Reading the Water

Let me start by saying that reading the water is a never-ending journey in the pursuit of catching trout. Then again, the pursuit of catching trout isn’t a destination, rather a journey, and one which is well worth the endeavor. And your approach will differ whether you’re fishing a lake, a small creek, or a bigger river. The flows of the water, if a river, will also dictate how you’ll need to read the water in order to find where the fish are holding. Also, make SURE you are wearing polarized sunglasses so that the glare on the water is minimal, allowing you to see fish holding in the current or cruising in the lake.

When I approach the water these days, I employ more of a gut feeling rather than a thought out and logical approach. This comes with many days and years of spending time on the stream. As a beginner, you’ll want to think about it until your fly placement becomes more intrinsic.

Any good guide will tell you to grid the water. That is, when you’re standing by the stream, you want to paint an imaginary grid, like graph paper, over the water, and work every section of the grid based on where you’re casting from. This will give you good coverage, as well as allow you to offer the presentation of your flies to fish feeding in every box of the grid. This is where you want to start… If you don’t see fish holding, or of course fish rising.

If you see rising fish, or can see fish feeding in the current, you’ll obviously want to cast to that fish because, well, you know there’s a fish there as opposed to casting to a box in the grid where there *might* be fish holding.

My first cast into the stream is always where there’s a seam. What’s a seam, you ask? A seam is where fast water and slow water meet. Remember, trout are like Homer Simpson. They are lazy, and want to eat all day, with minimal effort expended. That said, you will often times find trout holding in slow water that is right next to fast water. Why? Because the trout can expend minimal energy sitting in the slow water, but can see food coming by in quantity in the faster water, and move a few inches to feed, and do so consistently.

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