Locate your quarry and set the menu

Trout in rivers have a fundamentally different set of circumstances from their cousins in lakes and reservoirs, and we must adjust to these differences to become more effective anglers.

The simplest of which is that moving water brings the food to the fish, and still water forces the trout to go in search of its meals.

Knowing where to find your quarry in these diverse situations is half the battle, and just like Mesa the shop dog, a fish’s consumption of many types of food trumps all other worldly concerns.

To think like a stillwater fish, consider the time of year and what hatches are most likely.

In spring and early summer, chironomids (giant midges) and callibaetis (large mayflies) are the official meal and I prefer to fish these emergences from a float tube or boat in deeper water, although shore fishing can be just as productive.

As summer and fall approach, damsel and dragonflies are hatching in earnest. Seeking out taller vegetation and the little highways the fish use to peruse and graze these places for the long, olive nymphs and waxy winged adults are the ticket.

Other food sources include, but are not limited to, crayfish, baitfish and fry, scuds, eggs, mysis shrimp, ants, grasshoppers and the list goes on, with many of these potential morsels being found in rivers as well.

Moving water creates a “lazier” fish and these trout follow two simple commandments, most of the time.

Expend no more energy consuming a food source than thou shalt receive from it, and eat what you see the most of, which results in match the hatch situations.

These fish can get keyed in on the specific stage of a particular insect, and sometimes to our frustration.

A fish feeding on minute insects rarely moves an inch to do so, while one slurping drakes the size of corn chips will swim ten feet out of its way to consume one like it owed him money.

Simply put, the smaller the preferred insect, the more accurate we must be.

Most of us find fish easier to locate in moving water because of their basic needs.

These fish prefer to struggle against the unrelenting current as little as possible and be near places where slow and swift water converge.

Until a significant hatch occurs, that is.

In Mesa’s case, when lunch starts at the Riverside Grill, patrolling the deck for suckers willing to part with their french fries outweighs sleeping under the rental waders.

When midges are the fare, slowest water usually fishes best.

Caddis seem to best be fished in riffles, PMDs in pocket water, and stoneflies crawl ashore from the fast stuff you normally walk right past.

Drakes just love a gravelly bottom and yellow sallies just seem to live everywhere there is a little current.

Adjusting our attentions to these differences make us more skillful anglers and the best ones have the gift of knowing where the trout are in any situation and why.

— This column is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at (970) 927-4374 or

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