Some of the micro trout streams I’ve had the good fortune to fish have surprised me by turning conventional wisdom (even proven facts on ‘bigger’ streams) on its head. This is an incomplete list:
MYTH: They always face upstream
Sure, they do. Fish require water to move over their gills (when they aren’t moving), so facing into the current when holding is obvious. Also it makes total dumb sense on waiting for food to flow down toward their ambush lie. It is why we learn to fish upstream and the basis of much of conventional trout-stream craft.
Except, on our micro streams (on more than one occasion and at different locations) we have seen them holding downstream. Shit you not. However, again it makes total dumb sense. These times – as weird as they initially were – were always in an eddy. So they were still facing into the current, but very cleverly using the eddy for flow. One assumption here is that many of our streams go from steep mountainous creeks to pastoral in short kilometres and are not that constant in flow (some are used for irrigation, while others are highly susceptible to floods, snow melt and drought) which makes the deeper glides, pools and eddies very important holding lies and food sources.
MYTH: Dry flies are ‘better’
It is a small, shallow stream so a dry fly should be a the first option. Not necessarily so. “Given half-a-chance I will always fish a freakin dry fly, of course,” muses micro trout stream guru LeRoy Botha. “But, I’ve come to believe that on the small streams (the rainbow streams rather than brownie creeks) this is NOT the best go-to.”
According to LeRoy, who has been fishing these micro creeks for years, on the brown trout streams he’ll always start with a dry, “for tradition and posterity’s sake,” but on the rainbow streams he starts with his homegrown ‘miner nymph’ in #14 or #16 and also uses the Libellulidae dragon nymph (#12). “The meandering nature of the rivers make for very deeply – sometimes up to a metre –undercut banks,” he says. “Sometimes you are standing on top of the fish when you are standing on the bank. Those fish are not looking for dry flies, they are simply not going to see them. They don’t look at the surface so you have to get down to them with a juicy nymph in size #16.”
MYTH: Wild river trout are found only at 1000m above sea level (and higher)
Okay, so in much of South Africa this isn’t true anyway. Our creeks prove it over and over with generations of trout living at around 650m above mean sea level.
MYTH: Long, ultra thin leaders are best
“These fish will eat 4X all day long,” Leonard Flemming will tell you. And the man knows what he’s talking about. 7X and ultra long leaders will just retard your fishing on these tiny creeks, we tie down to 5X and 6X for brown trout, and mostly 5x for rainbows.
Leaders are around 7’6 and sometimes less. This is because of the tight, bushy vegetation and snags (in and out of the river) stealthy bank-craft (and nimble-footed wading when absolutely necessary) are far more important than going super thin. We don’t see a lot of refusals and a 12 inch-er might break you off on the ultra light stuff anyway because it is often as bushy below the water as above.