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SundulaOctober 17th, 2006, 9:57 pm
Littleton, Colorado

Posts: 35
Just for the sake of conversation and good reading. I am posing the question, "What is the toughest trout water you have fished or do fish?" For me it has to be Cheeseman Canyon, it has taken me no less than half a dozen trips in a 2 year span to land a fish out of there. It was so frustrating seeing pods of 18"+ rainbows that would almost laugh at my presentations, and the 2 fish I did hook into knew where to run to snap my tippet. Finally on September 25, 2006 I landed my first Cheeseman Rainbow, only 12" in length but for me it was a huge deal. It was like a switch went off in me, after that first was landed. In the same trip I landed 2 nice rainbows at 15" an 17" also a 13" brown. I made another trip with a friend of mine to "The Canyon" on Sat. and was successful again, landing trout from 13" - 15", and I hooked into four large rainbows, 20"+, but I need to learn how to land fish of that size on 6x and 7x. I spent all year "training" for "The Canyon", honing my nymphing skill. I spent time on similar water with more receptive trout. Learning that one split shot can make all the difference, and what a "perfect presentaton" means. The trout in "The Canyon" have seen it all, it is catch and release only and those big rainbows and browns have been hooked before. Light tippet, perfect presentation, and small flies are key in fooling these trout. I am only just scratching the surface to "mastering" this water, if it is even possible. There is much I need to learn, I can consistently hook them now, but the new step in my evolution is learning how to bring those 20"+ trout to the net. This portion of the South Platte affords you the oppertunity to land large trout everytime you set the hook but it will take practice. It is definetly the toughest trout water I fish and I plan to focus on this section of river in the coming year. I am interested in hearing your opinions on the toughest trout water all of you fish. I have never cast a fly outside of Colorado, and I have a feeling each of you has a section of river that at one time has stumpted you. I look forward to hearing your stories.
-Tight Lines
TroutnutOctober 18th, 2006, 9:04 am
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
Good question.

The rivers that come to mind for me are actually not rivers at all, but two small streams, one in Wisconsin and one in New York. Also, it's not the entire stream, because there are places on both where the trout are easy. But there are stretches on both that have proven to be near-impossible for me.

Both stretches are slow, deep, and crystal clear. The trout see their food very well and have every advantage in inspecting it. But the real trick in these spots is that the close quarters of the small stream force you to get pretty close to present a fly correctly -- so close that you spook the fish.

I'm sure there's a way to do it, but I haven't found it yet.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
GONZOOctober 18th, 2006, 10:09 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681

Congratulations on your recent breakthroughs in "The Canyon!" Now that you're hooking some of the larger fish, consider planning your strategy for playing and landing them before they are hooked.

Modern 6x and 7x tippets have adequate strength to land fish in the 20"+ range, provided that the tippet is in pristine shape and you can protect against sudden surges. Check for abrasion constantly, especially when nymphing. Try to keep a loop of line between the reel and your "control" finger that you can let slide (under slight tension) should the fish surge after being hooked. During the fight, lower the rod angle (to reduce friction) on subsequent surges, but apply all the pressure you can when you have the advantage. (The best angles are usually low and slightly to the rear of the fish.) Some who habitually fish light tippets incorporate a short "bungee" between the leader butt and the line as an additional "surge protector."

Survey your situation before you cast to a big fish. Will it be possible to keep the fish from charging downstream? If not, can you follow, or better yet, stay ahead of it? What are the obstacles the fish can use to its advantage, and are you in a position to steer the fish away from them?

The strategy may not always work the way you plan, but it is always better to have a strategy. Try to find an answer in advance to the old question, "Now that you've got it, what are you going to do with it?"

As for your question about the "toughest trout water," different streams pose different difficulties. Even streams that appear to be very similar can present their challenges in very different ways. Two local creeks come to mind. Both are tiny crystalline spring creeks, but that is about where the similarity ends.

One is virtually unfished--at least, I have never seen any sign of another angler's activity--and the fish are quite naive about flies. Despite this, it is one of the most difficult streams I have ever fished from an approach and presentation standpoint. If I can sneak into casting range and deliver the fly without spooking the fish, I'm almost guaranteed to have a take. I rarely need more than one fly pattern on this water; but, I need to play the weather and water conditions carefully to have the best shot at success.

The other little creek is undoubtedly one of the most heavily pressured streams in the world. About the only way to increase the pressure on this stream would be to throw a roof over it and light it for night fishing! On most days, I have no doubt that the trout see far more artificial flies than natural ones. Approach and presentation are of minor consequence, and what really matters is an understanding of how the fish respond to heavy fishing pressure.

Curiously, many anglers feel that heavy catch-and-release pressure can make fish virtually uncatchable, yet I have never been skunked on the latter stream in more than forty years of fishing it. On the former little creek, however, I run the risk of a skunking every time I fish it! Sometimes I work incredibly hard just to catch the smallest and most dimwitted of its trout. Each stream presents unique problems and each offers different rewards for solving those problems.
Upnorth2October 18th, 2006, 6:12 pm

Posts: 62
By far it is two types of water. One, the Skykomish River for steelhead on a fly for fish over 18-pounds on a wet fly. Two, Sand Creek in eastern Wyoming just out of the Black Hills, a short distance from Spearfish, Sd. Ginger clear water, normally some wind and some of the spookiest fish on the planet. Tip casting with long leaders and tippets did the work finally.
WestOctober 19th, 2006, 7:52 am
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Posts: 46
The toughest spot I know of in northern wisconsin is a wide spring pond in the very headwaters of a large river. You can catch brookies without too much trouble in the many smaller ponds in the area, but in the lake (I think I can call it that) the big browns and brookies usually hang pretty deep and like to tease you by swimming around the springs in crystal clear water 15 feet under you. The water's so big and still and i never really can decide how to fish it. I have realized that to fish it seriously, you really should get some type of sinking line (my next investment). I haven't fished it during much of a hatch, so I suspect they would move into the shallower water in a feeding opportunity. One of my goals for next summer is to get to know the secrets of the spring ponds and lakes in the area and to catch a few more trout while I'm there.
Upnorth2October 19th, 2006, 3:03 pm

Posts: 62
Plenty of challenge right there for a summer. Maybe an intermediate sink too. Go to are still $8.50. All top-line stuff.

I recently got a free AirFlow line from the company to try out. Nice line for sure, picks up just like silk.
Shawnny3October 19th, 2006, 3:11 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Heh heh - funny to see guys talking about difficult-to-fish, heavily pressured streams in hushed tones. I guess the only thing worse than finding 5 guys rubbing elbows in your favorite spot is finding 6 guys rubbing elbows in your favorite spot. Good stuff.

Toughest stream for me - the Frying Pan, easily. I remember wading out to fish it for the first time, making two casts, then looking down and finding a half-dozen nice fish using my waders to break the current for them. Every time I'd wade a few feet, they'd follow me, undoubtedly enjoying my company and getting a big kick out of my fruitless casts. The only thing worse than smart, spooky fish are fish so smart that they think of you only as a moving rock. I felt as dumb as a rock that day, that's for sure.

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
GONZOOctober 19th, 2006, 3:26 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Sorry Shawn--didn't mean to be secretive. I thought anyone from PA would recognize that description of the Little Run in Boiling Springs instantly! As for the "unfished" stream, it sits behind a strip mall, and the only person I told to fish it thought I was playing some kind of perverted joke on him. :)

P.S.--I have watched heavily-pressured steelhead on the Salmon River use the same defense as the fish you encountered on the Pan. Seems they recognized that the safest place to be was less than a rod-length from the angler!
Upnorth2October 19th, 2006, 3:53 pm

Posts: 62
Not sure by what you mean by "heavy pressure". Take a hog-line of steelheaders on a West Coast river and I think you have heavy pressure and the same for salmon. Arm to arm people.

I found that steelhead do things in response to stimulus. On one experiment I did, I fished behind the hog-liners in some very shallow water and caught big steelhead, much to the "hogs" displeasure.
Often times they will seek out a current seam of some other type of structure where they can get out of current and away from people. I once watched a huge steelie rest in a depression on top of a rock to get away from people and current. I was on the bridge snapping photos and observing. I've seen them in rapids hidding out as well.

I lived on a small feeder-stream to the Wallace River that emptied into the Skykomish. Besides a seal that came up the Wallace on day, it was not uncommon to hear the steelhead splashing into the night. Day, nothing. I managed to find one that was visible and pressured it to hide. In a very narrow stream I had a hard time finding it until I looked well into an undercuttent bank and the grass. It had literally buried itself in the grass. I never took fish out since they were too interesting to watch and listen to.
Shawnny3October 19th, 2006, 7:43 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Sorry to disappoint, Gonzo. I've only been here a few years and don't travel very far to fish - never been to Boiling Springs. But I'm pretty sure you also know more about the streams 5 minutes from my house than I do. When it comes to kicking my butt, it doesn't take the Pan.

Wow, is there a lot of good water in this state - enough for every fisherman to have at least 10 yards of stream to himself, and enough to keep me occupied for many lifetimes.

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
GONZOOctober 19th, 2006, 8:42 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Shawn, you have much to look forward to! PA may not be Montana or Colorado, but at least we haven't had ten years of drought. (More like three years of floods.) :) Enjoy!
RleePMarch 1st, 2007, 5:41 am
NW PA - Pennsylvania's Glacial Pothole Wonderland

Posts: 398
I know this thread hasn't been active in a while, but I saw it and had to chime in...

I've found the fish in the Metolius in Oregon to be about as miserably difficult as any I've found anywhere. As noted by other posters in regards to other streams, not all of the river fishes like this for me, though. Generally, the uppper portions, say down to about the Gorge section, aren't too bad. But below there, I've always had a h#** of a time.

I used to think that PA's Letort and Falling Spring were pretty difficult, but finally decided that is mostly just a rumor/mystique. Truth is, if you stay low, you can catch fish all day on either on big deerhair ants on the edges and current nooks. Maybe not always the best fish in the creek (seldom, actually..), but enough, IMO at any rate, to dispel the idea that either is really difficult.

Actually, I think the toughest trout stream I ever fished is one that flows no more than 2 miles from where I grew up in the dairy country of NW Pennsylvania. I don't want to name it, but guys with some knowledge of PA waters will probably be able to figure it out. It's just a dinky thing, but at the time of the original Operation FUTURE surveys in the late 70's and early 80's that led to PA's Class A designation for many wild trout waters, it had the highest brown trout biomass of any stream in PA's Allegheny River drainage, over 100 kg/ha. They might as well be muskellunge, though...:) Unless there is an extra foot of chocolate brown water in the creek, they can't be caught. Although it is largely posted now due to property rights conflicts, I've taken a number of friends there over the years for ego-leveling sessions.
MartinlfMarch 5th, 2007, 4:36 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Sheesh. I don't think I even want to know where this stream is.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
RatgunnerMarch 24th, 2007, 3:12 pm

Posts: 4
Troutnut,that sounds exactly like the reply I was going to give except for the streams locations.If you ever do figure it out please share it.I've been trying for over 10 yrs now to figure out how to fish a nymph in this type situation,dries only work in the warmer months.
PbaermanMay 4th, 2007, 9:36 am
Rochester, Minnesota

Posts: 8
This looks like a fun on for my first post on this site.

I have been fishing a river in the central UP in Michigan for many years and have yet to LAND anything larger than 13". The trouble does not seem to be getting the trout to react to my presentation (ok some times it is). However, due to the enourmous number of logs and large piles of brush that nearly every trout in the river gravitates to, it is hard to pull a fish clear before in is all over but the crying.

To illustrate my point, i was fishing with my Grandfather and his good friend who fishes and writes about it for a living, were fishing this River one morning. I am fishing a nice turn ahead and around a bend from my companions still in ear shot mind you. The next thing i hear is this,

Jim - "fish on"
Grampa - "that a HUGE Brown" followed by the sound of two jaws hitting the water.
Jim - "OH NO its in the tree.........%#*& it's gone"

This exchange lasted all of about thirty seconds. Mind you Jim has fished nearly every day of his life and on the way back to the cabin, he made a remark I have never forgotten and that keeps me going back. He stated that that was the largest brown he has ever set eyes on in a river!!!! Mind you he has landed browns in other rivers approaching 30".

Now I have never been hooked up with anythign of that magnitude but have lost many in that same scenario in the 18 to 25" range.

PS. Great site, lots of information and knowledgable people, I thruoughly enjoy it.

Pete - (fellow Trout Nut)
Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. ~Henry David Thoreau
MartinlfMay 4th, 2007, 10:44 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233

Others may have suggestions for landing those monsters, but I best loved your quotaton from Thoreau.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
PbaermanMay 4th, 2007, 11:06 am
Rochester, Minnesota

Posts: 8
I thought that quote fit, since i have been on the stream so many times and never even saw a fish and still go home calm, relieved, and enjoying nearly everything a little more after a trip to the trout stream.
Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. ~Henry David Thoreau
MacgruberMay 30th, 2007, 3:10 pm

Posts: 7
the trickiest i've come across was the little firehole out in yellowstone....... again, not the river itself, but just one spot on it....... there was a pool with around one hundred trout in it right above a footbridge that went over the river....... the fish weren't so much spooky- they didn't go anywhere when you walked up to or casted to them, but they wouldn't bite or come up for anything......

after hours of trying various approaches and presentations, i finally army-crawled up to the weeds by the bank with enough line out for what i call a "bow and arrow" cast (i'm sure there's a proper name for it, but i don't know it)- pulling the line back to flex the rod and releasing it...... i forewent the indicator in favor of a caddis on top and a 22 brassie floated underneath..... through the weeds, i could catch glimpses of the caddis floating by and eventually managed three trout outa the pool before we had to leave......

i suppose i could've wandered upstream and fished somewhere else, but there's something much more intriguing about a challenge like that..... esp. when it works out in yer favor.....

TheMidgeMay 31st, 2007, 11:06 am

Posts: 16
The Battenkill in Vermont has always been a Bear for me. It seems like I can always pick up a few Brookies here and there, but the big browns others seem to catch always seem to elude me. It sure is a beautiful river, though
McjamesJuly 3rd, 2007, 8:15 am
Cortland Manor, NY

Posts: 139
maybe not the toughest but I remember being on Pine Creek near Cedar Run in Lycoming (Tioga?) County PA back in mid 90s when there would be blizzard hatches of cream caddis and not even a ripple on the surface... frustrating... I would beat the water for hours that stream will probably never forgive me
I am haunted by waters

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