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Fly Fishing 101, Part 12
Hide and Seek


Last time we were trying to find the fish. This excerpt from Clive Schaupmeyer's The Essential Guide to Fly-Fishing (see the book review in "Are You A Flailer?") does an excellent job of explaining where the fish are in specific areas on the stream. The numbers on the illustration match the numbers in this list.

Favored Holding Spots of Trout in a Typical Section of River
Trout often hold and feed in identifiable parts of a stream:

  1. In riffles and shallows, especially during insect hatches.
  2. In front of boulders, where the water speed in front is slowed by the rock behind. This is a popular spot during heavy hatches.
  3. Along banks where the current is slower and terrestrial insects fall in.
  4. Behind boulders that offer protection from the current.
  5. In drop-offs between riffles and the heads of run that offer protection from the current and a steady supply of food.
Favored Holding Spots
  1. Behind submerged boulders or other protective pockets.
  2. In front of surface obstructions that can trap good insects.
  3. Behind logs that offer protection and possible ants.
  4. At the floor of runs where the water is slower and food is plentiful.
  5. In quiet holding pockets between subsurface rock ledges.
  6. In back eddies where the current is slower and where insects tend to collect.
  7. In seams between slow and faster water where the current isn't too strong and food passes nearby.
  8. At the bottom of a deep pool.
  9. In the shade of an overhanging streamside tree protected from view.
  10. In and around weed beds that offer food and protection from the current.
  11. In gravel bar shallows in late evening.
  12. In the tail of a run where the current is slower.
  13. Under or inside undercut banks.
Looking at the illustration, you begin to realize all the fish shown have one thing in common. All the fish are facing the same direction. That direction is upstream, or into the current. Fish that would face downstream would all eventually end up all the way downstream. As in the ocean.

Fish face upstream because that is where their food comes from. Think of it as being in a dining room, and the waitress bringing you a plate of food but the food is hanging in the air above the plate.

That is what the fish have, a moving dinner plate. The food comes to them floating on the surface of the water and they have to make the decision to take that food in a split second. Wait too long and it has floated past them. And if the fly you offer doesn't look like the food the fish has been eating? You probably won't get the fish to take your fly.

Next time: what do they eat anyway?

Thanks to Clive Schaupmeyer for excerpt use of his book The Essential Guide to Fly-Fishing, A Comprehensive Guide for Beginner and Intermediate Fly Anglers. Available in bookstores or directly from Clive. Clive lives in Brooks, Alberta. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada. He fishes throughout Alberta and has fished in the Northwest Territories, B.C., Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Montana.

Have a question? Email me!

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