There is something special about getting intimate with a stretch of water. It is an opportunity usually held for someones ‘home water’ if they live on a river and get to grow up fishing it day and day out. For fishing guides the lure of the job is often to be able to explore and fish lots of different rivers and beats. Guides often look at fishing the same beat every day as a negative and boring. However there are a few guides who take the opportunity to fish a beat every day for weeks at a time to break down every aspect of the water.
The interesting part is not trying to do this to catch every fish that swims, rather to understand every lie in the section. It is amazing to stare at a piece of water every day for weeks and then to try and step back and see it with fresh eyes. It is like those magic eye posters from the 80’s you had to almost go cross eyed to see the image. Some people never could see the dinosaur hidden deep in the middle of it. Others could pick it up right away.
The first key to finding the hidden secrets of a section of water is to look at the river as a whole. This helps to identify stand out features. A slow meandering river that finally hits a fast rapid is going to get a fishes attention pretty quick. Follow the most likely path a fish would take to move comfortably through the water. They don’t like anything so shallow there backs will polk out if they can avoid it and they would prefer not to plow through the middle of a wave train unless they have to. Usually there is a soft edge to ride, a calm seam to slide, and a common formula to be applied. They want to conserve energy and avoid risk.
A shallow bar feature will surely make a fish pause for a moment to figure the situation out. After the adrenalin rush of crossing an uncomfortably shallow gravel bar a fish is going to be looking for a spot to relax. It is like most of us after a stressful event, we just want to sit down and chill for a moment. We will look for a comfortable place . Looking for new lies in a beat you have fished many times starts with guessing where a fish would naturally swim. There are many beautiful slots and riffles that catch our angler eyes but upon review there is no real entrance into them for a fish. Unfortunately this wasted swing water becomes a sucker run.
There are so many hidden gems in a river it is always very interesting to those that want to really look in detail. Some are water level dependant of course, but the real angler enjoys the search for productive water as much as the reward. The next time you are on your favourite stretch of water do yourself a favour and spend the day fishing little bits and pieces you rarely or if every have explored. Hooking that fish in a sneaky spot you found that everyone else overlooked is so much more rewarding than yet another one out of that famous photographed run that is hammered day in and day out.