Pro Tips: 3 Tactics for Spring Creek Fishing

Written By: Colin Coogan, Coogan Fly Fishing

Hat Creek (like many spring creeks) features slow, ultra-clear water that gives trout plenty of time to inspect your offerings.
All photos by Coogan Fly Fishing

Spring creeks can be intimidating, but there are many upsides to fishing these notoriously-challenging waters. Not only are they especially beautiful, but their calm, clear waters also offer fantastic sight-fishing opportunities, even when nearby freestone streams are turbid with runoff. Up here in Northern California, I spend a lot of time fishing Hat Creek and Fall River, two magnificent spring creeks that share similar characteristics with the famous Henrys Fork in Idaho and the spring creeks in southwestern Montana’s Paradise Valley, among others. Whichever Western spring creek you choose, here are my three tips to get you ready this season.

A soft-action rod flexes further into the blank, which helps to protect light tippet from jarring impacts.

1. Use Soft-Action Rods

Having the right gear for your spring creek outing is key: I like to use a soft-action rod, since I’m usually fishing lighter tippets to picky fish in calmer water, and the greater flexibility helps to keep my line from snapping during the fight. I also prefer reels with click-and-pawl drags for this same reason, particularly for my dry-fly rods.

2. Bring a Variety of Fly Sizes and Stages

Having a varied fly selection can make or break your day on a spring creek. I’m not saying you need to buy every fly in the shop before you hit the water, but having a range of sizes (at least one larger and one smaller than whatever the report recommends) will really help to match the hatch. Also make sure you have flies that represent each stage of the insect life cycle–nymph, pupa, emerger, and adult–since spring creek trout will often key-in on one specific stage when feeding.

The glass-flat surfaces of Fall River reveal every little detail of your fly and presentation.

3. Keep your Casts Short and Controlled

Spring creeks can be fished many different ways, but I always encourage anglers to focus on making shorter, more controlled drifts, instead of trying to drift the whole river and potentially put fish down. Fishing a shorter window keeps the fish feeding longer, and will allow you to work the pod more thoroughly. Take advantage of the visibility by watching their feeding patterns and then positioning yourself at the right angle to make a drag-free cast.

Colin Coogan is owner/operator of Coogan Fly Fishing in Redding, California.

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