When it comes to fly fishing, catching fish can be as easy or difficult as you’d like. While some are satisfied slinging stimulators to opportunistic brook trout, others desire a much more meticulous approach. For those longing for a challenge, you’ve come to the right place. Below is everything one should know about fly fishing spring creeks.


Glossary

A Native Brook Trout in the Shenandoah Valley
Photo by Owen Rossi 

 

What are Spring Creeks? 

Because spring creeks are often the most technical waters an angler can fish, it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of how they function. Spring creeks obtain their water supply from an underground aquifer. Unlike freestone streams, spring creeks are entirely self-sufficient on their aquifers and do not rely on outside elements such as rain or snow to keep them full. The water supplied by the aquifer exhibits just enough pressure to keep these creeks flowing at a constant rate year-round. In addition to their continuous flows, spring creeks remain at similar water temperatures regardless of the season. Anglers flock from near and far to fish these creeks during the coldest/hottest months, in hopes of targeting active fish, unaffected by the air temps. What makes spring creeks truly special is their uncertainty. One can appear to be doing everything right and yet be met with continued refusals by the fish. However, when the stars align and everything comes together, taking fish on spring creeks can produce an unforgettable feeling of fulfillment.

How to Fish Spring Creeks 

Owen Rossi of Native Release with a pretty spring creek wild brown trout
Photo Courtesy of Grant Michaels

Before setting foot on a spring creek, it’s important to have a general game plan of how to target these fish. Due to the slow-paced, crystal clear water, fish inhabiting these waters are typically on high alert and spook very easily. We recommend staying on the bank as much as possible and using lighter tippets than usual to counteract leader shy trout (5-7X). During the warmer months, most anglers find themselves casting small dry flies on spring creeks. Often times, false casting directly over a spring creek trout is enough to alert them of your presence, so when false casting, do so to the right or left of the fish. Dropping fly line on top of a fish will spook it as well, so adjust your casts accordingly. During the winter months, we highly recommend using nymphs and streamers. Euro nymphing is an excellent way to get your flies down quickly without splatting the water with a heavy plastic indicator.

Fly Selection on Spring Creeks

Grant Michaels with a quick fly change on a beautiful spring creek.
Photo by Owen Rossi

When venturing out to spring creeks, it’s crucial to understand the bugs that live in them. While spring creeks include many of the same aquatic insects that inhabit freestone streams and rivers, the biggest difference is their flourishing scud and sowbug populations. These insects thrive throughout the aquatic vegetation found in spring creeks. Below we have attached a spring creek fly guide to assist in fly selection throughout the seasons.

Fall

  • Streamers: Sparkle Minnow, Mini-Dungeon, JJ Special, Drunk and Disorderly
  • Nymphs: Scuds, Sowbugs, San Juan Worm, Eggs
  • Dry Flies: Elk Hair Caddis, Blue-Winged Olive, Travis Para Ant

Winter 

  • Streamers: White Circus Peanut, Olive Zuddler, Bangerhead Sculpin
  • Nymphs: Prince Nymphs, Scuds, Sowbugs, Zebra Midge
  • Dry Flies: Midges, Griffiths Gnat, Blue-Winged Olive, Trico

How To Tie: The Zebra Midge

Spring

  • Streamers: Yellow Mini-Dungeon, Barely Legal, Mongrel Meat
  • Nymphs: Scuds, Sowbugs, Caddis Pupa, Duracell
  • Dry Flies: Sulphurs, March Browns, Midges

Summer

  • Streamers: Kreelex, Sculpzilla, Freshwater Clouser Minnow, Zonker
  • Nymphs: Scuds, Sowbugs, Zebra Midge, Perdigon, Blowtorch
  • Dry Flies: PMD, Elk Hair Caddis, Chubby Chernobyl, Ants.

Spring Creek Trout 

Admiring a Spring Creek Brook Trout
Photo by Owen Rossi

While spring creeks most commonly support healthy brown trout populations, they are also home to rainbow, brook, and cutthroat trout. These trout tend to grow to abnormally large sizes due to the plethora of food that is available to them. However, just because the trout are big doesn’t mean they aren’t smart. You’re going to have to work for these fish, but as we’ve mentioned above, this work pays off.

Gear for Spring Creek Fishing

A pair of Ross Reels displayed by a beautiful spring creek
Photo by Owen Rossi

When selecting gear, it’s important to keep in mind your plan of attack. Are you fishing dry flies, streamers, or nymphs? While better gear won’t increase your fish count, it can play a vital role in how your flies are presented. Below we’ve included a brief rod guide to assist you before heading out on the water.

Rods

Dry Fly Rods

Nymphing Rods

Streamer Rods

Reels

Packs

Backpacks:

Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack
Photo by Owen Rossi

Sling Packs:

Hip Packs

Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Hip Pack
Photo by Owen Rossi

Waders: 

Orvis Pro Waders

Boots

Orvis Pro Wading Boots

Closing Remarks 

Shane MacGregor with a beautiful spring creek brown trout
Photo by Owen Rossi

Whether you’re a first-time fly fisher or a seasoned veteran, spring creeks are challenging. Between the slow-paced flows, and educated trout, many anglers find themselves unsuccessful in their early attempts. However, with a little hard work, patience, and skill, spring creeks provide rewards that anglers dream of. And let’s be honest, if tricking trout were easy, it wouldn’t be fun!

Article by Flylords content team member, Owen Rossi. Head over to Native Release on Instagram for more!

Fall Gear Guide to Streamer Fishing

On the Water with Ross Reels New San Miguel Reel

Freestone Streams vs. Spring Creeks: What Are Trout Eating?

 

 

 

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