Deciding Where to Fish
by John Juracek
“Where should I fish today?”
This is the question we’re asked more than any other during the summer fishing season. Dozens of times a day, usually. Some days even more than that. And why not? After all, providing answers to your fishing related questions is the primary reason we’re here. Helping you figure out where to fish is an important topic, and we take it seriously. Here’s a look at the process I follow to arrive at the recommendations I make (other people could have a better way).
When queried about where to fish, I’m likely to respond by asking a question or two myself. Do you have someplace in mind already? Some kind of fishing you’re looking for? I’m not trying to evade your question, but to ascertain whether or not you have an agenda I need to consider. Most people answer by expressing a desire to simply have a nice day and catch some nice fish. However, when pressed on the issue I frequently find they do indeed have biases about certain kinds of water and certain kinds of fishing. I don’t want to send you to a big river when you’re really interested in a small stream experience, and I don’t want you to, say, fish streamers if you’d rather fish small dry flies.
Once I have a feeling for the fishing you’re looking for, I mentally narrow down the options. I’ll take into account the water conditions. I’ll think about the weather—what it’s been like, what it’s forecast to be. Both water and weather play significant roles in the fishing around here because they so strongly influence insect and fish activity (and our angling comfort, too).
After accounting for the water and the weather, I think about insect hatches. Which flies are in season? Have the hatches been strong or weak? Predictable or not? These are important considerations because, by and large, insect hatches control trout feeding behavior. Yes, trout will still take flies when they’re not actively feeding, but when they are so engaged, your chances are much better. Whenever possible, I try to put anglers on feeding trout.
I also consider the possibilities for a given water during the times when no insects are active. Might the fish still be alert and willing to take a fly? Or are they going to be riveted to the bottom, awaiting the next hatch? The activity level that fish exhibit changes often, and it’s important to account for this.
After combining your desires (if any) with water, weather, and insect information, I hopefully come up with a good fishing suggestion. If your timing is right during the season, there could be a many options. Though some degree of unpredictability is always involved with fishing, I like to think that more often than not we get our recommendations right. (I wish we always got it right, not only for all the visiting anglers, but also for ourselves!). Our goal never changes however, which is to help you have the best fishing you can.
I’ve simplified my process a bit for this article, but you can see the gist of figuring out where to fish isn’t overly complicated. It’s the kind of thing you can do yourself if you’re willing to acquire a little knowledge about the area you’re planning to fish. Learn about the waters, pay attention to the weather and water conditions and hatches, and soon you’ll be making your own good predictions about where to go. Good luck, and enjoy your time on the water.