Throughout the pages on pages of fly fishing lore, the spring creek has continually been the prime source of a trout fly fisher’s pleasure, especially for the die hard dry fly angler. Indeed the very essence of dry fly fishing was developed in England on a series of spring creeks or streams we know today as simply “the chalk streams.” Modern spring creeks are quite popular from New Zealand to the western United States and their characteristic cool and clear flows draw anglers from around the planet.
What is a spring creek: From a geomorphological standpoint, spring creeks have a fairly simple definition. They are free running or flowing bodies of water that are sourced or fed by an underground aquifer.
Spring creeks often do not rely on the force of gravity alone to keep them flowing as head pressure from within the aquifer may provide enough energy to carry the stream over even the flattest gradients. A spring creek, unlike a freestone stream or full blown river, does not rely heavily — or at all — on water from melting snow, run-off from nearby and interlocking watersheds, or from rainfall. Because of their dependable and steady sourcing from underground aquifers, spring creeks tend to flow crystal clear and at low temperatures.
From a trout fly angler’s standpoint, spring creeks are some of the most valuable water on the planet. Their dependable sourcing, cool and clear waters, and gentle flows make them prime environments for healthy vegetation, mayflies, some caddis species, and, of course, the trout species that feed on them. Trout, especially brown trout and rainbow trout, can grow very large in such a consistently regulated environment with a steady supply of food.
Anglers flock to spring creeks around the world and throughout the year. Usually casting dry flies on light tippet is the fly fishing method of choice because of the water clarity, medium to slow flow rates, and often glassy surfaces of spring creeks. When fly fishing a spring creek the angler’s practice of stalking becomes much more important than in a riffle-laden freestone river or otherwise high energy environment with choppier flows.
Trout often feed in low water of great clarity in spring creeks so presentation is also quite important as even the most expertly offered dry fly doused in floatant will remain conspicuous. Practice with different types of dry fly presentations, a good working knowledge of casting techniques, and attention to finesse and delicacy can be invaluable to an angler on a spring creek.
To maximize effectiveness on spring creeks, most skilled fly anglers choose a fly rod with a line rating of 3 and a length of around 8’6″. This fly rod configuration provides two very important attributes. First, a three weight line serves up a very subtle presentation, which is crucial in the gin-clear water of spring creeks. Second, the length of this fly rod allows for butter-smooth line adjustments (mends), which provides a more natural drift. Our favorite spring creek fly rod is the Loop Cross S1 386. This rod in particular casts the longer leaders (necessary for spring creek success) with ease.
Check out the two best spring creek outfits available:
Other than the legendary chalk streams of England, there are other spring creeks that have gained fame in the United States. Idaho’s Henry’s Fork and Silver Creek are the Caddilacs of American spring creeks while large networks of interconnected underground caves hold water that feeds spring creeks that run over large swaths of southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Spring creeks are also quite popular with fly fishers in Georgia, the Carolinas, and through the northeastern United States. The Pacific Northwestern state of Oregon also boasts the Metolius River, a famous spring creek known for its healthy populations of rainbow trout and sockeye salmon.