Small Water Browns: Tips and Techniques

I’m a weekend warrior and my fly-fishing days start at 2 AM. Unfortunately, I live a significant distance away from the mountains or any trout waters. Like all passions, they drive and push you to do what you love, even if that day means taking on equal parts driving and fishing.

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I primarily focus on small water, creeks and tributaries searching for wild browns.  At the end of the day, I really don’t know what I’m doing, I just go out and hope to luck into a few. With that said here are five things that have helped my luck and it is by no means groundbreaking.


1. Don’t be afraid to try skinny water, you will be surprised what kind of fish will move from larger water into the small stuff.


2. Try big flies on small water in all conditions.  I primarily fish streamers in the 4-6-inch range in skinny water, this has helped me find out if that water holds good size and density in the first few outings while scouting new watersheds.


3. Cover ground and lots of it.  Find a technique that allows you to fish efficiently, thoroughly and quickly.  Use it and move through some water, and I mean a lot of it.

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4. Flip your bugs.  No, it’s not a traditional or pretty but its effective once you nail the technique.  I use a 10ft 6in 3wt to streamer fish small water.  It allows me flip or pendulum my flies almost to the other side of the stream, then slow them down right before the water’s surface and drop them in the very spot I want them.

Edited_CJL8749Using this technique on small water that is often gin clear allows me to use large streamers and get them in the water with minimal to zero surface disturbance.   Then the length of the rod allows me to keep virtually no fly line in the water.  When dealing with such clear and small water, surface disturbance and fly line can make or break you connecting with a wild fish.

Edited_CJL87025. Try and piss them off.  If you are fishing decent water that you know holds good fish, I’ve come to find that you can often piss a wild brown off into striking.  If you come to a good run or hole that looks fishy, well it probably is.  Fish it thoroughly with whatever fly or technique you like.  Once your done, sneak slightly upstream of the run, throw on a streamer and let it dance in the fishiest part of the run.  Jig it, make it dash back and forth, get aggressive with the movement and spend some time doing it.

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Since I cover a lot of ground, I take these moments to rest/fish at the same time.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve angered or annoyed a brown up to strike.  Elegant, no not at all, effective, yes sometimes it absolutely is.

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At the end of the day, no one technique, style, tactic or fly will always work.  Get out there, try different things and different water types and hopefully you luck into a few too.  The most important thing is you are out there.

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Words and photos from CJ Lord, an angler based down in North Carolina. Give him a follow at @cjlord on Instagram for your brown trout fix. Additional photos from @browntroutben, another brown trout obsessed angler and guide down south.

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