Learn how to read the water and catch more trout

Making note of a few simple clues can make a world of difference to your catch

TAKING time to interpret what Nature is telling us can make a huge difference to our catch rate of trout. There have been many occasions in my trout match fishing career when noticing these natural ‘hints’ has brought me more trout than my rivals. A good flyfisher is always searching the water for clues, and using good watercraft, as to which tactics to choose and, most importantly, where the trout are.


This provides vital clues as to where the food is, and therefore, the fish. During early season, it pays to cast with the wind blowing towards you, either directly or at an angle, because this is where the warmer water is blown. Trout will naturally seek out warmer areas during very early spring.

During the cool early season, trout prefer depths of around 8 to 10 feet, but not more than 12 feet. And these areas often have non-stony, silty beds which house a lot of insects such as buzzers.

Resident fish often frequent warm water during early season but freshly-stocked trout tend to remain where they were introduced for around two or three days before travelling with the wind and settling in a shore with the wind blowing in.

In the height of summer, it pays to cast with the wind at your back, over water as deep as you can find. This is where the more favourable cooler water will be.

But it’s interesting to note that, on a cool summer’s day, cooler water will also be in the top few inches near the surface, as well as very deep down.

But generally, on really hot days, the warmer surface water gets blown away, leaving the much-preferred cooler water right in front of you and many trout patrol this area. Search for water temperatures of between 9 and 11 degrees C, as this is the optimum temperature for trout activity.


Prevailing winds tend to deposit silt off the end of land points and, when boat fishing, it’s best to drift parallel to the direction of the shelf, casting over it (see diagram).

One of my favourite drifts of this type is along Flamingo Bay at Foremark reservoir in Derbyshire, where I’ve enjoyed tremendous success. The silt builds a natural shelf and offers good feeding grounds and safety in the shape of deeper water either side.



Try to be vigilant the moment you enter the fishery car park. Vital clues as to which insects are hatching are on cobwebs and in the insect shucks on the water near the windward bank. Pay attention to insect colour and size – but especially colour.


Look out for swifts, swans, seagulls and cormorants. Swifts often skim the water’s surface scooping up any newly-hatched insects, therefore they’re a sure sign there’s a hatch in progress. Make sure you exploit these areas and try to discover what insects they’re feeding on. You can be sure that the fish have also noticed.

With their long necks, swans dig up weeds, dislodging all kinds of food items for the fish. Make sure you cast as close to these swans as possible in the shallows – but not too close – the trout will soon take advantage of the available food.

Cormorants obviously feed on fish, so when you see them actively feeding, you know the trout aren’t far away. Many times, when competition fishing, I’ve used cormorants as a means of finding the fish.


These can form the entire length of large waters and to pass one by without casting a fly over it is criminal during the warmer months. The foamy edges of wind lanes trap all kinds of food items for trout, so position the boat in a parallel drift and cast over the lane’s edges, where you should get takes.

You’ll often see the fish moving up and down the lanes, sipping in those trapped insects and food stuffs. For obvious reasons, try to avoid motoring through the wind lane.



Pontoons, boat moorings, tree roots or anything positioned in the water offer food and shelter. Towers in large reservoirs are a haven for fry and, often, big trout are caught around them. Pontoons also provide trout with cover from anglers and birds. Buoy chains on the larger reservoirs are one of my favourite haunts, as the chains gather weeds which, in turn, attract trout.


One of the most obvious clues to fish location and fly choice is to watch other anglers. If there’s a gathering of anglers, then they’re usually there for a reason – trout!

Please, always avoid anchoring where boats are obviously drifting. Watching anglers closely can tell you all you need to know – the retrieves, lines, areas and if you get close enough, the flies as well. If you see a successful angler pulling, he’s probably using lures. If he’s using a slow figure-of-eight, he’s probably nymphing.

This feature is one of many within our extensive trout fishing watercraft area. Click here to see what else we have on this fascinating subject.