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Fly Fishing 101, Part 11
Finding the Fish


"Charlie Wallant stood on the high embankment overlooking the river and said: "So this is the Lamoille."

As I tugged at my wading shoe I wondered where I would start him off. The water directly below us was shallow and sandy; it usually held a few small trout, but it was not worth fishing in the daylight. At the tail of the long flat there was a pyramid-shaped rock, its point barely breaking the surface, where I had taken a 17-inch brown just a year ago this very weekend. That should be a good place, I thought, for Charley to make his maiden cast in Vermont water.

Hurrying, I gave the lacing a yank and it snapped.

"Take your time," Charley said. "I'll go along down and take a look at this fabulous river of yours."

By the time I was ready he had passed out of sight. I sloshed through the edge of a shallow flat and caught up with him at the pyramid-shaped rock. He had a trout on.

I should have known he would find the place. Anyone who can "read" the surface of a trout stream would recognize it as a perfect lie for trout and would know at a glance that the broad, shallow flat above it would be barren except perhaps in the evening, when trout might move into it to cruise for hatching flies."

What you have just read is from a book first published in 1950, written by beloved American sportsman H.G. Tapply, in The Sportsman's Notebook. Long out of print, it is another book to look for in used bookstores. It contains a lifetime of experience, translated into practical ways to improve your skills in a variety of outdoor endeavors.

So if you were standing on that stream, how do you know where the fish are? What are the key things to look for? Tappely gave us reader information in this little mystery. The shallow flats would only be a possible at dusk or after dark. Why? As Tapply said, "... when trout might move into it to cruise for hatching flies."

Another clue ... the pyramid-shaped rock. Picture the water flowing around the rock, and you see a calm area directly in front of the rock, and the current on both sides of the calm area. Food will be floating by on either side on the current. Areas between calm and faster water develop quite pronounced current edges - which fishers call seams. The faster water is also broken water - that is, the surface of the water is not smooth. That gives the fish a certain amount of cover protection from their enemies.

Experienced fisherman carefully watch or "read" the water; fish areas that should be productive and skip over places that don't have the proper requirements to keep the fish there. Those places that do have the elements to keep fish are called holding water.

What keeps fish in a particular area? Fish have three basic needs: food, cover, and a resting place. There are other variations of those, such as fish looking for warmer water in the spring when the water is uncomfortably cold or cooler water in summer when water temperatures rise.

The first instance puts fish in shallow areas of the stream which the sun has warmed even a few degrees. In the second example the fish move into shaded portions of the stream or to the mouth of a small feeder stream where the water is cooler. Both are examples of the fish seeking comfort.

It will help you immensely in your fly fishing if you start thinking like a fish. If the weather is hot, where do you want to be? In a cooler, shady spot? So does the fish.

More here next time on finding the fish.

Stop by the Chat Room and meet some fellow anglers. It is a nice bunch of people - always willing to help new fly fishers! Or just share your fishing adventures. Fair skys and tight lines, ~ DB

Have a question? Email me!

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