Stream Fishing Tackle

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Choosing the right gear goes a long way toward making your stream fishing experience enjoyable and successful. While varying conditions may require different equipment in some places, here are some time-tested recommendations that tend to work well just about anywhere.

Most important is your choice of fishing rod. You don't want a rod that's too long or too heavy-duty when you're fishing a stream, for a couple of reasons. First, the fish here don't get as big as they would in a lake or pond. You'll be fishing mostly for pan-sized trout, with a few big ones thrown in. A heavy rod not only takes a lot of the fun out of it, it makes it harder to feel when one of these little guys takes your bait. Also, many areas along the bank of a creek or stream are brushy, with overhanging tree limbs and other potential snags. A long rod will just get hung up on everything and keep you from having a good time. You'll be dealing with short distances, as well. Being able to make long casts isn't necessary; being able to make short casts with precision and accuracy is.

With all this in mind, our recommendation for the perfect stream fishing rod is a 5- to 5 1/2-foot ultralight spinning rod with a well-matched reel. You could push it to six feet if you wanted to, and we know one guy at the other extreme who fishes the creek with a two-foot ice fishing pole. You'll want to use the lightest line you can get away with, for reasons that are made clear on our technique page. A good all-around choice would be 4-lb test. It's thin enough that it won't interfere with proper presentation, but you can still bring in a decent-sized fish on it. For most stream fishing applications the guys here use Stren Hi-Vis Gold monofilament, because the color makes it easy to see where your line is going. The fish don't seem to notice the bright yellow line. If you're worried that the line color might spook the fish, there are also red fishing lines out there that are highly visible above water but disappear from view below. Hooks should be pretty small - try #14 treble hooks for fishing with salmon eggs or dough-type baits, or a slightly larger single hook (as large as size 4 depending on conditions) for worms or crickets. For fly fishermen, a 5- to 6-weight fly rod with 5-weight line and a 4X tippet is about right for trout under these types of conditions. Your choice of flies will vary depending on local conditions.

Serious Fly Gear and Beyond -

Since a stream fisherman tends to cover a lot of ground, a fishing vest is probably the most convenient way to carry your stuff. You can find some relatively inexpensive ones if you look around. Organize your hooks, weights, lures, etc. in small plastic tackle boxes and stash them in the vest's pockets, and away you go. It beats trying to lug a traditional tackle box with you as you move up and down the stream. A net is another must-have, since picking your fish up out of the water with an ultralight pole is a really good way to break the rod tip off. Get a short-handled net so you can net your fish easily with one hand and handle the pole with the other. Make sure your pliers, hook remover, knife, and stuff like that are also located someplace where you can get to them easily with one hand. And don't forget a creel, stringer, or other means of keeping your fish in one place. Some fishing vests have a built-in pocket designed for holding fish; if your doesn't, a creel is probably the most convenient option for keeping your fish safe without impairing your mobility. Most good creels are designed be dunked in the water to create an evaporative cooling effect and keep your fish fresh till you can get them on ice.

A well-equipped stream fisherman

An optional item, but one that definitely makes life easier when fishing streams, is a good pair of waders. These will allow you to get into those secluded pockets that you just can't reach from the bank, and will also allow you to move out into the water to cast into areas that would otherwise be inconvenient to fish. Waders come in a few different styles, including hip boots, waist-high "guide pants" (the choice of many of the staff), and chest waders. Most also come in both insulated and uninsulated versions. While some incorporate an attached boot, others feature a stocking foot design and require that a separate pair of boots be worn over them. Whatever style of waders you decide to get, we recommend felt-soled boots for stream fishing. The felt soles give a far better purchase on slippery underwater rocks than hard lug soles.

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