The Best Fly Fishing Setups for Small Streams

Fly fishing in the small streams in the mountains is one of my all-time favorite ways to fly fish. These small streams tend to be less crowded and the fish aren’t as selective, not to mention you can’t be the scenery.

One of the keys to success for fishing in small streams is having the right fly fishing setup. Without the proper gear fishing can be difficult and even frustrating. If you are going to be fishing small streams you are going to want to modify your tackle and perhaps buy a dedicated setup.

So what is the best fly fishing setup for small streams? The best choice is going to be a 6-7-foot-long, 2-4 weight. A shorter lighter action rod will allow you to maximize your casts and make it easier to fish in tight cover and brushy environments.

In this guide I’ll show you the best fly rod and reel combinations, best lines and flies to help you make sure you are properly setup the next time you go out and fish a small stream streams and rivers.

Let’s get started.

Essentials for Fly Fishing Setups for Small Streams

Before you go out and buy a new fly rod combo and gear there are some important considerations that you should keep in mind.

The best fly rod & reel setups will have the following characteristics:

  • Rod Weight: 2-4
  • Length: 6’6” – 7’2 for tight spaces or 8’6” with ample casting room
  • Action: Moderate (but it comes down to personal preference)
  • Line: Floating line that matches your rod
  • Leader: 9 foot 5X or 4X
  • Flies: Nymphs & Dries (10-16)

Keep in mind this is only a general guideline feel free to adjust as needed to match your targeted species and waters.

Now that we have covered the basics lets discuss the best fly fishing combos for small streams.

Best Fly Rod Combos for Small Streams

There are our top rod and reel recommendations for fly fishing in small streams:

Orvis Helios 3F Fly Rod + Orvis Mirage Fly Reel

A high end rod & reel combination ideal for small stream fly fishing

The Orvis Helios 3F is an incredible rod, it’s super lightweight and is a very accurate. It’s not cheap by any means, but with the higher price tag comes premium performance and quality. This rod is one of the best small stream rods you’ll be able to find.

There are a lot of different reels you could pair with the Helios, but one of the best options is the Orvis Mirage. The Mirage is the real deal. It matches perfectly for lighter freshwater rods such as the Helios and offer premium performance. It’s packed with a ton of great design features and will hold up under the toughest conditions.

This high end duo by Orvis is one of the best rod and reel combinations for small stream fly fishing. If this combo is within your budget, I’d highly recommend giving them a look.

Redington Classic Trout + Redington ZERO Fly Reel

Best fly rod combination for beginners or those looking for a budget friendly setup

The Redington Classic Trout rod is an overall excellent medium to fast action fly rod, but it also comes with an affordable price tag. The performance and value you get out of this rod is pretty hard to beat making it ideal for beginners and those that are looking for a great small stream rod on a budget.

A great real to pair up with the Reddington Classic Trout rod is the Redington Zero Fly Reel. This reel is lightweight yet durable and comes with an excellent drag system. It’s also designed to easily convert to left or right hand retrieves.

If you are looking for a great fly fishing setup at a great value than I would highly recommend checking out the Redington Classic Trout and Zero Fly reel. They are well worth the investment.

Sage PULSE Fly Rod + SAGE Trout Reel

Killer small stream fly fishing combo ideal for any angler

The Sage Pulse Fly Rod 3 weight rod is a versatile and budget friendly rod that offers outstanding performance and durability. It’s ideal for fishing in small water, while still allowing you to cast out to fish that are far away.

This rod is constructed of Graphite III blanks and gives you an outstanding ergonomic feel. This is an all-around great fly rod that is perfect for any fly fishermen.

Pairing this rod with the right fly reel is key. The ideal match for this rod is the Sage Trout Reel. This reel offers smoother, more consistent and reliable performance when compared to just about any reel out on the market.

The Sage Pulse and Sage Trout Reel is an overall great fly fishing setup that is ideal for fishing in small rivers and streams, but also offers you some versatility. If you are in the market for a new fly fishing setup than this Sage combination is a must have.   

Best Fly Line for Small Streams

Selecting the right fly line is pretty simple. First you want to choose a line that matches your fly rod that you are using. If you are fishing with a 3wt, choose a 3wt fly line, if you are using a 2wt, choose a 2wt line.

In most streams you’ll be fishing in water that isn’t very deep that’s why a floating line is the perfect choice. If you plan on nymphing and need to get deeper, adding a few weights will be more than enough to get your line down where it needs to be.   

Here are some great fly line options for small rivers and streams:

Best Flies for Small Streams

Before you start loading up your fly box with a ton of different flies, it’s important to understand the fish behavior in this environment. Trout in small streams are more opportunistic and tend to rise for anything that resembles food.

Due to their more aggressive and less selective nature dry flies are one of the best ways to catch them in small streams and rivers. Nymphs are a close second and are also a great way to catch them.

With that being said, here is a list of the best small stream flies:

The 8 Best Flies for Small Streams

Best sizes: 10-16

  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • Zebra Midge
  • Parachute Adams
  • Royal Wulff
  • Ants
  • Foam Beatle
  • San Juan Worm
  • Hopper

Tips On Fly Fishing in Small Streams

Fly fishing in smaller rivers and streams comes with its own unique advantages and challenges. If you haven’t fished this way or aren’t having any luck you may need to adjust your strategy and tackle.

Here is a list of tips and resources for fly fishing in small streams that will help ensure you are successful:

Final Thoughts

Fly fishing in small streams for trout, bass and other species can be a lot of fun, but it can also be frustrating if you don’t’ fish with the proper gear. In this small stream fly fishing guide, we have covered everything you need to know about gearing up for the streams. So now you just need to go out there and apply what you have learned.

Best of luck out there.

Aaron Warner

Aaron Warner is an avid angler with over 15 years of experience. He has participated and won fishing tournaments all over the country and enjoys fishing for bass, trout, walleye and other species.

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