Squeeky’s Recent Thoughts: Structure Education
Thinking a lot, about less and less…
My favorite Dead lyric. Late in the tune Althea. Check it here. Kinda outta context the way I think about it, that’s my prerogative as the writer here.
That is my winter mantra, really. And most of the time guiding too. Living in the moment is always the best trip man. Don’t look behind, don’t look forward, just look around.
And remembering the Blog about Dave McKee here, and the comment he made about the river being bigger, larger, when the water is lower, is correct. Check out this article for enlightenment from
Squeeky Dave. It dovetails into this blog SOL is writing today…
Yes, thinking about Less and Less, Water…
Today’s blog revolves around the lower water, what I’ve witnessed and fished in the past, and my recent conversations with a few HH All-Stars.
A key point to this long winded ramble is this: You gotta know the waters between the banks. Which, is, of course, most of the water. The 98% of fish habitat is between, the two shorelines. That is what makes the river so much fun. The variety. A key point to this one sided conversation.
I do make a plan every summer morning for the day. Sometimes the night before. And some days I follow the plan. Others? I have most recently been channeling the fishing gods and letting them direct me, guide me. Also thinking about the past 30 years fishing and guiding Montana’s Missouri River and what I have done in specific water conditions to find dry fly, as well as nymphing success. Today we are talking about the latter. Structures, etc.
Usually I trust in Mother Mo. She often guides me, the boat, to the correct locale. I am just a vessel for Mother Mo. If you don’t believe, well, that’s your fault. It’ll give you something to work on.
If there is less volume, same number of fish (could be another discussion, later); then there will be a higher concentration of fish per square meter. Has to be. Simple Math.
Fish live/stage/feed on or near structures, with the largest, oldest and smartest of the bunch in the primary spot until it becomes too crowded. Then displacement happens. Animals all kinda have similar patterns. Animals, including humans too. Many behaviors are derived from animalistic drivers. Fish are no different. A few move to the outskirts, the suburbs. Then a few more. And some trout even scratch out a perfect existence in micro-structures.
You heard of Tiny Houses, right?
If you watch animals, including fish, they all prefer some sort of home structure. Safe. A feeding location is imperative. A hang out spot. A rest spot. Sa SAFE spot! You get the point. Just like humans, just like animals. All animals display very similar traits. All. Think about it. Read Tom Rosenbauer’s Prospecting for Trout. You will learn a ton about this topic. I know I did. Read it when it debuted, read it again 5 years ago, gonna get it from the shelf today as I know I could brush up on some of Tom’s wisdom.
But they almost always live and feed near/around/on structure points. Almost always. Just took at goldfish the next time you are in the dentist office. Or at an aquarium. Fish are animals, and therefore have predictable patterns and behaviors. Just ask a well seasoned hunter. Animals have patterns.
Obvious drop off’s, color changes, weed lines/banks, and riffles are places where fish live. They are also places that every angler should recognize. And if most realize the implications of such structure points then you should begin to look elsewhere. Fish that receive pressure lots and frequently, do not eat your fly as often. Period. That is 101 nature predator type of stuff.
Sometimes fish are staged up in a lane, zone, or depth. Other times they are Suspended. Anglers should recognize this when it happens. And in the summer months with tons of food in the water column, it happens a lot! Ever been around a few other anglers that seem to be roping ’em, in the middle, not near any obvious structure point, like a shoreline, riffle, or really anything?
Well that angler or boat has found some sort of structure and is placing the fly bait near that structure point. If the fish are suspended it is because of a food deal. Bugs moving around. Upwards, downwards, etc.
2022 will be year that knowledge of the center of the river and not as obvious structure points will be increasingly important. More than ever. With low water, probable river restrictions around the state displacing anglers from statewide freestone resources, fishing your normal spots will not be received as well by our piscine populace.
So a very interesting period we are entering. Last year was low too. So year two of this drought period. Time to re-think your attack or river strategy. Again, those who stick to the good ‘ol standards may not use the net as often.
I encourage you to walk around the river and enjoy getting out of the boat. If you are a wade angler, disregard, or continue to find new pastures. It is a big giant river and the fish do really live everywhere in low water periods. If you are a boat angler, part that thing and wander. Boots on the ground is the best way to learn about low water river structures.
Be careful right now as the rainbow population is spawning and making babies. Give them some room.
Yep, walking around knee deep in this river can teach you many things about trout habitat, weed banks, open mid river ‘tween weed growth lanes, mini depressions, pockets, holes, fades, undulations…and if you like, turn over a few rocks and peek. Pull a bit of elodea weed and look at the insects and crustaceans that frequent the aquatic vegetation. Yo can learn, and this is a period I suggest you do learn. Low water affords the angler to accelerate subsurface structure knowledge.
Subsurface structure knowledge and understanding is how local fishing guides often catch a bundle on nymph patterns whilst never fishing the left bank. Or any bank for that matter. The more precise and succinct your mental subsurface river bottom map is the better prepared yo are for low water conditions.
Take mental images of any part of the river you can see. Stand up in the boat and witness it. Look for where fish are.Stand on any one of our high banks and check it out. The river. The wonderment of it all. Get out, walk, wander, learn, understand, learn about the structures with all of your available senses.
The river is much larger in the low water periods. Again, if you read that Dave McKee article I wrote last year, you may get it a bit. I am so excited about the opportunities that the lower water promotes. I can’t wait to fish lanes and locations we have not fished for better than a decade, save for last year.
Take the opportunity that Mother Nature affords us and fish news lanes. Search out the minute fish holding and feeding locales as you walk or float by. Start putting together your updated mental river map. Fish a new reach while you are at it. The river will be busy. Fish new waters, within the same river. It is time.
The time is now. Embrace the change and recognize the opportunities that we are blessed with.
A thought about the subsurface structures and how it relates to the dry fly game. No secret here: If you know the depths, the bottom structures, and flow characteristics you can capitalize on the dry fly game as well. Knowing where the fish are comfortable rising, feeding, where the bugs are emerging, what type of arena’s holds each specific insect. Perfect for those who like to blind fish a caddis, or a hopper, or an ant midsummer.
The more you know about your fly fishing stadium, the better the results will be. Take time to drive that frontage road and look at water. I find myself, as others do too, pulling over on the frontage road and looking, watching, staring, at the water and structures. Watching and looking and not fishing is an imperative portion of your river learning.
I know less educated anglers are all out getting the line wet. But sage
older mature anglers agree that the non-fishing time is equally as important as the time in the water. Equally as important. Like practicing casting. Damn important.
Those are my recent thoughts. Actually a period of 18 months now. My knowledge is expanding of the river bottom. I am real excited this spring once again. Last year too.
The staff at HH is stoked. Great fishing, great access, a mild springs and a good looking summer in front of us. Don’t forget to stop in and glean some fishing info at the store open daily. Shuttles, fly rods, reels, the best selection in fly lines in the canyon, and a team of anglers who love to chat!
The snow has stopped. I’m headed to the river…