much current to battle against, and adjacent to faster current, which brings food.

Finding the balance of these elements is what trout do all day, except once a year, when they have what passes for sex in the fish world.

It’s a depressing prospect for an ambitious fish, so don’t dwell on it.

So when approaching a likely pool, identify the different currents, areas of soft water, and the seams. Do this from a kneeling or crouching position, of course.

Soft water flows down the little blue line.Patrick L. Sullivan

Now you have figured out where to stick the fly. Pausing briefly to savor the lower back pain, try a dry fly first. A bushy dry fly that floats well and that you can see.

Park it in the soft water. It will bounce around. Don’t let it sit more than a second or two. Flick it in, wait and flick it out.

Sometimes they’ll whack it right away. Other times they will want to see it a few times.

Next hit the seam. Sometimes it will disappear in the foam. Maybe it will sink. Don’t worry about it. Keep flicking.

When you do this often enough, you’ll get good at making miniscule adjustments from cast to cast. On big water, this is a matter of feet or a few inches. On a little blue line, it’s an inch or two tops.

None of these casts are going to be long. Use water loads, bow-and-arrow casts, even roll casts if you’re good at them. (I am not.)

You’re probably not going to be rearing back with a standard forehand cast too often. Not enough room, and no point to it either, since you’re sneaking around in kneepads and peering around boulders.

Whatever you do, don’t get stuck at one pool just because the big one flashed your fly but did not take it.

A good rule of thumb is: Show the fly to them six times. After that assume you are boring them, and move on.

When do you go subsurface? As usual, it depends.

One of my favorite tactics is to use a Chubby Chernobyl or any foam-bodied dry fly, really. It serves as an indicator 90% of the time.

I tie a piece of fluorocarbon tippet, usually 4X, to the bend of the dry fly hook with a clinch knot. The tippet piece is usually between one and two feet.

I start with a wet fly or an unweighted nymph. If that doesn’t work, I go to a brass beadhead nymph, which sinks some. And if that’s a bust, I go to a nymph with a tungsten bead that really sinks.

And if all that fails I cuss a bit and chuck a Wooly Bugger in there, just to show them who’s boss.

What rod to use?

I have a number of small stream rods, ranging in length from five and a half feet to eight feet, and in line weights from one to five.

More often than not I grab a Cabelas CGR six and a half foot four weight. It’s a slow action fiberglass rod, quite inexpensive. I have a discontinued CGR click and pawl reel for it, and a double tapered line.

For fixed line fishing in small streams my favorite is Dragontail’s Kaida, a zoom rod that fishes at nine feet and a bit, and 10 and a half feet. This is considerably longer than the fly rod, but the extra leverage allows me to keep most or all of the line and tippet off the water. The extra length is also helpful if I latch onto one of the little blue line Leviathans.

About that: Little blue line fishing is extra-crazy. You have to accept this.

After all, you are expending considerable energy in difficult terrain, performing a highly technical task, in pursuit of quarry you are not going to kill and eat.

And even if you did, a creel full of six-inch trout will yield only enough meat to cover a few Saltine crackers.

You wouldn’t be fishing for dinner, but for hors d’oeuvres.

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