By Nick Simonson
In the turn of the creek so tiny I could step across it I saw the tell-tale sign that suggested brook trout were lurking along the cut. The fast water of the tiny flow rolling down from the small impoundment in the recreation area above spun out against the grassy bank, still beige with the matted vegetation of last year and the peek through green of the late spring dappling the slight drop to the water. Stalking in on my knees, I pulled an arm’s length of neon yellow line from my fly reel, whipped back on the rod, and folded a cast consisting of mostly leader out into the head of the corner of pocket water.
The pheasant sawyer nymph bounced along in the end of the riffle and entered the slack at the head of the turn. A slight twitch on the line elicited my first hookset of the small water stint for the brightly colored brookies I remembered from last season’s trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was at the back end of that curl in the flow I had landed my biggest brook trout of the week-long trip, and I knew from the slight splashing on the surface after my snap of the rod that the one on the line wasn’t quite that big. He was, however, as colorful; with the fire engine red fins, blue ringed sunset orange spots and mottled olive back set alight in the rays of the sun rising through the forest surrounding the creek.
I quickly unhooked the five-inch fish and sent him wiggling back into the water and zipping off downstream. I untangled the size 12 nymph from the grass at my knees and folded out another cast between the banks, splitting the 30-inch width allotted to me. My line jumped and I missed the hookset and dropped the rod tip before giving a small twitch which triggered a follow-up strike. I set the hook and a smaller brookie broke the surface and swung toward me, a quick fight to be certain. Looking it over, I popped the nymph loose and slid the small trout back into the flow and took a few more cautious knee steps along the bank, edging closer to the corner.
There I flipped the line out, missed another strike and began to be amazed by the action in the six-foot section of water. A reactive roll-out of line put the copper-wound nymph in the strike zone and a hard tug caught my attention. A bigger brookie broke the surface and provided a bit of a battle in comparison to the first two, and the flash of its orange underbelly colored the dark water around the green stems of the regrowing cattails at the head of the pool. Once in hand, I admired its technicolor dreamcoat and turned it loose, figuring that was all the pocket had to offer. I was wrong.
This brightly colored brook trout was the highlight of the bend on the small creek south of Deadwood, S.D. Simonson Photo.
Three more smaller brook trout would come to hand, and I’d miss a couple other takes before I moved on. As I made my way to the end of the public land surrounding the creek, I took in all the small space had to offer. Geese and ducks honking and quacking in the morning air, the chatter of redwinged blackbirds, and the twittering of a dozen other unidentified winged creatures heralded all that could be crammed into the area that, from campground to forest edge, was no more than a football field wide.
It was a microcosm of every other river I had fished with a species I had caught nowhere else. The miniature runs, pools, eddies, and riffles played out as others had on the Redwood River in southwestern Minnesota for browns, the Baptism on the North Shore for chromers, my home flow of the Sheyenne for bronzebacks, and the silty bends of the Missouri River for walleyes. It was hard to believe that six fish could stack into such a small space, along with several others I had felt but not connected with to see, but it was reconfirmation of the age-old angling adage that ninety percent of the fish inhabit ten percent of the water.
Finishing the walk out to the fenceline of the public land, I wandered back upstream with another forty minutes on the clock before I had to head to the lodge for morning family events. While I planned to cast to the stocked rainbows in the 10-acre pond at the top of the flow, I figured one more cast in the tiny pocket couldn’t hurt. True to form, the nymph hit the backside of the curve and was immediately attacked by another nice brookie that rocketed out of the water and splashed back down before I lifted it clear of the grassy stream edge. Unhooking the wriggling trout, I smiled and with a quick drop to my left knee, I settled my curled fingers back into the water and let the fish go back into the bend. Hooking the worn nymph into the keeper above the rod’s corked handle I set off on my way, my mind as full of good memories as the small stretch of stream was with fun little fish…in our outdoors.
Simonson is the lead writer and editor of Dakota Edge Outdoors.
Featured Photo: This small stretch of Black Hills brook trout stream held fish for many casts, and even some follow-up time. Simonson Photo.