My Recommended Creek Rod Set-up

A question I am often asked is “What’s the best creek rod setup?” The first thing I say is that “best” is in the eye of the beholder, but there are definitely some things to consider when rigging up for creek fishing. And if we are being honest, you can fish creeks with pretty much any fly rod that you own, but some will work better than others.

Focus on the end of your floating line to serve as a strike indicator

The first question is “What am I fishing for?” If you are targeting the ever-present sunfish in north Texas creeks, a 1- or 2-weight rod is plenty big enough for that quarry. If, however, you are dragging carp flies along the bottom, you’ll probably want something a bit more substantial–but you don’t have to upsize drastically; I have targeted and caught carp and smallmouth buffalo up to 8 pounds or more in local streams and have never used anything bigger than a 4-weight.

Generally speaking, because of the potentially tight spaces in area creeks, I recommend using a shorter rod than you might use for the wide open spaces of rivers or lakes. I also like to upsize my fly line to one weight bigger than my rod, which makes those short creek casts easier to manage. Outlined below is the standard rig that I use for just about everything that swims in north Texas creeks:

Furled leaders are easy to make, and very effective

Rod – 3 weight
Material – graphite
Length – 7’ 6”
Line – WF4F (weight forward, 4-weight, floating)
Reel – anything that will hold your fly line
Leader – handmade furled leader, 10-15 lb test, 5-6 feet
Microswivel – Scientific Anglers small (7.5 mm, 25 lb)
Tippet – 2x or 3x, 24-30 inches

You might be surprised that I don’t recommend any specific type of reel. Truth is, as a practical matter, a reel is really just a line holder when you’re creek fishing. I know guys that like to put fish on their reel when creek fishing, but it isn’t really necessary, and I would rather play the fish by manipulating the fly line by hand – I feel like it gives me a better connection to the fish.

This micro-swivel is so small that I don’t even notice it

I hand-twist my furled leaders out of 10-15 lb monofilament and tie a small microswivel at the end. This preserves my leader through hundreds of tippet changes and reduces line twist. I also use 2x or 3x tippet, which might seem like overkill for creek fish, but the bass and sunfish here aren’t leader-shy, and if I hook a carp, gar, catfish, or buffalo, I want to have a little insurance.

Greg DeMars

Greg DeMars

Greg DeMars is a retired mechanical engineer who began his fly fishing adventures in the Colorado Rockies in the early 1990s and expanded his range from there, fishing all over the world. From the Devils River in his native Texas to New Zealand’s South Island and the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, Greg has pursued his passion for fly fishing with the analytical mind of an engineer and the creativity of a blues guitarist and songwriter, gaining valuable insight about fish behavior and fly fishing tactics along the way. An award-winning photographer, Greg ties his own flies and enjoys woodworking, cooking dinner for friends, and the occasional wee dram of fine Islay whisky. Greg is married to his college sweetheart and lives in the Dallas area. New blog posts covering insider tips and suggestions for fly fishing in the DFW area are published the 2nd Monday of each month.

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