Find the Trout: Scouting a Stream

Learn to read a stream and snag the big fish.

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Reading the stream is the most important factor in catching fish,” says Kevin Giardino, a NOLS fishing instructor and guide. Recognize where trout hang out, and you can cast right to their waiting mouths.


A. Boundaries

Trout hide in areas where deep, slow pools (safety from predators) meet faster currents (rich food sources).

B. Deep pool

Cast here when water flow is low or temps are particularly warm or cold. When rising water offers additional protection–or when water reaches 55 to 60 degrees–trout venture out from the depths.

C. Boulders

The river’s hydraulics create slow zones along the sides and front of rocks and in eddies directly downstream. Drift a fly along the current’s edge, near the calm pocket where trout park.

D. Washboard riffles

Turbulent water is often rich in the oxygen and aquatic insects that trout need, but it’s too shallow for safety.

E. Fast water

A current faster than six feet per second requires too much energy for fish to stay in place (toss in a stick and gauge its speed).

F. Undercut bank, Shoreline shrub

Trout hang out in waters sheltered by an overhang and slowed by roots and the bank’s rocks.

G. Tributaries

Trout sit just below junctions to gobble the fresh food washed in from the smaller stream.