I was fishing a shallow stream the other day, and it got me thinking that shallow skinny water, whether it is a creek, stream, or even the extreme margins of a larger river presents a number of challenges when retrieving a lure.
The main issue, when fishing skinny water is that our lures often hit the bottom. While this is not necessarily a bad thing because trout and other stream fish do like to feed near the bottom, but it does become a nuisance when the floor is covered in slime or algae.
Nothing ruins the presentation of a retrieve faster than a lure trailing a tail of slime behind it. If there is slime on your lure or hook, always remove it between casts.
In this article, I will discuss some of my favorite lures to fish in extremely shallow water. While they are not perfect, and they can still catch slime they do so much less often than other designs.
1) Floating Rapala
My favorite lure for stream fishing is the Original Floating Rapala. This lure is a proven fish catcher, but its floating characteristic makes it extra effective in shallow water.
I cast it upstream, and allow it to float across any extreme shallows, then quickly wind to get it to dive into any deeper water. If the stream becomes shallow again I will stop the retrieve to allow it to raise close to the surface.
By changing the speed of my retrieve, I am able to fish the changing depths of a stream.
When the slime is extra bad, It can be a good idea to remove the replace the treble hooks with singles. They do seem to snag less.
2) Dynamic Lures HD trout
The HD trout is another jerkbait that I find to be effective in shallow water. It is slightly less versatile than the Floating Rapala, but has a maximum diving depth of approximately 2 feet which means it stays relatively high in the water column.
It is a sinking lure, so it can not be floated across shallows, but It is still a highly effective alternative.
The headline gimmick of the Joe Flies inline spinner is the trailing fly behind the rotating blade, but it has several characteristics that make Joe Flies a top spinner for fishing shallow streams.
Firstly, It is extremely lightly weighted, which means it sinks very slowly. The slower the rate of sinking, the more time it spends drifting through the strike zone rather than bouncing off rocks.
Secondarily, it uses a Colorado blade. This round blade creates a lot of water resistance which slows the descent even further
Finally, Colorado blades are designed to start spinning at a very slow retrieve. Small, shallow streams are tiny, so a blade that rotates at a slow retrieve is essential to maximize the amount of time the lure spends drifting through the shallow pocket water.
3) Pre-Rigged Swim Shads
I like pre-rigged swim shards. They are extremely streamlined, and while they typically sink relatively quickly, the single upwards facing hook greatly reduces the chance of them snagging the bottom.
The soft plastic tail also springs into life almost immediately. These two characteristics make the simple swim shard an excellent option for fishing shallow streams.
Several brands make pre rigged swim shads, and I do not have a form preference but for trout I usually find myself fishing 2” Storm Wildeye or Berkley Powerbaits.
For more information on fishing swim shads for trout check my guide here.
Where to Find Fish in Small Streams?
The bigger the fish, the deeper the water they like to hold in. Trout seem to like holding in water at least two feet deep, they are unlikely to be found in the extreme shallows.
Some small baitfish, such as chubs can be found in much shallower water.
When fishing small streams, I concentrate on the pools, and deeper areas. Preferably with a little current and cover.
Is it Better to Fish Upstream or Downstream?
I know some people who prefer to fish downstream, and sometimes it is the only option, but my strong preference is to fish upstream.
I like to cast my lures just upstream off the pools and allow the current to carry them down when I slowly retrieve them across.
Sometimes, fishing downstream allows for more precise presentations, but the risk of spooking fish greatly increases. When fishing downstream, I find suspended a lure against the current works extremely well, but it is of paramount importance not to be seen.
Try not to wade in the water, if you plan on fishing downstream because our scent can alert fish of our presence.