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a small clear stream or brook exemplifies classic fishing. Fish in
streams exist in a balance with the water flow and food supply (see
related ecology article and this very technical article), which effect how often these fish feed.
Streams that are rarely fished, and are healthy, will have aggressive fish
that will hit anything that looks like food (and these tactics will not
be that necessary). On the other hand, if the stream has even a moderate
amount of fishing pressure, or the conditions are less than ideal, than
tactics are a must to figure out were to drop that fly, bait, or spinner.
The General Rules of stream fishing are:
1) Fish are inherently lazy, unless really hungry or really amorous. They will seek areas were they can wait in ambush, without having to fight the current, and will move only slightly from this ambush spot to pursue food. The stronger the current, the less distance they will move to chase food. Look for areas of reverse flow, whirlpools, areas under waterfalls, pools, and behind logs or rocks. There are also still areas very near the bottom of a rocky stream that fish will hug.
2) The smaller and clearer the stream, the more cautious the fish. Fish in small streams not only have to avoid being eaten by aquatic predators, but they also have to evade birds, snakes, and bears. Therefore use the lightest lines and tippets possible, wear camouflaged clothing, walk softly, and excercise stealth. This may mean standing a rod length or so away from the stream, keeping your shadow off the water, and maybe even hiding behind a boulder or tree when casting.
3) The closer it looks like and acts like a fishes normal diet, the more likely the fish will eat it. (Feeding impulse not Strike impulse here - the strike impulse relies on shear aggression and is much harder to predict.) Try to match offerings (bait, lures, flies) to animals that are already present in the stream. Turn over a rock in the stream and see what is crawling around under it. Catch some of the insects flying over the stream. Dig a little in the mud or gravel near the water and see what crawls out. If you see crawfish, then use a crawfish imitating lure, if you see lots of mosquitos dimpling the surface, than use a mosquito fly (or likewise caddises anywhere in the USA). Once you match the lure or bait to the food, then you need to present it to the fish in the way the fish is used to seeing it. A nymph should hug the bottom, a drowned insect should drift at the same speed as the current (this is a hard one to do!), a minnow imitator or crawfish imitator should swim the same as the "real McCoy".
This diagram should help a little.
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