Reading the Water to Find Trout

Grumpy McMurdo Fishing Tips

It is not what you fish with, but where you fish, that is the prime factor in determining fishing success or failure. Put a fly that is appropriate to the fish you seeking where fish are and you stand a good to rough show of snagging one of the beasties. Fish where fish are not – even with the best gear, bait or lure – and you will come up with nothing.

So if you seek out and find a piece of water that suits the fish you are targeting, you stand a greatly enhanced chance of catching a fish. The common name for this place is ‘Spot X’. But there is a warning coming up – in the form of an old adage – ‘familiarity breeds contempt’.

In saltwater, tide and season can turn a top spot into an also ran. So can subtle shifts in current patterns caused by higher or lower water temperatures, or a change in the predominant wind direction. Anglers who best observe and understand these changes have the best chance of catching fish.

Other anglers slavishly return to Spot X to anchor in the same place and wonder why they come home fishless.

In freshwater finding water that holds trout can be a matter of keeping your eyes open, behind a pair of Polaroid’s. But unless you are fishing the crystal clear streams of the South Island, NZ or the upper reaches of North Island rivers, and know roughly where to look, finding fish can still be a bit of a mission. But one of the nice things about trout fishing is the fact that very often once you have found a trout ‘lie’, trout will often be found there, time after time.

In the Taupo area of New Zealand’s North Island much of the fishing during winter (May – August) is done to trout in hard to find lies. Fish hidden by depth, coloured water, and surging frothy currents. “Chuck and chance” some call it. And for many anglers this is true. But for others it is certainly not true. In fact some guides have got the lies down to centimetres. Put a cast where they tell you, get the drift right, and if there is a fish in the lie, most often it will feel the prick of your hook.

Easy work? Would be if you knew how to find these lies; add the correctly weighted nymphs or swing the correct weight sinking line, and find lies that have not been fished-through recently. Would be too, if enough clients could cast the fly where it needed to be cast, and get the drift right.

How do guides find these lies? Second sight, a mystical bond with nature? Rubbish of course. Mostly it is down to observation. Firstly by seeing where other anglers, and other guides and their clients actually hook up, then returning to analyse and record the lie. Secondly by developing a deep knowledge of the sort of water likely to hold trout, applying that knowledge to the water to find probable lies and then testing the theory by running a fly or fifty through that water. Run enough flies through an area where a lie could or should be and pretty soon it becomes very clear where the fly must be to get hit.

Guides are not the only ones who can achieve this kind of knowledge of a river and where its trout lie. Regular fishers, locals mostly but not exclusively, the observant ones, soon pick up the lies. Pretty soon they can just about catch a fish when they want, given they can get the lure into just the right place.