Wanted: Your Best Small-Stream Fly Tips for a Rookie Caster

A Guest Post by Assistant Editor Kristyn Brady

Western Maryland may not be known as a trophy trout haven, but if you find yourself on Route-81 coming from Pennsylvania or West Virginia and itching to fish, stop in at Beaver Creek Fly Shop in Hagerstown, MD, and chat with shop owner and guide James Harris (below, showing me the ropes). I happened to be in the area last weekend and saw the opportunity to get some more fly fishing hours under my belt and possibly hook a wild brown or two in Beaver Creek--a limestoner that's known for offering year-round opportunity to flycasters. What I got was my first lesson in the challenges of a small, clear eastern creek.

Since I first picked up a fly rod last September, the few places I've fished offered plenty of backcast room. That luxury helped me get comfortable casting pretty fast, as did the chance to take a 30-mile float on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. Covering that much water forced me to cast over and over for days and to choose target spots quickly as we drifted past. But the conditions at Beaver Creek caught me off guard.

The creek is only a few strides across in some places, and heavily wooded, so there's not a lot of backcast room. Harris told me there were plenty of fish in the creek, and they're decent sized--he has brought 26-inchers to net--but they're spooky. That meant the first cast had to count. In fact, we crawled up to the water's edge in a few spots so our shadows wouldn't alert the fish. What gave me the most trouble was getting enough line out to make the proper cast while working sidearm, and my fly often landed just shy of the best moving water. Harris suggested that I let the current take my line downstream to load the rod, lift the tip, and flip the line directly overhead in one swift motion. My distance and accuracy improved surprisingly fast, and for the rest of the day I got the fly in the zone more often.

Unfortunately, the wild browns of Beaver Creek eluded me. I only caught a sucker, but it was a great learning experience. Being from the Northeast, where everything is more compact, I'm sure I'll end up on a stream like this again, and next time it may be without a guide. With the mechanics of a small-stream cast down, when I find myself on similar water I'll be able to spend more time picking apart seams and eddies instead of figuring out my cast.

Do you have any more small-stream tips for a rookie flycaster? I'm all ears.