Hans and I got out and enjoyed the 70-plus degree weather we had today before the snow/cold/wind hits in a couple days. We went and fished one of our favorite small streams in the Black Hills since neither of us had been there in a number of months – we were pleasantly surprised with the number and quality of fish we ended up getting into. Also, Hans just finished building his Epic Salsa 480 and had an itch to get out and give ‘er a try. We were both blown away with what this rod was capable of, and had a blast catching a bunch of fish!
Every year, small stream aficionados anxiously await the thawing out of the small streams in the Black Hills. These small, relatively slow streams will freeze over completely in the winter months, leaving us dredging bobbers in tailwater streams for most of the winter. While there’s definitely nothing wrong with that at all and we do our fair share of it, there’s something about taking a small box of flies, a spool of tippet, and not being worried about if you’re going to have the perfect fly. On these small streams and creeks throughout the Black Hills, the fish are relatively opportunistic and not too terribly concerned with what you’re throwing at them within reason. As long as it’s presented in a proper manner, they aren’t too concerned with the particulars! While the fish generally aren’t particularly large, it’s great fun to be able to fish a dry-dropper rig all day and never really change much of anything. If the water is four feet deep and you’re only two feet to your nymph, it’s no biggy. Small stream trout are more than willing to come up that measly couple feet and take your fly. It’s a refreshing change to have your fishing be mostly presentation dependent, rather than a big part of it being picky fish wanting a certain type of fly pattern.
We headed up at a reasonable hour this morning, and stopped at a spot right by the highway on a whim. We rigged up, went down to the creek, and quickly found an enormous school of fish – it turned out to be a school of about 1.3 thousand suckers. After a short walk upstream, we found some deeper water that was moving at a walking pace. I tied on a Klinkhamer and a Three Dollar Dip, Hans made a couple casts, and we were into some solid brook trout within a few minutes after walking up to the run. After that, we hopped around between different runs, hooking a half dozen in about every likely looking spot! We never changed rigs, and just took turns with the same rod- that’s the beauty and the appeal of small stream fishing in my opinion. Are you going to catch a two-footer? Slim chance. Are you going to have a ton of fun catching average-sized small stream trout while not being concerned with if your fly is a size too big? Absolutely.
The stick o’ choice today was the freshly-built-by-Hans Epic 480 in Salsa color. We were absolutely blown away with what this Kiwi Fiberglass can do, and I feel it’s safe to say we’ll both be building several more of them. Fiberglass is known to many people as a slow, inaccurate, relatively primitive way to fish compared to modern graphite rods. While this may be true of many glass rods, the Epic is anything but primitive and slow. This 8′ 4 weight rod feels astoundingly light in the hand, responds incredibly quickly, casts well even into a hefty headwind like we experienced today, and unloads crisply, without the dreaded fiberglass ‘flop’ that many of the lesser rods are known for. I’ve fished and casted quite a number of rods, and I would put this 4 weight up against any graphite 4 weight I’ve ever had in my hands. The Epic casts so easily, and you don’t have to think about every step of the cast – it’s very intuitive. They’re incredibly beautiful rods, and they’re some of the most fun rods I’ve ever fished. I have a 686 Epic – look for a review on that in the coming posts.
Small stream season in the Black Hills has officially begun, and we couldn’t be more excited. There’s dozens of miles of water in the Black Hills that very well might never see a single fly angler throughout the course of a year, and that’s a very appealing thought. Get out there, throw some flies, and come by the shop and cast an Epic fly rod. You’ll be happy you discovered the hidden gem of small stream fly fishing in the Black Hills.