Trout Fishing On Hill Streams

In his introduction to Trout Fishing On Hill Streams, Richard Clapham remarks “that on rock, fast-flowing streams the “one-fly” man can easily kill as many or more trout than the angler with the bulging flybook who is for ever changing his feathered lures.”

In his introduction to Trout Fishing On Hill Streams, Richard Clapham remarks “that on rock, fast-flowing streams the “one-fly” man can easily kill as many or more trout than the angler with the bulging flybook who is for ever changing his feathered lures.”

Clapham’s testimony is one that I can easily accept, having fished many small and boisterous becks, including the Austwick Beck, where Clapham served his angling apprenticeship. I notice that trout in these small streams are more opportunistic and less restrained than their relatives in fuller rivers and streams. Not that small stream trout are any less weary. They are skittish and more hypersensitive to movement and danger than lowland trout. But their environment is sparse and often brutal, allowing them little opportunity to pick their prey. And are more inclined to take the angler’s fly regardless of the pattern. And as Clapham notes

“Thus, to tie your flies in imitation of particular insects is sheer waste of time. Nor is the colour of your flies important.”

Increasingly, as seasons progress, I am turning away from larger rivers, and concentrating my fishing on the many small upland becks of the dales. In my need for solitude and simplicity, I follow Clapham’s maxim more and more. Though not in any sense a “one fly” man, I have, however, streamlined my fly choice down to three or four general dry and wet fly patterns. And as Clapham alludes, my catch rate hasn’t changed. Indeed, the smaller fly choice has concentrated the mind more. The early season befuddlement of whether to choose a Greenwell or Waterhen Bloa during a flush of Large Dark Olives has disappeared. My “Small Stream” fly-box is diminutive, and my fly choice stripped down to a bare minimum.

On these small becks and streams, fly choice is more about profile than imitation. Unlike Clapham, my flies are a mixture of the chubby and the sleek, with the individual patterns being able to cover many bases. I must confess, my one large divergence from the philosophy of Clapham is that I lean towards fuller dressed patterns, particularly regarding dry fly’s, as these are easier to track on the boisterous surface of a small stream. As with Clapham, colour is unimportant. It is simply all about profile and suggestion, and the necessity for both fish and fisher to see the fly.
Of course, when fishing wet flies in these rowdy becks and streams, it is often impossible for the angler to see the drifting fly in the turbulent waters. But to my thinking, the patterns should be sparse in the body, but fuller in the hackle. Allowing the trout more of an opportunity to detect and encounter the fly in these chaotic currents.

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