Fishing in streams and rivers means you’re dealing with moving water, and that’s different from more stationary waters found in lakes or ponds. River fishing and stream fishing means knowing where the water is moving, and how fish behave in it.
River fish find hiding places and travel anywhere from a few feet to up to several hundred feet, several times a day to eat. When stream or river fishing you have to decide if you're going to fish where the fish are hiding or where the fish are feeding. Either way, you'll have to understand how river fish feed and hide.
River fish hide in undercuts in the banks, eddies, sunken trees and overhanging trees and bushes. Places that provide protection from the current and above-water predators.
Feeding places include the outside of bends, merging currents, drop-offs, feeder brooks and springs - places where the current slows and food collects or sinks.
In general, fish found in moving water tend to be a little smaller than lake fish. But they're fighters, strong from battling the currents.
When the river or stream curves, the faster water (which carries the food) moves to the outside of the bend. Fish look for food in these bends. And if the outside of the bend also contains a rock or fallen tree (to slow down the food-carrying current), it's an even better place to catch fish.
Rock and Boulder Pockets
When flowing water hits rocks and boulders, it splits and goes around the obstruction, creating an area of calm water on the downstream side of the obstruction. Fish will rest, facing upstream, on the downstream side of a rock. These pockets are small, but a handy cast could land you a fish.
When fast moving water flows into a small inlet, or eddy, it slows down and creates a whirlpool. Fish will feed where the whirlpool is slowest, or in the main body of the river where the whirlpool kicks out the food that has been carried in and out of the eddy.
Small Pointed Waves
These triangle-shaped waves form where faster water meets slower water like the riverside edge of a bend, bay or eddy. Large fish gather under these waves because the water slows and food drops.
Flowing water carries food. So when two bodies of flowing water meet, fish will find even more food, making it an ideal river fishing spot. Plus, when currents collide, there's a small area in the intersection where the water and food actually slow down, making merging currents an excellent place to catch fish.
A current edge is a place where natural or man-made objects slow the current. When the current slows, the food that travels with it also slows. So river fish rest at current edges and wait for a nice, slow meal to come by. Current edges can be created by natural or man-made structures like bends, merging currents, drop-offs, rocks and islands.
When water flows over a drop-off, it slows down and sinks, taking the food it carries with it. A drop-off is a great river fishing spot because it has food, deeper water and it's away from the current, allowing for a more relaxing dining experience for the fish.
Overhanging Trees and Bushes
Usually close to shore, these spots offer protection from the sun and above-water predators. Bigger fish will rest in these areas if the water isn't too shallow and allows quick access to deeper water for feeding and escape.
Undercuts are considered the perfect hiding spot on the river. They occur where the current has cut a cave-like hole in earth or rock along the shore. If there's a tree above the undercut, all the better. Undercuts provide protection from above-water predators and the sun and easy access to deeper water for feeding or escape. The biggest river fish live in undercuts.
Dams and Falls
When water continually drops off a dam or falls, it creates a big hole or drop-off. Fish will sit at the bottom of these holes to get away from the current and to eat sinking food. Fish can get trapped in these holes if they are going upstream to find cooler water or to spawn.
When water boils up from the bottom of the river or stream, it creates a spring hole. Fish are attracted to these holes because the water coming up is cooler and the hole creates a place for food to sink.
If you see waves on the water that look like a rollercoaster, the water is probably going over underwater rocks. Rainbow trout, for some reason, like to sit in the shallow part of these waves.
Riparian zones are the middle strip of vegetation between the river and the flatter land beyond the shore. These zones serve as a natural bio-filter to protect water from excessive sedimentation, polluted surface runoff and erosion. And they supply shelter, food and shade for fish and other aquatic animals. A thriving riparian zone is a sign of good water quality and good fishing.
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