View Full Version : Reading the Water

11-16-2006, 11:33 AM
I hear this alot. All FF I meet say how they can read the water, my dad says it to, but how do you do it and how does it help. The water doesn't have alphabit soup in it. Is it how you can tell where the fish are? Is it vibrations in the water only old FF can feel because of experience. Read the water I don't get it. :-/ Yes, dad this is free time! ;)


11-16-2006, 12:34 PM
When they are saying "reading the water", it is in reference to seeing where the current/flow of the water is strongest and/or slowest and seeing the "feeding lane". I refer to the feeding lane as where flys, ants, and other various insects are being carried down the stream. Often on th eedge of the strongest flow of water through a run, the current slacks off and insects, flies, etc. are kicked out of the strong stream flow. Trout often "hold" is slower/deeper water in order to conserve energy and have cover respectively. So where the trout are holding and where there is food is critical in determining where to cast. When you are reading the water you are looking for where fish might be holding, stream flow, where insects are being carried down stream, and the insects in the stream; all this so you can know where and how to cast your fly (& what type of fly)! This is only some of things. Hope this helps. The best way to understand is to go fishing with an experienced FF. :)

11-16-2006, 12:47 PM
Reading the water is identifying where the fish are holding.

Although there are several other factors to consider (eg. stream conditions, season), fish are generally found in areas that offer feeding opportunities and protection from predators. Structures, pocket water, and deep pools near swift currents usually offer this. Reading water also involves understanding currents and how your presentation will be effected by them.

David Knapp
11-16-2006, 02:41 PM
Like ruggerfly said, the best way to figure out how to read water is to go with an experienced fly fisherman. Also, if you can find a copy of "Reading the Water" by Dave Hughes, it is a great introduction to reading water. I got my copy from LRO and I assume they still have it or can order it. It is a great book even for the experienced fisherman and will have you understanding where the fish are in no time.

11-17-2006, 10:01 AM
Im gonna tell you something that a guide told me one time. As soon as I heard this I started catching fish.
Ok, dont focus so much on your cast. The cast is not as nearly as important as what happens after that fly lands on the water. Ive seen guys that could lay out 100ft of line no problem, but they had not the slightest clue how to fish the cast! Dont worry about you casting just yet, itll come with time. Get to where you can cast 30ft and learn how to fish that cast. Also learning how to read the water is critical, learn to look for places you think a trout will be and fish it. Dont just look at the water, look into it! And remember to learn what to do while your line is in the water. Trust me, it goes alot smoother after that.


11-17-2006, 11:23 AM
MTN_TRT is correct. There is alot of activity with the water, the surface, the sub-surface and the bottom. All play heavily into the reaction a cast is going to receive. The smallest of stones on the bottom will work excellent camo for a trout waiting on a meal. It's more than just reading the current.

11-17-2006, 12:17 PM

I know this will be oversimplifying it, but this helped me greatly when I was just getting started FF in the park. I would simply focus on throwing flies anywhere fast and slow water meet. I would also look throw my flies in places where I would notice quick depth changes. When I would do this I was beginning to read the water without really knowing what I was doing. One of my favorite things is finding places where water goes from shallow to deep quickly. Big ledges on the bottom are fantastic spots to throw a big ugly nymph and hold on tight. Also, when you get to a section of water your about to fish, stand on the bank a few minutes and watch the path the bubbles move down stream. Wherever the bubbles go is usually where some food is going also. Lastly, after you catch a fish, take a second and analyze where you caught him. Was he in slack water or fast water? Shallow or deep? Were there rocks around that he was using? Was he using an undercut bank? Taking a minute to review where that fish was caught will open your eyes as to what to look for. I know this is taking a complex topic and simplifying it, but it really helped me when I was getting started.