Review: Trout from Small Streams

By Scott Richmond

Like many fly anglers, my first experiences were on small streams. I plied Trout Creek, Rock Creek and other small waters in south-central Washington.

On these tiny streams--seldom fifteen feet across--I learned about casting, reading water, presentation, drag-free drifts, dry flies, wet flies, and other fly fishing essentials. An added benefit: I never saw another angler, so I could develop my skills without embarrassment.

I was reminded of those small stream joys last month when I fished a tributary of the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette, up in the Cascade Range. My companions were Dave Hughes, his wife Masako, and Michael T. Williams, a guide and fly tyer from Eugene, Oregon. We traveled light, waded wet, and sometimes fished with Japanese-style Tenkara rods. The trout ranged from small native cutthroat to ten-inch stocker rainbows.

So it was most appropriate that I read Dave Hughes' book, Trout from Small Streams (Second Edition), when I got home.

When you read a book on this subject, the first question you might ask yourself is, "What is a small stream?" The second question is, "Why would I want to fish one?"

The answer to both questions is the same: Intimacy. On a small stream you have that special sense of being close to the natural world and away from the aggressive, ego-driven crowds you sometimes find on big, famous rivers. On a small stream you see it all--the trees, the rocks, the water--in once glance. And you rarely have to share it with anyone else.

In short, small streams are where you go to remember why you took up fly fishing in the first place.

What You'll Find Inside

Trout from Small Streams is in sixteen chapters:

  1. Land Shapes Water
  2. Streams Shape Anglers
  3. Gearing Down
  4. Rods
  5. The Learning Curve
  6. Reading Small Pools
  7. Parts Between Pools
  8. Reading the Seasons
  9. An Essential Fly Box
  10. Trout on Drys
  11. Dry-Fly Size
  12. Nymph Tactics
  13. Working Wet Flies
  14. Streamer Situations
  15. Stalking Beaver Ponds
  16. Tenkara

The book is amply illustrated with color photos, each of which has an extensive and informative caption. In fact, you could learn a lot by just looking at the photos and reading their captions--the way most people consume their monthly National Geographic.

If you're from the Pacific Northwest, many of the photos will seem like home. That's because Dave grew up fly fishing the rainforest streams around Astoria, Oregon, and lives today in Portland. However, Trout from Small Streams is not a regional tome. Dave has fished all over the USA, and the lessons he shares are applicable everywhere.

A couple of minor points from my own personal experience on small rivers:

  1. Two items Dave does not include in his small stream "kit" are a GPS and a Personal Locator Beacon. I now carry both of these technological conveniences. If you're off in the puckerbrush by yourself, they could save your life. If nothing else, the GPS will help you find where you parked your truck.
  2. When you're wading wet, wear quick-drying fabrics; don't wear cotton pants, and especially don't wear cotton briefs. (Don't ask how I learned this.)

Bottom Line

Trout from Small Streams is an outstanding book for anyone seeking to discover--or rediscover--the joys of fly fishing on intimate waters.

One thing I especially appreciate about Trout from Small Streams, as well as Dave Hughes' other books, is that he is not doctrinaire. The only hard-and-fast rules are:

  1. Be a keen observer and learn from the river and the fish.
  2. Take pleasure in the process more than in the size or quantity of your catch.
  3. Enjoy!

Trout from Small Streams (Second Edition), by Dave Hughes. 256 pages in an 5.5 x 8.5 inch softbound color format; over 100 color photos. $21.95. Available in fly shops and online at, Stackpole Books, and other websites. Also available as an eBook from amazon and from the publisher.

Scott Richmond is Westfly's creator and Executive Director. He is the author of eight books on Oregon fly fishing, including Fishing Oregon's Deschutes River (second edition).