Fly Fishing Tips 1 min read

How to Read a Trout Stream

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

October 2, 2010

Orvis’ Tom Rosenbauer shares his infinite wisdom on on how to read trout a stream in this fly fishing video clip filmed on the West Branch Ausable River for The New Fly Fisher and the subject of the first Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast.

Reading Trout Streams

Reading a trout stream and figuring out where trout are likely to be hiding is one of those talents that just take time to master. It helps to think like a fish. If you were a fish, where would you hang out? Would you like to fight the current all day and night? Would you position yourself so you could not reach food passing by with the current?

I think not.

Trout Stream Seams

No we are not making a shirt, we are thinking like a trout! Most trout streams have rocks, right? What happens when flowing water hits a rock sticking up out of the water? It parts and flows around the rock creating two paths alongside the rock and and an area of slack water (a back eddy) behind the rock, right? Well that transition area between the water flow paths and the slack water is called a seam.

Trout like seams because the current is not very strong yet they are close to where food will pass by allowing them to eat and conserve energy – two things trout worry about.

If you are having a hard time picking out the seams you might try a little trick that my kids taught me and drop a leaf upstream of a stretch of water you plan to fish and just watch where it goes. The leaf will eventually gravitate toward the seams and natural feed lanes in a stream just like the bugs do.

Trout Stream Cushions

As Tom points out in the video, another great hangout for trout are cushions (see screen-shot above) that form in front of rocks where friction caused by the water hitting the rock slows it down. This is kind of a hard concept to comprehend because on the surface, the water appears to move faster over the rock.

In any event, if you take the time to study a stream before charging in you’ll start to notice the seams and cushions where trout hang out.