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Home Trout The three types of trout lies


The Three Types of Trout Lies


Trout Lies




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     Trout living in streams need three thins to survive: oxygen, food, and shelter. Thus, they seek out places in the stream called "lies" that provide them with all of these requirements. However, not all lies are created equal. Thus, it is helpful to divide lies into categories according to which requirements they meet. For instance, some lies will serve as feeding stations only (Feeding Lies), while others will only provide shelter from predators (Sheltering Lie). However, the ultimate lie will provide both shelter and easy access to food at the same time (Prime Lie). So, in order to be a successful fly angler, you need to learn to identify these "prime" lies and fish them first beause the prime lies will always hold the largest fish. On the other hand, you should also learn to idtentify and avoid areas of unproductive water. In addtion, be aware that birds are a trout’s main predator and thus trout generally avoid areas with a light colored bottom and especially patches of sunlight striking the streambed because light bottoms tend to negate their camouflage and areas in direct sunlight cause the trout's body to cast a shadow that outlines the fish to an arial predator.



Feeding Lies -


     Feeding lies offer a trout easy access to food but provide little or no protection from predators. Thus, most of the time, a trout will only move into a feeding lie when there is an over-abundance of food drifting in the water column such as when an insect hatch is “coming off”. A good example of a feeding lie is when trout are holding in shallow water at the tail of a pool.  If the water at this point is less than three feet deep, then trout are vulnerable to avian predators and thus, they will only hold here if the availability of food in the drift is so abundant that it overcomes their instinctual paranoia. Another good example of a feeding lie is when trout are holding in mild current, just under the surface of the water, sipping Emergers and Duns. Because of the way that their vision woks, they have a very small window through which they can see the surface world at this depth and thus, they are again vulnerable to avian predators becaue they are unabe to see them coming until the last moment.


Feeding LieTypical Feeding Lie

Sheltering Lies -

Sheltering lies offer a trout protection from predators and thus they are never far from a sheltering lie that they can run to when spooked. However, they do not offer easy access to food so trout typically only move into sheltering lies when they feel threatened. Good examples of sheltering lies are crevices between rocks, underneath ledges and submerged logs, and inside of undercut banks.


A Typical Sheltering Lie


Prime Lies -

     Prime Lies are the ultimate trout lie because they offer a trout easy access to food and also provide protection from predators. Thus, Prime Lies are prime real estate and therefore, the largest fish in any given section of a stream will always be found occupying the prime lies. Good examples of prime lies are the head of a pool next to a small water fall, an eddy behind a rock in the main current, an undercut bank in a bend, rocky bottoms adjacent to the shore under overhanging foliage, and in moderate riffles. So, whenever you are planning your approach to any section of a stream, you should always plan to fish the Prime Lies first unless you observe fish holding in feeding lies. But even then, you should still consider fishing the prime lies first because they may hold fish that are too large to engage in drift feeding.


Prime Lie

A Typical Prime Lie


      So, now that you know how to recognize the three different types of trout lie, it is imperative that you learn to fish only the prime lies unless you actually see trout holding in the feeding lies in order to maximize your chances of catching fish and, especailly large fish.




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Written by,


Bill Bernhardt

Guide & Instructor

Harper Creek Fly Fishing Company