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Reading the Water: What to Look for When Creek Fishing

Posted by Scott Sibley on

If you're tired of the lake, even if that is hard to imagine, but still want to catch a few fish, then creek fishing is right up your alley. Though, fishing in a stream is a lot different than what you're probably used to. Just like at a lake, knowing how to read the water is key to your success, but it's a world of difference between the two. As streams and creeks are more turbulent, you'll find the fish in them prefer different waters, so here are a few things to look for.

Creek Fishing

1. Riffles

A riffle is the first and foremost thing you are looking for when fishing in a stream. It's a rough patch of shallow water that has visible disturbances in the surface. The reason you're looking for this, is that fish need to breath, and the bubbling turbulence is how the water catches oxygen for them. Not only that, but it's also the perfect environment for the aquatic insects which fish eat. It also has quick access to shelter, in case predators come by.

2. Runs

A run is the area directly downstream from a riffle. It's where the rough water smoothes out and goes a bit deeper. Fish often like to lie along the bottom waiting for the current to bring them insects. It's also a lot easier for them to get to deeper water, which gives them a sense of security. Because of that, this is the second best place to look for fish in a stream.

3. Eddies

An eddy is a small whirlpool, formed by a large obstruction on the creek's bank. It doesn't matter if it's a boulder, or a downed tree, it blocks the flow of water, and causes the current to run backwards. This funnels insects and other food straight to the center, giving the fish an easy meal. Usually, at the center, foam and bubbles congregate, making this the best place to cast in an eddy.

4. Pools

A pool is just what it sounds like, a big deep pocket of slow moving water. It's a good place of rest for fish, and helps shield them from predators and harsh sun. While big fish will spend a good section of the day at the bottom of a pool, it's usually not the best place to cast, as this is where fish tend to be least active. Although, since this is where fish rest, fishing in a riffle or run near a pool is going to give you a serious advantage.

5. Tailouts

A tailout is the spot just before a riffle upstream. Its shallow flat waters make for a good place for insects to spawn. As a result, rising fish are often found here, eating the larvae off the surface for an easy meal.

6. Cut banks

A cut bank is usually on the outer curve of a bend in a river. Because it's constantly under erosion, it often has an over crop, which gives fish a place to hide from the sun and predators. Although it doesn't always have the most food to offer. It can be hit or miss depending on the speed of the current. Faster water doesn't offer much rest, but slower water full of roots can often be teaming with insects, and a prime feeding ground.

As you can see, the structure of creek fishing is completely different than lake fishing. But knowing the difference is what gives you a huge advantage over the other guys out there casting into the biggest deepest parts of the river.

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