Yes - it's still very possible...
You’ve been there before: you turn the bend in the river heading towards your favourite pool – only to find some other angler already there. The feeling isn’t good. If only you could have that pool to yourself!
Now imagine repeatedly going to a recluse, seldom visited brook or stream. Somewhere which is admittedly smaller, but which you can conclusively call yours. Somewhere where you don’t have to worry about whether someone else is already fishing the best pools. So that you don’t have to leave the house at obscene hours in the race to get there first.
Well, all of this is entirely possible. At Fishing Exploration, it is as you know our mission to discover these seldom visited places. In our many years of experience doing this, we’ve come up with a few tips and tricks that should help you find and claim your own small stream.
The first thing to make clear is that you should by no means expect to be discovering unexplored medium to large streams in most Western countries. I’m not saying this isn’t possible – indeed in the Swiss Alps this summer we discovered a few of such streams – but it’s just much less probable. Instead, the best course of action in finding your own small waters you can call home is to venture up the small tributaries of the rivers you usually fish.
What’s amazing about these is that they tend to only get fished the first couple of metres by most anglers, but the moment you explore them further up you can find absolute jewels of pools. What’s more – the moment you exit the main river channel you’ll lose all of those pesky rafting groups and canoers.
Venturing up tributaries is great fun. You’ll be fighting with the underbrush constantly at first, but once you know which paths to take and which ones to avoid, you’ll enjoy yourself much more. These tributaries - in my experience – also tend to be very overgrown near their confluence with the main river, and open up further upstream.
With small tributaries, the timing is key. You will often find larger trout (or other species) in the beginning of the season, just after they’ve spawned. After that and in the summer months, there will most likely be fewer fish – mainly small fish. The key in these moments is to hit the water when there is a hatch on, or after a period of heavy rains. In the summer if the temperatures rise too much these small waters are most likely going to be devoid of any fish activity. What I’ve found is that July-August tends to be too warm in my corner of Europe to fish these small recluse streams with any regularity. A couple of pools that I know of are somewhat spared because they are constantly in the shade – and dusk and dawn are still active times of the day, but the reality is that most fish will head to deeper waters where they can stay cool.
An alternative to tributaries of a main river would be urban fishing. Yes – you heard me – urban fishing. I remember at one point when I was living in the UK one of my fanatic fishing buddies from Kenya would not stop talking about the small stream (which looked polluted and had loads of trash in it) that was just behind his huge Tesco's supermarket. I would never have thought of fishing this, but somehow it held huge wild brown trout. I imagine these urban streams – sometimes completely built around, must receive a significant amount of food from the neighbouring built environment. If you search well enough and try your luck - whether it be a small canal or a stream that looks polluted - you may very well find a jewel.
My last alternative – one which I use a lot – only works if you are lucky enough to live near a mountain range. Here in the Swiss Alps, I constantly discover new brooks, streams and rivers that are not even marked on a map. If you are prepared to hike high and off the beaten path (although be extremely careful here – the mountains are dangerous places), you will almost certainly find somewhere which you can claim as yours! Caveat emptor, these high mountain streams will of course feature smaller fish. But that is absolutely not to say that your enjoyment will be lesser. On the contrary, some of my best days have come from packing a Tenkara rod and catching small, wild browns on a dry fly, high up above the clouds, alone in the alps.
Feel free to check out our YouTube Channel for videos of our explorations, and don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.