Watching eagerly as your bait drifts past a treetop, you pretty well know your line’s about to jump. What you don’t know – but soon will find out – is the variety of fish lying in waiting. It could be a rock bass, a smallmouth, a trout or something else.
Variety is the spice of the stream-wading life. Well, one spice, anyway. Others include the simplicity of the tactics and tackle, the dynamic nature of runs and riffles, the stream setting, and the up-close and personal nature of standing knee-deep among the fish.
Wherever you call home, there’s likely a stream not too far away that lends itself to an afternoon of wading with a light spinning outfit and a handful of baits, casting for whatever chooses to bite. You might officially target black bass of some sort, based on the lures you choose or what lives in a particular stream, but you’re apt to lock horns with various kinds of fish along the way.
Think simple when you gather gear. Limit lures and terminal tackle to what fits in a couple small, stowable boxes – the sort that fit in vests, a small day pack or even a shirt pocket. Essentials include small topwater plugs and crankbaits, 1/8- and 1/16-ounce jigheads, in-line spinners and a few packages of grubs or soft-plastic craws. For the live-bait approach, bring small hooks, split shot and a few floats.
Beyond a single rod and reel, you’ll probably want pliers, a snack and some water, and possibly a net or wading staff. Seal stuff like your wallet, phone and a camera inside a plastic bag…just in case. The phone is for emergencies only, by the way. Leave it sealed in the bag and turned off! For cool waters, you might also opt to don waders.
The idea is that when you do step into the stream, everything is in-hand or somehow attached, and you don’t feel like a pack mule. Stream bass and their kin tend to feed opportunistically, and good presentations are more critical than the perfect offering. Limiting the tackle you tote actually can help you stick with a plan, which results in more time with a bait in the water.
Work your way upstream, if access allows, so you can cast upstream and present baits naturally in the current, and think about ambush points and current breaks as you go. Whenever possible, allow the stream to help present your offerings with drifts. Even with topwater lures, less action added often results in more strikes because the fish are used to seeing misplaced ‘hoppers and beetles and such drifting on the top.
When you do catch a fish (or miss a strike, for that matter) stop in your tracks and make the same cast again, and again, and at least one more time. Stream currents position fish very specifically, and where you find one, you’ll often find several others. Also, take note of the depth, the amount of current and the kind of cover, because any similar stuff you encounter is apt to hold fish as well.
Handy & Dandy – Whoever designed the Plano Softsider Fishing Vest must be a stream fisherman. It’s comfortable, even fully loaded, and has just the right number and sizes of pockets for stream junk. The best feature is a front pocket that can lay open horizontally as a sturdy and level tabletop, which is a huge asset when you’re in the middle of a stream and need to dig through a box.
Stream Comfort – If you do have to wear waders, make sure they are comfortable. Lightweight breathable waders, like Hodgman Guidelites, keep the water out without bogging you down. The Guidelites have all the candy, including a fully-waterproof gear pouch, neoprene booties and a waterproof zipper down the front, which makes them easy to get into (plus one other obvious advantage if you fish for more than a couple of hours).
6 Stream Baits (for pretty much everything that swims)
-Heddon Tiny Torpedo
-1/8-ounce Blakemore Road Runner head (with curly tail or live bait)
-Rebel Wee Crawfish
-Gulp! 3-inch Jigging Grub
-Live Night Crawler