The Water

Let’s start by defining come commonly used terms when we’re talking about the types of water we like to fish.

Lake – This should be fairly self explanatory. It’s a body of water where the water is mostly still. In a lake, you will find fish doing what we call “cruising”. Simply put, if the water isn’t moving much, or at all, the fish will be swimming around looking for food rather than waiting for food to come to them, which doesn’t happen because the water is mostly still in a lake.

River or Stream – A river or stream can be classified as a narrow, medium, or wide body of water that is flowing in one direction due to a gradient of the landscape. A river CAN appear flat, however the water will always be moving, even if it’s moving quite slowly. In a river, the fish do what we call “hold” in the current. A trout expends a minimal amount of effort in the water that’s easiest to swim in, and eat food as it comes by in the current. Trout will also hold in the faster water (usually rainbows) as well, so don’t ever discount shallow or faster moving water as holding trout.

There are two types of Rivers / Streams:

Freestone River – A river or stream whose headwaters come from some combination of snow melt, rain, and natural cold or hot springs. A freestone stream will NOT have a dam and reservoir above it, and thus there is no control the flows besides that of mother nature herself. A freestone stream is the most wild and natural stream that exists as they are typically more difficult to get to, ie higher up in the mountains, and are fished less than other types of water.

Tail Water – A river or stream that lies beneath a reservoir and dam. Due to the need to control and hold water to distribute for populations of people, livestock, and crop irrigation, man built dams. In years of drought, we need to have water “saved up” so that we have the necessary water, which is why we built damns… to control the water. A tail water fishery tends to grow BIG fish, as there is a lot of food spilling out of the reservoir over (or under) the dam, and the flows are controlled. As a result, trout don’t have to expend a lot of energy 90% of the year as the flows are consistent, and the food sources are plenty. Tail water fisheries also often offer fly fishing opportunities 365 days of the year because the water doesn’t freeze up due to the constant flows from beneath the dam. A word to the wise, small midge patterns and fine tippets with a perfect presentation are the ticket to catching trout on a tail water. They also often tend to be more crowded than freestone rivers and streams.

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