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Reading water

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2006/10/18 15:46
From Patterson twp, Pa (Beaver Falls)
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I thought of a good topic for the beginner thread as I was driving around today. How to read water, what does all the terminology mean that we fisherman use, and what techniques to use for each type of water. We always hear these terms; runs, riffles, pools, pocket water, slack water, etc, what do they really mean visually and how do you fish them? I'll leave it at that and let everyone make some posts as to what their definitions are and some of the best and productive ways to fish each.

Posted on: 2010/6/14 13:53
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Re: Reading water
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Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite FFing books “Prospecting for Trout” by Tom Rosenabuer. It’s great reading and goes into a fair amount of detail on reading the water:

http://www.midcurrent.com/articles/bo ... nbauer_reading_water.aspx

Posted on: 2010/6/14 15:59


Re: Reading water
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That article is a thread-kill, afish. How can anyone respond following that? I learned to read the water less from books and more from constant fishing. In other words, the same way these authors learned. Reading other's experience can really help the learning curve. After a while, knowing stream conditions, trout and forage behavior and connecting it with the presence of a fish starts to click. However, I never hesitate to play a hunch with a cast or three and also am not disappointed that sometimes such hunches pay off.

Posted on: 2010/6/15 6:51
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Re: Reading water
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Back to ryans question of terminology, I find it helpful as a rough understanding: run, riffle, head of pool, tail-out, pocket-water. In any given stretch there are elements of each type. Frankly, I am not sure 5 fly anglers could always agree on what constitutes a "run." In a riffle, there are mini-pools. If there are a lot of them, it becomes pocket-water. Don't forget the mini-heads and mini-tail-outs, long riffles, short riffles, deep pools, small pools, long pools, and the runs among them. This is one of the reasons some of us choose to move around, rather than settle on returning to the same streams and locations. There is almost an infinite amount of water configurations. Breaking them into categories helps to also categorize the typical trout behavior and feeding and holding lies they will use. It narrows down the options for us to approach the section of stream.

Posted on: 2010/6/15 6:59
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Re: Reading water

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True stuff Jack. I remember reading a couple articles trying to learn what constitutes runs and riffles and there were some differences and thus I've pretty much forgotten what the elements to describe each were. It seems theres always gonna be someone out there that calls a riffle a run when I call that run a riffle.
I also agree whole-heartedly that although some tips may shorten a learing curve, time on the water is by far the best way to learn how to fish any type of water unless you're being told or reading about the exact same stream and stretch.

Posted on: 2010/6/15 7:43
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Re: Reading water
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Quote:

JackM wrote:
That article is a thread-kill, afish. How can anyone respond following that? I learned to read the water less from books and more from constant fishing. In other words, the same way these authors learned. Reading other's experience can really help the learning curve. After a while, knowing stream conditions, trout and forage behavior and connecting it with the presence of a fish starts to click. However, I never hesitate to play a hunch with a cast or three and also am not disappointed that sometimes such hunches pay off.


You did!...........

A thread is NEVER dead on PAFF! We never let solid information or hard facts cloud the issue at hand....

In small stream fishing, I usually fish nearly all the water, and skip maybe the ankle deep riffles and the frog water (although in the winter I will pitch a few casts into the frog water).

I focus on getting a good drift, and cover the entire area in a grid or fan casting type scenario, and move on. Hopefully, when you begin catching or moving fish, a pattern will develop to follow with respect to flies, type of presentation, depth, and water type the fish are in. That's the searching mode (prospecting) when nothing appears to be happening. Rising or feeding fish is the wild card. When you observe fish feeding than you lock into that to solve the puzzle (flies, type of presentation) the question of depth and water type is solved.

As Jack experience is the key, but reading things (like the article on the link) gives you a clue. Going out on the stream and observing / learning the what, when, how, and WHERE is the key, and great fun.

Posted on: 2010/6/15 8:18


Re: Reading water

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The article afish posted, says it all. I think being able to read the water is the most inportant things I learned, over the years.

PaulG

Posted on: 2010/6/15 8:37


Re: Reading water
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And no post on PAFF is left undebated!!

Quote:

JackM wrote:
Back to ryans question of terminology, I find it helpful as a rough understanding: run, riffle, head of pool, tail-out, pocket-water. In any given stretch there are elements of each type.


It's always been my understanding that a "run" is a small stream (or section) connecting larger waters.

E.g. When fishing the Breeches, be sure to fish the riffles below the spot where the Run that comes down from the lake hits the main stream.

You can have riffles, pools and pocket water in a run.

Posted on: 2010/6/15 12:26
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Re: Reading water

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i didn't read the article but in case its not in their , the most important thing i can tell a beginner about reading water is the more u look at it and pay attention the more it will tell ya , the FOAM LINE IS THE BLOOD LINE !!!!!

Posted on: 2010/6/15 22:29


Re: Reading water

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foam line aka bubble line. Troutslammer hit the head of the nail.

Posted on: 2010/6/16 8:44
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Re: Reading water

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Quote:

troutslammer wrote:
i didn't read the article but in case its not in their , the most important thing i can tell a beginner about reading water is the more u look at it and pay attention the more it will tell ya , the FOAM LINE IS THE BLOOD LINE !!!!!


Good point, but also add that foam lines are not stationary esp. in pools and runs. They will sway a good distance from side to side at times.

Posted on: 2010/6/16 11:21


Re: Reading water

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Well, I will take exception to Pad's definition of a "run".

A run, as in a waterway, is just a small waterway. I don't know how many little headwater streams are called ____ Run, and there's no larger waterbody at the top, just little springs.

But in this context, a run is not a stream at all, it's a feature in a stream. A narrow deep area with current, a "channel". It can be between 2 large rocks, or an area gouged out up against a bank, etc. One of my favorite areas to nymph.

My personal definitions of common terms (other than "run").

Riffle: Area of wider, shallower, and faster water between pools, surface usually has a rippled appearance. That is the classic "riffle". But its often taken just to mean any faster current area, and thus it is an all-encompassing term which includes pocket water, runs, rapids, chutes, etc.

Pool: An area where the stream slows. The classic pool is also deep. But like riffle, it's an all-encompassing term which just means an area where the entire stream slows, so it can include holes, flats, etc.

Hole: Deep area

Head: The top of a pool, where the current dumps in.

Tailout: Bottom of pool, where the pool gets shallower and speeds up into the riffle.

Slack: Nearly zero current. Can be anywhere, but often taken to mean the "edge water" along the banks.

Pocket water: Fast areas, with lots of deep "pockets", big rocks, and other variations. The area behind a large boulder in the current is a "pocket."

Flat: Slow, wide, and shallow, typically poor trout water.

Seam: Dividing line betwen 2 different currents of different speeds. Good holding water. Often identifyable with "bubble lines."

Current break: Similar to seam, but usually one area is MUCH slower than the other. Obstructions like boulders and wingdams usually create a current break behind them, where the slack water meets the current. Heads of pools often have a current break too. Almost all eddy's have a current break where they meet the main current. Excellent ambush points for trout.

Glide: Area of moderate, constant current over a constant bottom, surface is smooth. Can be fairly deep.

Eddy: An area, due to obstructions and current breaks, which exhibits circular or upstream flow. Strong ones can be called a whirlpool.

Plunge Pool: Occurs with waterfalls and such, where downward force of water scours out the bottom and creates a deep area.

Rapid: Very heavy, turbulent flow.

Buffer: Area just upstream of an obstruction like a boulder, where the water "stacks up" before going around.

Pothole: Self-explanatory, usually formed in a hard bottom where a piece is removed. Very small deep area.

Chute: Narrow, extended heavy current area. Usually shallower and longer than a "run". Often occurs alongside cliff walls. Very common, for instance, in the Erie steelhead streams.

Shoal/Sandbar - midstream shallow area where sediment collects.

Wingdam - can be manmade or natural, but a dam jutting a distance out into the water but not wholely across the stream. Narrows the channel and creates a current break.

Microcurrent - Usually in moderate flow area. Region exhibits multiple and varying currents, creating a number of small seams. Can be very difficult to get drag free drifts.

Weedbeds - self explanatory, but usually contains a lot of food and creates a lot of microcurrents.

Gradient - term used for the vertical fall of a stream. High gradient means it falls fast.

Cascade - A succession of small waterfalls or rapids interrupted by plunge pools.

Riffle/pool ratio - self explanatory. Some streams have long riffles and short pools. Some have long pools and short riffles. This term is a measure of how much area of riffle there is compared to area of pool there is.

Channel - just means the main current flow of the stream. Does not include edge water or small side flows around islands, etc. In low water, the channel is often all that holds water.

Posted on: 2010/6/18 9:42


Re: Reading water

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From Greensburg, PA
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17. a pipe, channel, etc., through which water or other liquid flows
18. (Earth Sciences / Physical Geography) US a small stream

You're both right.

Posted on: 2010/6/18 9:49


Re: Reading water

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Don't forget about the "bubble line", and I really, really wish I remember which book I first read about the bubble line. It was an older book on fly fishing where the Delaware is mentioned often, and there were more words than pictures in the book.

In the book it describes the "bubble line" and it is pretty much a no brainer.

It happens to be where much of the food drifting downstream will typically flow following a trail of bubbles flowing below a small run or riffle. Many, but not all of the trout will feed directly below or just to the side of the bubble line.

It is just one of many goods spots to pinpoint trout in running water.

The bubble line is especially good way to read water in in low water.

Edit; Foam line, yeah same thing, just read your post, I never heard it called the foam line before.

I guess you beat me to it.

Posted on: 2010/6/18 17:13
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