shallow flats

    full sun

I was able to locate a few nice surface feeding trout last weekend in spite of the full sun and few insects. Their rises were inconsistent and subtle. If I didn’t know the river section I was on real well, I would have never seen them or I should say “hear them”. On the broad shallow flats that I like to fish, below or to the side of a good run, it is often the sound of a rising fish that first catches my attention. When I hear something I focus on the water in the region where I think the sound emanated from. I often take several soft steps up or downstream to change my visual angle depending on the light and glare. Most importantly I try to be patient, refrain from casting and wading, and wait for another sound or even better a surface disruption. Sometimes I hear the fish multiple times before I can actually visually pinpoint its location especially when the lighting situation is challenging. Usually these trout are closer to shore than I originally thought. If I was in a hurry and didn’t take the time to locate them, I probably would wade right through their feeding position, or cast over them and they would be off to the safety of deeper water.


Many drift boats/rafts beach on the flats that I frequent. Anglers generally get out of their boat, immediately wade through the shallow relatively calm flat to reach the main current flow or edge where they repeatedly work their nymph rigs. Usually they catch fish. However with this tactic they miss some of the best visual angling that the river has to offer. Some large trout like to feed lazily on the slow water flats. They slide in from deeper water and position themselves wherever there is some sort of gentle current channeling drifting food. If you can find (see or hear) one of these subtle feeders and make a connection, you are in for a real treat. A large trout hooked on a shallow flat heads for deeper water at breakneck speed. Often they take me into my backing.

slow flat off of main flow

When sight-fishing  I always try to pick a shallow flat where the sun is going to be on my back. If it is cloudy it does not matter as trout rise more frequently and confidently when the light is low and a hatch, if there is going to be one, will be stronger.




The featured trout were caught on the shallow flats of a local tailwater river.

9 thoughts on “shallow flats

  1. Hi Bob,

    Great post! It’s amazing how many times anglers will walk through these shallow flats to fish the deeper water, nearby. I know from experience – I’ve done this myself. I only realized there were fish holding there when I saw the wakes of trout as they darted from the skinny water. It’s too late when you see this happen. Dry-fly fishing doesn’t get any better than when you can sight-fish and hook a large trout in this type of water.


    • Vic: It is exciting angling to sight-fish in shallow water. I too learned/realized where trout sometimes hold by walking riverside and seeing the shallow water wakes as trout flee for deeper water. It eventually sunk in and I started looking at the water differently. Was out yesterday…still learning!

  2. A nice piece Bob. I’ve had some similar experiences with shallow water trouting this summer. It’s amazing that they’ll hold in water barely deep enough to cover their backs, mere inches from shore. Sneaking up on them and trying to cast and get a drift is a real challenge, especially when kneeling on rocks back from the waters edge. Sure is fun though.

    • Les: Yes it is fun… getting close, shallow water, seeing it all…a couple of anglers up here use the phrase, “Quality of Engagement”. Sounds business like, MBA talk. Most of my fishing is done keeping low and from waters edge. We need waders with built in knee pads…or maybe just new knees! I’m constantly greasing the tip of my fly line and a good portion of my leader so it doesn’t catch the bottom and ruin the drift in just inches of water. Thanks for comment. Good luck with rest of season.

      • Bob, I used to be able to kneel for hours, still can. Unfortunately, I have a hell of a time getting back up and walking like an advanced hominid. Knee pads do help. I’ve got a pair of Patagonias that have ’em. I usually don’t use them in the summer because they’re of heavier construction and therefore warmer.

        I’m with you on the line greasing. Drives me nuts when the leader sinks.

  3. Bob,
    Clear and shallow waters are always a challenge, I see with pleasure that you know a lot about it.
    I think that a little light nymph almost floating could work very well also in those conditions, right?
    Congratulations, beautiful trout!

    • Humberto: Nice hearing from you. The fisherman from the city with a historic Jesuit Block (I went to Loyola College in Montreal); the city that gave birth to the famous Angel Cabrera. I’m not a golfer but enjoy watching it and always enjoyed seeing Angel at the top of a leader board. I guess you are in, or coming into, summer. Enjoy the best season! Hope you get out a lot and fish your streams. I’ll have to check your blog to see what you have been up to: fishing and tying. I haven’t been checking a lot of blogs in he past several months. Hope Covid is not too bad in your region. I checked and looks like your numbers are dropping. Stay safe. Thanks for comments on my blog.

  4. Beto,
    At one time, several years ago, I frequently attended mass at “La Manzana Jesuìtica”, a historical temple here in my city of Còrdoba.
    Now I have become inclined to the practice of Zen Buddhism.
    Cabrera is a great golfer without a doubt, but he is not going so well in other aspects, he has been issued an international arrest warrant for gender violence by the Court of Justice of Córdoba.
    We can’t go fishing around here yet, I think it will be, if all goes well, after December 4th, near the beginning of summer.
    Keep having good fishing!

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