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Early Season Tactics

Tony E

5 Sept 2022

Deep sunk weighted nymphs and indicators are the most useful strategy, but anglers shouldn’t totally exclude dry fly action.


Rivers usually hold good flows of water early in the season, backed up by a snow base in most mountain headwaters. This also ensures cool water temperatures that inhibit insect and trout feeding activity. High volumes of cold water are not normally conducive to putting large numbers of trout in easily spottable positions. Stalking and spotting trout is therefore not always the most appropriate approach to early season trout catching.

During the early part of the season trout feeding activity is often sporadic and seldom generates much morning action. Water temperatures below 11’C mean trout take longer to metabolise their food, which in turn produces longer periods when they don’t feed. Snow melt may even drop water temperatures through the morning until after midday.

Trout will not want to waste too much energy capturing their food and consequently tend to hold in places where there is a good conveyor belt bringing insects to them and where they don’t have to work too hard to feed. This tends to exclude hard runs, pocket water and the swifter water towards the heads of pools ... all classic warmer, summer water feeding locations. Instead, early season trout often like to hold in the deeper water back from the heads of runs, but still close to the main flow.

Anglers who try and spot all their early season trout before they cast, will be frustrated but can increase their success rate by using their imagination. When spotting conditions are not ideal, you needn’t‘confirm’ every fish before fishing. It may not be possible to spot the trout, but it is often easy enough to find the places they like to feed. Try casting into areas that you would reasonably expect a trout to be feeding.

This is done by either sighting structures or by assessing wave patterns and current lines. Trout will still lie in logical places, so look for underwater structures like bedrock or large rocks, light coloured rocks, prominent rocks in amongst fine gravel, drop-offs, hollows and troughs ... anywhere in fact where there is consistent flow and some bottom detail. These are the happy hunting grounds that aggregate the essentials in a trout’s’ life ... food, cover and convenience ... these are the early season ‘prime lies’.

Deep sunk weighted nymphs and indicators are the most useful strategy, but don’t totally exclude dry fly action, especially around 2-3 pm when early season hatches most commonly occur. However, hatches at this time of year are mostly short (and hopefully sweet). Some call it ‘blind fishing’, others ‘chuck and chance’ ... I call it ‘imaginative fishing’.

Consider this ... when spotting trout, does the successful angler cast their eye over every detail or rather look hard in the places experience has taught them that trout lie? Rather than simply ‘spotting the trout’, the angler is really confirming the consequence of expectation and probability. In fact, most anglers at any stage of the season would catch a lot more trout if they used their imagination a bit more. It isn't a coincidence that the best 'blind-fishermen' I know also happen to be the best trout-spotters and sight-fishermen I know too.

Cast well ahead of the anticipated ‘strike zone’, taking care to produce the best possible drift and expect the unexpected! The trout may have disappeared from sight but they still have to feed somewhere.

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