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Reading the water

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POSTED December 11, 2017 12:02 a.m.

In my heart of hearts, I am a stream fisher. While I love plugging for bass in a farm pond, or trolling a big reservoir, or bottom fishing for Ling Cod off the Farallon Islands,  moving water draws me like a magnet. I have fished for trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, catfish, striped bass and a wide array of Sunfish in streams. A good part of my affinity for moving water is that I find it easier to locate my quarry.  Different species have different preferences in a stream environment with trout preferring swifter, colder waters, Smallmouth preferring moving water with a rocky bottom and Largemouth and sunfish preferring slow or still waters and Catfish opting for feeding on the bottom. 

 By taking fish preferences into consideration you can improve your catch significantly. Adjusting your presentation according to water conditions is known as Reading The Water.  It is often said that 10% of the anglers catch 90% of the fish and it’s amazingly accurate. The primary reason that the 10 percenters are so successful is because they have learned how to read the water. Here are a couple tips on reading the water.

Energy Conservation:  Every fish must conserve energy to survive! They have to take in more calories than they expend. Trout are a perfect example of energy conservation. It is the stream current that brings food to the trout., thus a trout will position himself where he can see the food coming to him. At the same time however, actually being out in the current burns up more energy than if he were in calmer water.  That’s why a trout will position himself where he see the swifter current but where he doesn’t have to fight it. A favorite hiding place for hungry trout is a foot or two behind a mid-stream rock, where he can spot his meal and dart out into the current to grab it, before he quickly returns to his feeding station. That way he takes in more calories than he expends. Remember: fish like to hide behind mid-stream rocks. 

Protection from Predators:  Fish have numerous enemies that would like to have them for lunch, Including osprey, eagles, bears, raccoons and many others. An ideal hiding place for a fish is under a sunken log or under an undercut meadow bank where they can be sheltered from predators and see their food coming. Drifting a grasshopper along an undercut meadow will often bring a savage strike from a big Brown Trout. Another great spot to ambush fish is in a log jam. Fish will hide under the overhead logs for protection and dart out to feed before quickly returning to their lair.  A back eddy covered with foam could well be the ideal place to hook the fish of a lifetime. Mr. Lunker will be hiding under there where he’s safe and dinner is delivered to his front door!

Competition: there are a host of feeding spots in any stream and the biggest fish will take over the most productive spot. Learning to spot these prime feeding locations will increase your angling success rate immeasurably. You’ll catch the biggest fish in the best feeding spots. Work them carefully.

For more tips on reading the water, there are several good books out there. I suggest you check out books by Ernie Schweibert, Ray Ovington, Ray Bergman, and Joe Brooks. If you study their suggestions and then make a concerted effort to get out there and really learn how to read the water you might become one of the ten percenters who catch most of the fish.

 

Next Week,

Tight Lines


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