One thing that we have no shortage of here in the Black Hills is pocket water – Spearfish Creek and Rapid Creek have miles of it. Many people overlook this type of water, because it presents certain difficulties and challenges that most fly fisherman aren’t used to dealing with. However, pocket water is a bug factory, and because of that it holds lots of eager trout. If you learn a few tips and tricks, you can fish pocket water quickly and effectively, and catch more fish!
The picture above is a section of Spring Creek here in the Black Hills. The red circles are where most people might toss a cast on their way by, and the yellow circles are where an adept pocket water fisherman would work his way through. The two main things a trout needs to survive are cover and food, and pocket water provides both of those. Due to the broken surface of the water, trout have cover and protection from predators. The water rushing over the rocks knocks bugs loose, creating a big conveyor belt of food for the trout that’s more or less constant. Pocket water has everything trout need, and most people walk right past it!
In my opinion, the biggest part of fishing pocket water is to not worry about making long casts. Most of my pocket water fishing is done with only a few feet of fly line outside of the rod tip, and no fly line on the water. There are so many fast, conflicting currents in riffly pocket water that there’s no way you could mend enough to achieve a drag free drift. The solution to this is to place yourself within 10-15 feet of where you want to cast, make a short cast to where you want to fish, and follow your flies while keeping the majority of your leader off the water. You can get very close to trout in pocket water, so there’s no advantage to trying to cast long distances. Get close, get a good drift, and make your next cast.
Most of your drifts in this type of water are only going to be 1-4, maybe 5 feet long. Because of this, larger, heavier flies are very advantageous. Because the water is moving so fast, the trout don’t have very long to inspect and criticize your fly – they only have a few seconds at best to look at it. They either have to eat it or let it pass by, so bigger flies will attract more attention. I don’t think there’s any point in using size 18s when you can get away with using size 8-14 flies and catch just as many, or even more fish. Another aspect of fishing fast water with large flies is that you can get away with using heavy tippet – I use 4x regularly, and very seldom go lighter than 5x in pocket water.
As far as flies go, I use a lot of stonefly style nymphs. North Fork Specials, Pat’s Rubber Legs, big Hare’s Ears, and Halfbacks are god bets. Use tungsten flies, and if your flies aren’t tungsten don’t be afraid of using split shot. If you’re not getting down to the fish and hitting bottom once in awhile, you don’t have enough weight on. Jig style flies work great as well. Heavy flies also allow you to stay in direct contact to your flies, so there’s not much use for indicators. Just stay tight to your flies, and watch for any movement in your leader. If you’re partial to indicators, the Strike Foundry sighters are a great tool for tight line pocket water nymphing also. http://shop.flyfishsd.com/products/strike-foundry-sighters
With a few tips and tricks, you can open up miles of pocket water that most people are overlooking. While most people are hole-hopping, you can fish your way between them, catching more fish that have seen a significantly smaller number of people and flies. Hopefully you picked up a trick or two from this post! Thanks for reading. As always, if you have any other questions, feel free to call or email the shop!