From the perspective of the trout, the river is in fact a three-dimensional moving dinner plate in which, if they get unlucky, they become the main course. The most interesting part about this (for us anyway) is that it moves.
Last week I mentioned the important details that make up a trout's existence: food, idleness, security and an annual sex vacation. In all worlds these needs conflict with each other and the World of the Flow is no exception. I also discussed the different types of feeding behaviour: "not at all", "maybe", "up for it" and "I'm feeding and really going for it, but you'll never ever catch me".
This week I'm going to start to narrow the Search.
Let me tell you something that you probably know anyway, but don't get to read about very much: trout live in several places (although not at the same time of course).
Although much of the river trout literature mentions the food/security/conservation-of-energy issues they all more or less attempt to describe Trout Heaven; water two feet nine inches deep, large and interesting boulder behind, convergence of currents in front and (this is where it merges with Angler Hell by the way) one large overhanging willow tree.
Such places exist of course and their locations are well marked by the presence of large, emotionally complicated fish and angler's flies (it's important to pay homage to these locations incidentally, and leave at least one of your best flies in the tree).
Fortunately for us most fish eat out. They have a secure home base involving an overhanging bank and a tree, usually in a downstream location, and a faster flowing more open-air restaurant situation upstream. In fact they often choose different eating venues dependent on the time of the day, choosing to eat in the shallower tail of the pool as the evening turns into darkness (a time when fish are well known for their reckless eating habits, or not).
Often a fish will try to make for his "home" once hooked, and if that place involves overhanging brambles and tree roots; good luck.
Life in the fast lane
It's a simple fact of life that the faster the current the more food it's going to bring but the harder the trout has to swim to get it (trout energy law). Trout are only going to be moving about in the fast water when there is a hatch or a fall going on. Of course they might be on the bottom, underneath it, but that's another story.
The other story is that water flows fastest at the top and slowest at the bottom (making it a good idea not to lift your feet too high when wading, especially if they are big). Trout are quite capable of lying on the bottom even in seemingly very fast flows. The strategic position of a rock is also of benefit. The water in front of the rock acts as a cushion. I often see large fish lying "on station" in front of such rocks (they are hardly ever behind them; rivers don't work that way and the water in these areas is often a complicated and turbulent fishless mass).
When scanning a river we are on the lookout for the “funnel effect”: a convergence of currents condensing the food into an exciting dinner situation (smorgasbord is an accurate if much over used description). Actively feeding trout will generally be beneath or to the side of this food line.
It's easy to discover the "funnel effect" purely by looking at the water surface; it looks fast, contains bits of stuff floating downstream (sometimes edible) and often (like my current shower gel) involves curious little bubbles.
On small and medium sized rivers, surface convergence often belies the presence of fish and this is where we should focus our attention. In the absence of visible fish then a good position to place a searching cast would be into, or just into the edge of this food band. On large fast flowing rivers you can forget it; the water here is far too violent and the fish tend to either be hard on the bottom or else closer in to the banks.
As we expand upon this section we will use real life scenarios (such as in the Mataura Dun) to demonstrate trout location. Next week: how to spot fish.