Tripping The Light Fantastic: Trout On Twigs

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They don’t need to be whoppers to make you smile when you’re waving a twig of a fly rod like the sweet little 7′ 6″ Airflo Creek #3-weight.

For many years, the lightest fly rods I owned were #5 weights. It’s only in the last few seasons that I’ve added a couple of #4s to my arsenal, specifically for smaller water trout work and ultra-light saltwater shenanigans on the likes of mullet and garfish. But I had to admit that there were times when I lusted after an even lighter “twig”, especially to wave at wee trout in tight streams.

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“Got ‘im on!” It’s all about close quarters action.

During my last visit to Tasmania I spent a couple of enjoyable creek sessions throwing minuscule dries off a diminutive #2 or #3 weight (to be honest, I can’t remember exactly which weight, nor what brand it was). This rod came from the collection of affable fishing guide, Roger Butler of Red Tag Trout Tours. Once I got my head around using this soft, short little noodle of a rod (it was just under the 7 foot mark, from memory), I really enjoyed it. Much to Roger’s amusement, I continued to disparagingly refer to that particular twig as “Arthur Rod” (as in “half-a rod”), but he had trouble prying it out of my grip at the end of the day… There’s something about these super light sticks that makes you grin.

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A trout in the hand… Size isn’t everything.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow a #3-weight Airflo Creek Series rod from David Anderson of (a wonderful on-line resource for those smitten with the featherweight fly bug). David reviewed this delightful little 7′ 6″ rod here on his Twigwater site, and he has done a much better job of describing it than I could ever hope to. I strongly urge you to not only read that review and check out the rest of the site, but also to subscribe to David’s free monthly newsletter, and “like” his page on Facebook that you’ll find here. These on-line resources are full of great stuff for fans of ultra-light fly fishing.

I deliberately over-gunned the Airflo Creek #3 with a Rio Specialist Trout WF4F line, knowing that I’d be doing a fair bit of short range work. The match-up worked pretty well, but that wispy rod definitely felt like it was straining a tad when I tried to aerialise any more than about 35 or 40 feet of line. Next time I’ll try it with a lighter line, or even a double taper.

Move closer, cast shorter and slow down.

Move closer, cast shorter and slow down. Twigs teach you stuff.

I really enjoyed playing with the Airflo Creek. To my eye, it’s a great-looking little stick, very light in the hand, and soft without being soggy or “noodle-like”. Some may find the embossed nymph on the rather ornate, inlaid reel seat a tad kitschy, but I loved it! I reckon if one of the Hobbits from “Lord of The Rings” owned a fly rod, it’d likely be this one.

So, as someone who has rarely used anything lighter than a #5 and only recently added a couple of #4s to his quiver, what’s my overall take on the whole twigwater “thing”? What’s it all about, why do it, and what are the plus and minus points?

Even little fish feel big on a twig!

Even little fish feel big on a twig!

Well, for starters, going to a shorter, softer #3-weight like the Airflo Creek is, in my opinion, a significant and very noticeable step. By contrast, down-sizing from a high-modulus, 9-foot #6-weight to an equivalent #5-weight, or stepping down from that same #5-weight to a #4 is a much more incremental move. My current favourite #4-weight is a top-of-the-line (and expensive) G.Loomis NRX. It’s 9-feet in length and has bucket loads of power. I’m an average caster at best, but I can throw two-thirds of a full fly line off that weapon without too many issues. The only times I really begin to feel its limitations are in a stiff breeze or when attempting to throw slightly bulkier or heavier trout flies and tandem rigs.

In comparison, the Airflo Creek 3-weight is a much, much lighter stick. The moment you pick it up and start waving that little rod around, it becomes obvious that you’ve crossed a threshold and entered the world of genuine “twigs”… They’re different.

Keep your reel small and light, too.

Keep your reel small and light, too.

For starters, unless you’re a considerably better caster than me, forget about punching 50 feet of line into a 10-knot sou’ wester. It just ain’t going to happen. Neither is picking up 40 feet-plus of line and laying it back out along a slightly different path with a single back cast. Those are tricks I can sometimes pull off with the #4-weight NRX G.Loomis if I get my timing just right, but they are well beyond my capabilities with a genuine twig like the Airflo Creek.

This paradigm shift can lead to a degree of frustration at first, but it’s well worth hanging in there. Using a twig teaches you some valuable stuff… like slowing down your casting stroke, stripping in a bit more line before commencing a cast, taking the wind into consideration and — most important of all — getting closer to you target before uncorking a presentation. Going for the big haul and heave just isn’t an option any more. The rod will fold into a pretzel, your loop will collapse and you’ll end up in a world of trouble.

So, why do it? Why step outside your 9-foot, fast graphite comfort zone and pick up a funny little Hobbit’s fishing rod? Well, first of all, for exactly the reasons I’ve just outlined: It teaches you important things. A lot of us have forgotten how worthwhile and rewarding it can be to creep to within three or four rod lengths of a rising trout and wait patiently for a lull in the breeze before presenting a fly. We’ve become conditioned to standing our ground, opening our shoulders and punching half a line and more out there to reach that fish. We miss stuff in the process (not least the two or three other trout that might be holding between us and that obvious rise at the head of the pool!).

Slowing down and getting in closer changes your whole take on the trout stalking process. I’d offer the opinion that it makes you a better fisher, too.

Twig gear is just plain fun to use — once you get past the frustration phase! Keep it for small water and tiny flies.

Twig gear is just plain fun to use — once you get past the frustration phase!

But beyond all of that, twigs are just plain, unadulterated fun. They turn tiny trout that’d be little more than an annoyance or a momentary distraction on your “big gear” into worthy prizes, to be cradled in wet palms, lovingly admired and photographed. Along the way, these silly little rods make you re-evaluate what it is about fly fishing that actually puts a smile on your dial. That alone can’t be a bad thing.

The Airflo Creek 7′ 6″ #3-weight is a very cool little rod that won’t break the bank, and it even comes with a spare tip… Not bad for a rod that retails for around $300 (at the time of writing). If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of dipping a toe into the twiggy end of the pool, this sweet little stick potentially represents the ideal starting point, in my opinion. Find out more about it on Manic Tackle’s website by clicking here. But be warned… this ultra-light stuff is rather addictive!