Spotting Trout - Part 2

Sunday, 29 August 2010 07:26


In this exercise I want to show you (1) the effect of wind riffled water in spotting trout and (2) how if you watch a trout for a while you can tell what it’s feeding on. Obviously this isn’t always possible, but often it is and the lesson is that once you’ve spotted a fish don’t immediately cast at it. Rather watch it for a while. Then (3) I want to illustrate for you another reason why it is important to watch a trout after you have sighted it. Essentially, you do not want to cast at a trout when it has taken up a position that allows it to spot you. Your best chance at a fish is always when it is facing away from you and looking directly upstream. If it is moving, as for example when nymphing, a trout can cover a lot of water and its position can sometimes be completely side on to you, when of course you are in its direct line of vision.


Study the picture above. The answer is below, but don't peep yet! Although the water in this run is riffled by a sudden gust of wind, the trout is still ‘spotable’ (if there is such a word). The clue here is in the different colour density (lighter in this case) and the roughly linear shape. Any colour that contrasts with the colour of the underlying rocks is suspicious of a trout. In this particular instance looking for a draped shadow isn’t going to help as much because the wind riffle has reduced the shadow. But study the centre of this picture and you should still be able to see an S-curved, draped shadow and above it, a roughly linear area of lighter colour. That is a trout. Notice also the shadow direction the rocks are throwing. The sun is almost overhead but slightly in front of us, so rock shadows are pointing roughly downwards and slightly back towards us. So any fish is going to be pretty well directly above its shadow. As an exercise study all the rock shadows in this picture and see how many draw a clear blank when it comes to seeing anything like a fish above them.


Now the wind drops and the same fish in the same place in the picture below becomes more obvious. But study the area around its head. Do you see the rings radiating from just above it? This fish is now just under the surface and the discrete rings around its head are the signs of a sipping rise. This trout is taking emergers just under the surface. While you are at it, study the fish’s shadow shape and position and also ask yourself if the position of the fish is such that it is safe to throw a cast. Clearly in this case it is as the fish is facing directly upstream.



We put a size 16 Klinkhamer Emerger over this fish, showing it only the leader, knowing it was very likely to take and hence being able to capture that moment. Again there was an advantage in having spotted this fish in that we can measure the cast to avoid lining the trout.


Earlier we said any colour that contrasts with the colour of the underlying rocks is suspicious of a trout. Have a look at the picture below and see how many possibilities there are of a sighting. Clearly you are at a disadvantage again due to the wing gusting over this run. The water is also very shallow and in shallow water draped shadows are always less obvious because the fish are sitting right over their shadows and will cover or hide them to some extent.


The answer to the picture above is directly below. But below that picture again, is one where in the same place the wind has dropped. Once the wind has dropped the trout will become more obvious and so does its shadow. As an exercise again check two things (1) shadow direction and (2) whether you think it’s opportune to cast at this fish.



If you have studied the picture above and still can't see the trout have a peep below. but then go back to the unmarked picture and try to make the spotting again. a useful tip and a good exercise is to study the picture above in detail and ask yourself what is possibly a trout and what is definitely not.



The trout in the picture above will see you. He is too side on. Either you want to slowly creep behind him or wait for him to turn and face upstream.

To reinforce the point about the position of a trout relative to you the angler, have a look at the fish in the pictures below and it becomes abundantly clear when it is safe to cast and when it is not and precisely why! they are all taken in the same run watching the same trout through the camera lens.





Side on not safe



Safe again

But there’s a second lesson here. Note that this rainbow looked far smaller facing upstream. Once he turned sideways he showed that he is clearly a far bigger fish than we thought. And a third point of interest is this is a very dark trout compared to his surroundings. Most often these are trout that have come from a dark, shady primary lie under the bank to feed in a secondary lie. As such they are usually more cautious, more spooky than trout you find inhabiting deeper pockets in open riffle water. This fish’s primary lie is far to the left of the picture deep under the shaded bank.

As a general rule is freestone streams, any spooked trout, or any trout you hook, will make straight for home – his primary lie.

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