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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.




Written by,


Bill Bernhardt

Guide & Instructor

Harper Creek Fly Fishing Company




How to Fish With Streamers

by Doc Trout


     I was thinking about fly fishing with streamers (my favorite big water fly) the other day, and it occurred to me that different streamer patterns should be fished in different ways according to how the particular species of bait fish or crustacean they imitate normally act in the stream. For instance, Dace and Trout imitations (streamlined flies) should be cast across and downstream and then swung across the current in front of potential lies by letting the fly drift downstream while feeding the fly line through the guides with your stripping hand and then causing the fly to suddenly stop and swing in front of a potential lie by gripping the fly line with the stripping hand. Then, once the fly has passed the potential lie, you should suspend it in an adjacent eddy for a moment or two before swinging it back across the current it front of the potential lie by mending your line in the opposite direction and once again using the current to propel the fly for you. On the other hand, Sculpin and Chub imitations (such as the Muddler Minnow) should be fished downstream just above the stream bed by either attaching led shot to the leader or mini-lead heads to your fly line and then swinging them in short arcs across the current to imitate the real bait fish changing feeding positions in the stream. However, Crayfish and Wooly Bugger imitations are quite possibly the most versatile of all streamer patterns because they can either be cast upstream and dead drifted down stream while suspended in the water column or they can be cast across the stream and allowed to drift downstream and then retrieved upstream in the middle of the water column by using short, erratic, strips, or they can be swung across the current, close to the stream bed, in short arcs. Plus, these two streamer patterns are quite possibly the most effective fly patterns in existence for catching large trout!