Runs and Riffles versus Pools

I have received email during the past three days pertaining to where to fish under
the low water conditions that seem eternal here in the Smokies. It seems some of
you have been able to spot trout in the pools but have had a very difficult time in
getting them interested in your fly. By the way, I apologise for not updating the site
the past couple of days. I've simply been too busy to do that.

One reason you may be noticing these trout is that the water is much clearer when
it is cold. Cold water doesn't hold suspended particles as well as warmer water.
That fact combined with the low water conditions accounts for why you may be
noticing more fish than you normally would.

The trout probably feel a little more secure in the deeper water of a pool. Another
reason is that when the water is cold, say in the high forties, the trout tend to avoid
fast water. They could expend more energy in the fast water than they could take in
at this time of the year. The fish tend to avoid the fast water and stay in slower
moving or moderately moving water.

Now keep in mind that slow moving water may exist in places it doesn't appear to
exist. Slow water may be six inches below fast moving water on the surface or to the
side of fast moving water a few inches. The thousands of rocks in the stream create
very different current situations. Trout located behind rocks can find water that is
slow moving and even current that is moving in the opposite direction from the

In general, however, they will find more slower moving water in the deeper part of a
stream than they would near the surface. That is why you tend to notice more of
them in deeper water than you do during the warmer months of the year. It is not
because the water is cold and the fish are warmer in the deeper water. The water is
generally not any warmer and the trout could care less anyway. In many cases,
especially when the water is very low like it is now, you will see trout on the bottom
of the stream.

Catching trout out of a pool is entirely different from catching them out of the riffles
or a fast moving run. The reason is very simple. They can see and examine your fly
much better. Anyone that has fished slow moving spring creeks will attest to that
fact. Fishing a pool with cold water is not exactly like fishing a spring creek but in
the sense the water is clear and moving slow it compares in many ways. Catching
trout from spring creeks is much more difficult than it is catching them from
freestone streams. This is especially true of the small freestone streams where
trout often feed opportunistically.

The easiest thing to do is to avoid the pools and fish the runs and riffles. Although
you are seeing trout in the pools this time of the year, many of them are also
situated in slower moving water beneath and in the immediate proximity of the runs
and riffles. You can still catch trout fishing the faster moving water. It is just that the
trout are holding in different places in what appears to be all fast moving water than
they will hold during warmer water conditions. In fact, you can still catch trout on the
surface on a dry fly, even when the water is in the high forties and low fifties. Don't
let the cold water fool you. Cold water does not affect the trout in the same manner
it does us warm blooded humans. We feel the difference in our 98.6 degree body
temperature and cold air or water and the trout don't. We have caught hundreds of
trout in water less than fifty degrees on dry flies in Great Smoky Mountains National
Park. Our
"Fly Fishing the Great Smoky Mountains" DVD attest to this.

You can also catch trout from the pools. It just takes a completely different
approach and different fishing methods and tactics. I will get into that tomorrow.

Copyright 2008 James Marsh