Fly Fishing Techniques
The Three Types of Trout Lies
As I mentioned in a previous article titled “The Food vs. Energy Equation” trout have distinct preferences for the places they like to hold in a stream and these places are called “lies”. In addition, there are three distinct types of trout lies called “Prime Lies”, “Feeding Lies”, and “Sheltering Lies” and each of these different types of lies has distinctly different properties and serves a different purpose in a trout’s life.
So, first let’s examine the properties of a “Prime Lie” since it is the most important of the three different types of lies (at least to fly fishermen). A Prime Lie is a place in a stream where a trout can find shelter from the current but also have easy access to the current and the items floating by on the “menu” such as drifting May Fly Nymphs, Duns, and Spinners. In addition, this type of lie also serves as an excellent ambush point for capturing bait fish such as Dace, Sculpins, Chubs, and Crayfish. Therefore, a good example of a Prime Lie is large rock located in the middle of the stream, a log lying in the water near the bank, an overhanging ledge with a deep crevice underneath it, or an undercut bank in a bend in the stream. There, a trout can hide inside of such place or behind an such an immoveable object and thus gain shelter from the current and, at the same time, be protected from any predators that are out looking for a meal. Consequently, these types of places create eddies and/or pockets of slow water where the trout can find shelter from the current and thus expend very little energy to maintain his position in that lie. Yet, they also offer easy access to food because they are adjacent to swift current and thus, the trout does not have to travel very far to capture a “menu item”. Therefore, a Prime Lie is the ultimate place for a trout to hang out and thus, you will always find the largest trout in the Prime Lies simply because it is the best piece of real estate available and, the larger a trout is, the more easily he can displace smaller trout to take up residence in that prime real estate.
Next, let’s examine the properties of a “Feeding Lie” since it is the second most likely place to find trout holding in the stream. A good example of a feeding lie would be underneath a waterfall at the head of a pool or clear, deep, water with moderate current in the middle of a pool or at the tail of a pool. Now, the reason that this is called a “feeding lie” is that normally, trout will only move into such places when there is an overabundance of food drifting in the current such as during a May Fly hatch. The reason for this is that feeding lies provide the trout the opportunity to easily capture and consume large numbers of aquatic insects without expending too much energy but, they also expose the trout to predators because they do not provide any sort of shelter. Therefore, trout holding in feeding lies depend solely on their highly advanced camouflage patterns to shield them from the discerning eyes of predators. But, the easy access to large quantities of food is akin to a human attending an all-you-can-eat buffet; thus, it is simply too good of an opportunity for a trout to pass up. Therefore, trout holding in feeding lies during a hatch can literally eat as much as they can hold as long as they keep a wary eye out for predators.
Last, let’s examine the properties of a “Sheltering Lie” since it is the least likely place for a fly fisherman to find actively feeding trout. Quite simply put, a sheltering lie is a place a trout runs to in order to hide from predators in one of those adrenaline pumping “Oh S**t!” moments. Consequently, a sheltering lie is any place that is close to a trout’s present location and that they can squeeze themselves into and that makes them feel safe and protected from whatever spooked them such as the shadow of a bird passing over them or a fly fisherman wading up the middle of the stream in full view. However, since trout are so well camouflaged, even highly experienced fly fishermen will often not see them until they spook and run for cover. Thus, if you do happen to accidently spook a particularly large trout, then you might want to exit the steam and wait a while until he feels safe enough to come out again and return to his prim lie for feeding lie. Then, once he has done so, you will need to plan your approach carefully so that you do not spook him a second time.
Consequently, understanding the properties of the three types of trout lies and being able to identify them will help you to become a better fly fisherman and enable you to catch more tout because you will no longer be wasting your time casting your fly over “dead water” where the trout are not holding.
Guide & Instructor
Harper Creek Fly Fishing Company