Perusing fly fishing articles is a great way to learn more about the passion of fly fishing. The library of fly fishing literature rivals other forms of fishing even though in sheer numbers fly fisherman are out numbered by almost all other forms of fishing. There are terms in fly fishing literature that are thrown out frequently without explanation or definition. One such subset of these terms is the classification of fly fishing rivers. One can read for years and hear about freestone rivers, tailwaters, and spring creeks, without elaboration of what these terms actually mean in general and to fly fishers in general. We will attempt here to explain these classifications a little bit. This first in a series of articles will go into the spring creek.
Spring Creeks are infamous in the United Kingdom, long credited as the ancient birthplace of fly fishing. Specifically, in the UK and the Midwest United States, are the limestone spring creeks. By definition spring creeks are fed obviously by springs. What this means for fly fishing is that the water temperature will most likely remain stable year around, ideally in the high forties to low fifties on the Fahrenheit scale. Stable temperatures allow for a healthy environment for aquatic insects to grow, which doesn't take a huge amount of mental power, to make the jump to the thought that this is also great for the growth of fish.
Not only do the water temperatures remain steady but the volume does as well. Unlike other rivers that depend upon snow melt, and/or dams, spring creeks water comes bubbling up from the surface, and is fed by springs and smaller spring creeks as it works itself downstream.
When one thinks of spring creeks, one thinks of, meandering hills, gentle slopes, meadows, and wide shallow valleys. Although spring creeks can occur in mountainous regions as well, carving out a niche that is usually reserved for freestone streams. They typically are at lower elevations.
The characteristics of spring creeks, leads to some special considerations when selecting your arsenal of fly fishing flies. The meandering of the typical spring creek, with all its stable features lends also to vegetation growth. Therefore insects that feed of vegetation are the rule here. Also the banks tend to be cut into the earth, perfect habitat for mud dwelling grubs, worms and nymphs like the hex. There also tend to be abundance of scuds, sow bugs, as well as midge patterns. Since the terrain is likely grassy, look for terrestrials like hoppers and crickets. And in the riverbank itself will be ants and beetles. Terrestrials make a good bet all summer long. A good selection for spring creeks will include, patterns imitating species above, as well as some small classic dry flies, like Adams, BWOs and PMDs.
Spring creeks are likely to be small and certain tactics need to be remembered. Everything is more likely to be noticed by your wary prey. Including your approach, your colors, your silhouette. It is best not to wade, it is best to approach from upriver, and you are likely only going to get a few casts, and then moving on is your best bet. With gentle gradient the spring creek will have many, many holding areas for trout. Using tippet down to 7x is common, as is long leaders. Perfect presentations are required, and it is a great time to practice your accuracy and line management. Bring your 4x or smaller for precise fly placement, mending if necessary must be done early in your drift and without ruckus.
Many think of the spring creek as the epitome of fly fishing. And with good reason. Their very nature, evokes relaxation, tranquillity, and all the things fly fishers love.