Fish face upstream with their mouths in to the current so they catch bits of food–mostly insects and bait fish–caught in the flow. They like spots where the current isn’t too strong; otherwise, they burn too much energy trying to stay in place. Fish also need a hiding place nearby, in case they sense danger.
- Pools: Deep, slow, and wide, pools generally hold fish in the middle, where a lot of food sweeps down on easy currents. Fish also stay on pool edges, where two currents meet. Such an edge is called a “seam” and looks like a line on the water; fish generally stay on the slower side of the seam. The “tail,” or lower end of a pool, is shallow; it’s here that you’ll find large fish behind rocks and at the point where the water abruptly changes from deep to shallow.
- Bends: On deep, winding streams, fish usually stay on the slower inside of a bend so they don’t have to fight the current. On shallow streams, look on the outside of the turn where the current makes the water deeper and funnels food to fish waiting near the edge.
- Brushy banks: When overgrown with grass or brush, they make great hiding places. In summer the vegetation drips with insects. Muddy banks that overhang a stream are especially good for trout.
- Deadfalls: Fallen trees break the current and provide places to hide.
- Pockets: Areas behind rocks, which break the current and sweep food to fish. To locate submerged rocks, watch for bulges in the stream surface and small patches that look slick against the rest of the current. In slow-flowing streams, fish may be in front of rocks, where the flow has created a depression on the bottom. In faster streams, clusters of rocks often form funnels that carry food to fish waiting downstream on the edges of the current.
- Side channels: The current generally is slower than in the main stream and the food is abundant–good conditions for larger fish that cannot afford to waste energy.
- Riffles: This shallow, choppy water generally downstream of deep, slow pools usually holds a few small fish. Look for patches of smooth water that indicate depressions deep enough to hold fish.
- Eddies: The swirling water gathers food and attracts fish but makes it tricky or difficult to fish.
- Weed beds: Up against the weeds there’s plenty of fish food and places to hide.
What’s That Smell? (Hint: It’s Not The Fish)
As far as a fish is concerned, humans–particularly males–have a stink that can seriously turn off a trout. This is why in British Columbia, some professional guides use lemon-scented dishwashing detergent to remove the human smell from flies and lures. In the United States, several companies make solutions that either eliminate or mask the human scent. Using one of the biodegradable solutions before you start fishing is probably a good idea.
If you want to go natural, rub mud from the stream bank on your hands before you start fishing. Rub some on the fly, too–just enough to cover your scent but not so much that it affects the action of the fly. Applying fish attractants or crushed bait to a fly, however, is generally regarded as unethical.