There is no older or finer rural American tradition than creek fishing. Of course, a frequent question that folks ponder about creek fishing is; what is the difference between a creek and a stream? The answer is that the creek isn’t nearly as fancy. There are plenty of famous trout streams, but not as many renowned trout creeks. As an example, an English lord has a stream running through his estate. A farmer has a creek running through a parcel of land. Moreover, it is often hard to tell the difference between an irrigation ditch and a creek. Here’s a short rundown on everything the average Joe or Jane needs to know when it comes to the time-honored art of creek fishing.

Materials Needed

  • A fishing rod and reel combination of your preference
  • Monofilament line
  • Hooks
  • Swivel hook
  • Bobber
  • Live bait such as worms
  • Hard baits such as spinners, spoons, twitch bait, or suspending bait
  • A stringer or bucket for hauling your catch
  • A grubby set of jeans or a pair of waders

Step One: Find a Creek

Regardless of where you live, there is likely a creek somewhere in your neighborhood. The question is: How difficult is it to access? In the last few decades, Fish & Wildlife services nationwide have done a fine job of helping anglers gain entry to hard-to-reach fishing areas. If you’re not lucky enough to have public access, you can always try to ask for permission from a landowner who borders the creek. The good news is that once you’ve received permission to the creek, the waterway is yours to enjoy.

It’s important to note, that there are a few exceptions involving military reservations, and laws should be checked in advance to avoid trespassing and even charges. Otherwise, American creeks are firmly within the public domain, and anglers should stay in the water or below the high-water mark. If you’ve got a set of waders, you can legally march up a creek, fishing the whole way, to your heart’s content.

a man in a creek

Image credit: freeslfhelp via Pixabay

Step Two: Find What Works

Yes, you can use fly-fishing tackle in a creek, but the classic choice is a spinning rod or reel combination. If you’re handy, maybe consider a rustic willow rod of your construction. Chop off a length of willow, tie the line to one end, and use a bobber and a hook to complete the setup. More so, if you didn’t bring your live bait, a worm can be taken from the creek bank. If using a spinning rod and reel, it’s best to use a monofilament line that is abrasion-resistant in case of being snagged or pinched in rocky or waterlogged structures. Here’s a tip: add a swivel hook to your line in the event you do get snagged, this way you can detach your line with ease.

Aside from a worm or live bait set up on a bobber, there are many other baits that anglers can use to fish in a creek. Thus, this will vary with current and water output, depth, and target species of the waterway. If you’re fishing in a creek with no to little current, try jerking a twitch bait or a suspending minnow. Further, allowing it to frolic and dance in a water column to entice nearby fish. When fishing in a deeper area, such as a water pocket or areas with a current and without obstructions such as weeds or structures, try a spoon or spinner. These are especially enticing to predatory fish like muskellunge, trout, salmon, and pike who are attracted by gill flash. However, the possibilities are endless when it comes to creek fishing and the best lures to use.

Once, you have a fish, it’s best to determine if you want to keep it. To abide by local fishing laws, measure the length of fish and note the species. If you’re practicing caught and release, snap a photo for bragging rights, returning the unhooked fish to the water. On the other hand, if you intend to keep it, place it into a bucket alive or dispatch it and place it on a stringer in the cool creek water.

Step Three: Find the Sweet Spots

Every creek has a couple of spots the other anglers have never waded to. Yeah, there’s probably a reason the other folks didn’t venture to these banks. Like, there may be a lot of brush to contend with. The wading required to reach them might be more like swimming. The bugs may be bigger than the fish. Whatever the reason is, you shouldn’t let it deter you from going where no one has gone before. Small pools where the current slows and swirls are almost always worth the work. This is your chance to have a secret fishing hole that is the envy of all your pals.

a creek in the mountains

Image credit: weechowken via Pixabay

Step Four: Think About the Next Angler

If you’re fishing on a creek that runs through an abundance of public land, then you have a range to dip your line into. Nevertheless, if that’s not the case, remember you can wade into a fishing hole granted you don’t trespass onto private property in the process. If you meet a landowner whose property adjoins the creek, be polite. Keep in mind, regardless of where the creek is located, never litter. You’ve got to pack out whatever it is you packed in, so travel light. Hopefully, you’ll have a stringer full of fish weighing you down on the return trip.

The Last Cast

Countless anglers tend to look down their nose at creek fishing. Spending the day with a rod, hook, bait, and a set of waders strikes excitement into many anglers. Anyone who thinks differently hasn’t spent enough time creek fishing. Sitting on the bank of a creek, waiting to see your bobber move or to nibble on a spinner, offers the simplest buzz of these basic fishing locations. Nothing can be more classically American than pulling a big brown trout out of a pool of water fed from a culvert. No, it’s not as flashy as cruising a reservoir in a bass boat. It’s not as Zen as fly-fishing some world-famous river.  Give it a chance next time you’re out, and you’ll probably be looking to trade out that bass boat for a can of worms in short order.