Small Streams

Small streams. What can one say that hasn’t been said? Probably not too much. But that won’t stop me from trying. Whenever you say “small stream” to an angler an image instantly pops into his or her head. We all know what a small stream is – but all of our small streams are different. Your Appalachian brookie creek is different from his Wisconsin spring creek, is different from that Rocky Mountain greenback stream. Moreover, all small streams mean something different to those that love them. I suppose you can say that about big rivers too – but I think it’s harder to feel that same sense of intimacy with big rivers. Many people fish bigger streams and rivers, and they love them too. But it’s a big love. A shared love – like the way you love your hometown or the Steelers. But the way you feel toward that special small stream is more like the way you feel about the house you grew up in. Another family may live there now but it’s still your house. And you know its ins and outs better than they ever will.

Small streams are beginnings. When you are standing in a small stream – you know that you are at the beginning of something. You are wading in essence, in “streamness”. The small stream is all that it needs to be – it has gotten big enough to hold trout – the trout are doing fine. It is still full of possibility. Perhaps it hasn’t reached its full ripeness – but it is on the cusp of something. It has the optimism of a journey that is beginning. Big rivers always feel kind of melancholy to me, like the best part of them is in the past.

Small streams are full of hope and forgiveness. There’s hope because you just might catch that old hook-jawed brown that sulks in the hole formed in the snarl of that huge deadfall and that eats the brookies and probably only comes out at night. And then there’s forgiveness because when you catch the 8″ brookie instead, you smile and say to yourself “For this stream, that’s a real beauty.”

Small streams are full of nostalgia. Many folks (most folks?) get their start on small streams. Well, I did anyway. I can vividly recall the first time that I caught wild brook trout. The stream was tiny – you could step across it. I was not a fly fisher then. Dangling salmon eggs or mealworms into the tiny pools would yield diminutive trout, four or five inches long. It was magic.

Maybe it’s my new found love of tenkara that has me thinking about small streams. Tenkara in its simplicity and bare bones practicality is a perfect mate to small streams. Just like small streams are rivers distilled to an essence so Tenkara is fly fishing distilled to a simple form.

I can relax on a small stream they way I never seem to on a larger river. I settle into a small stream like my favorite chair. Fishing a small stream feels like coming home after being away too long.

A song about Home:

13 Comments on Small Streams

  1. Well said. Small streams and rivers are like close friends with their own shape, feel, sounds, and character. There is no greater feeling than sharing time with these wonderful little pieces of water. Like people, some we get to know so well, and others are only in our lives for a few moments. Thanks for the great story.

  2. Thanks Thomas. I’m glad I could bring a small moment of the “…shape, feel, sounds and character…” of the small stream to you.

  3. Excellent write up Anthony. I too am a lover of small streams and I could not agree more when you talked about the feeling of beginnings. There is something so pure and clean that makes you want to cherish and protect those small creeks. Great article and thanks for sharing.


  4. Gorgeous pictures and great thoughts on small streams!

  5. Wonderful thoughts about the casting life on little streams. I’m an addict for the tiny waters, so appreciate your sharing. But, can’t imagine Tenkara on the kind of brushy headwaters I fish. For me, it’s 5.5 to 7-footers. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the comment Walt. Yeah – tenkara can be pretty tough in brushy streams, I know the kind of water you’re talking about. Though not strictly a tenkara rod there are some options for going really short – these are the Daiwa Soyokaze rods. You can get them down to 6.5 ft long – I have the 7’8″ model and love it for small brushy streams. Here’s a link to my post about the Soyokaze if you’d like to read more about it. I just checked out your blog – I’ll add it to the blog roll.

  6. A Beautiful post that I could not agree with more. Thanks for posting it Anthony!

  7. Anthony,

    You are so right! There are many of us who are drawn to the intimacy of a small stream. They offer what I call “the pleasant claustrophobia” of riparian vegetation. Somehow, small streams seem more manageable and less intimidating than some larger (and probably more crowded) rivers.

    Keep up the great blog!

  8. You’ve beautifully captured a thought that I’ve been kicking around for a while now. I love my Virginia Blue Ridge Mountain runs and creeks in a very special way that is hard to convey, even to other anglers. To me it goes beyond just knowing the bends and pools of a creek. I love how intimate you can get with the trout in a small mountain stream. They are like little friends that you go and visit every few weeks. The little 7′ brookie who lives under the quartz ledge in the reach just past the falls… or the 14″ lunker who will only visit with you if you feed him a big bugger in just the right spot… you watch them grow over the years and you anticipate how big they will be next time you see them. Ah… you’ve got me thinking about my little buddies. I’ll have to show them my new Amago Tenkara rod this weekend. :-)


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