the riffles

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a riffle trout

When looking for rising trout I watch the flat water river sections first. That’s where they are easiest to spot. If there is no activity then I search the riffles. Trout in this location are much more challenging to find due to the water being broken and faster. Throw in river glare and spotting can be especially daunting. So I focus on very shallow sections. Often  water just six inches to one foot depth. Large trout feeding sub-surface in very skinny water occasionally break the surface, and therefore make noise and notify you that they are around. Sometimes it’s barely perceptible above the constant sound of the flowing water. But you get good at hearing it. You just have to stay in one place for a while and listen. Large trout in the shallow riffles also push or displace water as they intercept nymphs and emergers, and occasionally rise for a dun. Their feeding can disturb and slightly change the riffle surface pattern. Again, almost imperceptible. You have to concentrate and watch the water to notice. It’s all subtle. You have to observe and concentrate…kind of the key to learning and becoming a better fly angler or really a better anything.

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The trout in these ultra-shallow areas can often be enticed to take a dry-fly or a dangling emerger pattern. On my broad local tailwater river fish hooked in the riffles sometimes have to sprint 40, 50, 60 yards before they get to the main deeper flow. Thrilling first runs. Thrilling stuff.

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simple dangling fly, black wing for glare

Of course an angler can fish the riffles blind by swinging a streamer or prospect with a nymph below a strike indicator, or below a big dry-fly. These can be effective ways to cover these bumpy areas and catch trout.

I find spotting them first before casting, however, requires all of your senses and observation skills, and the practice further develops and hones your angling abilities. A decade ago I would have walked by the riffle stretch I fished this past Sunday afternoon and spotted nothing. It’s the same now as it was then…but now I see (and hear) more.


trout in riffles


river paths

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River paths. For an angler on foot early morning on a river path is always about the promise of the day. With each step one thinks about all the possibilities.

When returning late afternoon or evening on the same path there is always a review of the day. A recalling of great trout seen, those caught, and missed.

A river path takes you in and brings you back out…


rainbow on dry-fly



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august fins

“August is like the Sunday of summer”


We’ve had some clouds, some summer storms, some sun and cool nights and therefore  river temperatures have remained alright even though the water is low. It looks like we might get through August without any angling restrictions. South of the border (Montana) the situation seems quite different.

I’ve been sight fishing small terrestrials and on one river Tricos; one of my favorite hatches. It’s a good time of year as a few trout are rising and the Blue Jays (baseball) are in the hunt for the playoffs. I want to see Jose Bautista hit a late game homer and fling his bat again…the best “take that!” moment in baseball I’ve seen in a long time.

Here are some river images from the past couple of weekends…I struck out several times but did manage to hit a few long ones…











round up










double trico



le soleil

“It was so hot I saw a roasted turkey fly by”


Summer finally returned after a cool spell and it was nice to wade in shorts and river sandals after spending three weeks in waders. Local rivers are low and heating up (temperature).

I was able to take advantage of the blue sky and full sun to spot some great fish and fool a few. It is amazing how tight you can get to a feeding fish in shallow water if you have the sun at your back and wade carefully, even on down and across presentations where you are in front or above the fish, not behind.

I learned how the sun can “blind” fish on the Missouri river many years ago while casting to a roaming pod of sipping trout. By standing still with the sun over my shoulder I watched a dozen large fish feed just a rod length away. They were oblivious to my presence.

For me, so much about fly fishing has to do with light; they are intertwined.

My favorite sight fishing river had few PMD’s on it this weekend and no other hatch. In response I fished beetles and crickets… my favorite way to go. I had the place to myself in spite of it being peak holiday season; lots of people on the road; local fly shops busy. The river was mine for a day. Amazing!

Here are some landscape and trout photos while sight fishing the past week. All fish caught on dries.






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spotting trout


big sky joe

” The towels were so thick I could hardly close my suitcase”

-Yogi Berra

I just spent five days in my region watching water with a visiting friend. We stuck with one river because we kept locating trout. They were mainly on mayfly emergers and being very, very selective. As usual, as on most tail-water rivers, it was challenging angling. The more we watched the more we saw and learned. The drift boat anglers that floated by didn’t even notice what we were experiencing. They covered the water we fished in seconds whereas we did it in hours. They were probably thinking about what was up head; the promise of water beyond. We were thinking about what was right in front of us. There is something special about picking a small stretch of interesting water, staying relatively still, spending time and simply watching it for signs of life. We did that on two different short sections of the same river for five days. In total we probably only covered only 100-150 yards; however, we caught some beauties. It wasn’t “numbers fishing” although one day we did have that. It was more quality over quantity. Great trout on size 20 and 18 flies. All tiny stuff and all sight fishing. Sometimes the slower you go the more you see…and we went slower than stop!

Here are some images…


single tree




bifocal trout spotting


trout spotter extraordinaire



back eddy fins


the big wide open


cutthroat caught by Joe f.





the bonefish flat





The Price Of Gold

AN encounter with two young boys while walking my dog:

Hey, look at that dog! Mister can we pet your dog?

– Sure. She’s young so she might be a bit hyper at first and jump a little but she’ll be ok.

She won’t bite?

-No, she’s friendly.

What kind is she?

-She’s a retriever, a Golden Retriever.

How old?

-Just six months…still a puppy.

I have a Lab, a black one….called Bruiser.

-Labs are great dogs. Kind of like a retriever in temperament.

What’s your dog’s name?


Hi Abby…thanks for letting us pet her.

_No problem.

Hey Mister you know why they call them a “Golden” retriever?

-No why?

Cause they’re worth the “Price of Gold” ! (smiling with hand outreached in front of his face rubbing his thumb together with his finger tips).

-Hey, I like that. I’ll remember that. See ya.


Here are some riverside photos from past weekend:




rainbow on dry



skwala stonefly and crude impression




same trout












Cutthroat Surprise

“I’m gonna win. There’s no way I’m goin’ down. I don’t go down for nobody”.

-1940’s Boxer, Jake LaMotta

20 cutthroat

A local tailwater river that I frequently dry-fly on has a healthy population of sizeable rainbow trout. This is not surprising as they are the predominant trout species in my region. It also has a good population of brown trout. Also not surprising.

What is surprising is that in spite of this river section being a fair distance from the mountains and the water quality being far from pristine, it has some very healthy Cutthroat and the hybridized Cuttbow trout. These fish can be quite large but what is extraordinary is that they are especially robust. Hook into one on a broad section of the river and they race for the horizon, and can take you into your backing.


I go there when I expect a hatch and look for surface disturbances. It is  “technical” water: whether it is rainbows, browns or cutthroat, or a hybridized version, you have to pay attention to what the fish are focused on (eating) and also their rise forms to figure out whether you fish on top, in the film, or have to go slightly subsurface. I sometimes get the subsurface feeders to tip up and take a dangling, klinkhammer style fly, or a helpless easy floating target such as a cripple pattern. Some people have success using soft hackles in this situation.

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The river has very impressive rainbows and brown trout but I consider the cutthroat and their hybridized brethren to be the “Raging Bulls” of this neighbourhood. Think Jake LaMotta… they just don’t give up.


Here are some pictures of these fish caught (this and last summer) on small dries: size 16 and 18 pmd’s and one fish on a tiny beetle. All fish photographed on this blog have been released.

angle cutt

Plan B

“You better cut that pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six”

-Yogi Berra


river path

Sight fishing is generally not easy. You need the right conditions to be successful and rarely do all the stars align. When things do come together it can be quite memorable; it makes your season. Lately the sight fishing in my region has been real challenging. Of my three favorite tailwater rivers, two are off color and the third, every time I go there, is being wind beaten to a froth. The reservoirs that feed two of the three rivers are so low they are releasing cloudy/silt-laden water, and it is going to remain that way until next season. Too bad. The visibility on them is only about two feet. That’s a huge limitation when you’re trying to sight fish.

cloud flow

silt flow

thumb brw

brown trout

On Saturday I hiked a lot, covered a few rivers and did manage to locate one good fish in spite of the off color water. I couldn’t entice him to take on the surface. After several casts he moved off and disappeared. I returned the next day with a different strategy; Plan B. I showed up around the same time and found him subsurface feeding in the same area. Like us, trout have their feeding spots. This time I tried one pass overhead with a grasshopper pattern. Like the day before, no reaction. I tied on a small bead head nymph (fished subsurface) but had no success. I then tied on a larger heavier nymph and connected. As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over”.


brown trout

It was a tough weekend. I covered a lot of water in high wind and connected with only one trout…but it was a good one.

milk water

cloudy water


sea gulls


road out of river valley


“He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious”

-Yogi Berra