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December 08, 2016
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Reading the Upper Delaware River; Fish where the Fish are

This scene at Shingle Hollow Creek offers an example of pocket water, areas of a stream behind or in front of rocks or other obstructions where the water flows more slowly. Food, flowing downstream in the faster current, curls into the eddies where fish wait.
Photo by Steve Schwartz

As a pool spills downstream, it creates a run. This is the area just upriver of where the water forms the next riffle, and runs provide food and cover. Are you catching the theme, food and cover? Find it and you’ll find the fish.

Pocket water is the type of water that has more velocity like a riffle, but also has many exposed rocks or boulders. These rocks and boulders provide hiding places for fish but also afford them ease in feeding on what the current brings to them. The pockets also give smaller baitfish places to hide, and big fish do eat little fish. Some Upper Delaware River waters have lots of pocket water, while others hardly have any.

Now that you have a visual picture of the looks and character of a river, it might seem that the entire place will be harboring trout. Well, not really. In each of these stream sections, there will be parts that are simply more productive and are more favored by trout and other fish. Identifying these sections isn’t too difficult if you remember that food and cover are what fish are always seeking.

Break each river section down into components. What part of the riffle has the most or best cover? Are there deeper sections of a pool or sections with a more broken bottom, maybe larger stones?

Keep in mind that fish are essentially lazy. Current breaks, also called seams, where two different currents meet, allow the fish to hold in the slower current while watching the faster current for an easy meal. Where you see foam lines form, you’ll usually find hungry fish. The same water dynamics that congregate the foam and other bits of debris, also congregate aquatic insects.

You might find a large rock or a dead tree in the river and trout will use these as hiding places, lurking in the shadows with a watchful eye for an easy meal.

In all water types, look to the banks. The deeper bank and those undercut by the current are also hiding places that trout frequent.

Yogi Berra said, you can observe a lot just by watching. On-stream observation is the best way to hone your water reading skills. When you approach a river or stream don’t instantly jump in. Take some time and look around; watch the water for feeding fish. Sitting on the bank can be productive fishing time as long as you stay alert and enjoy the wonderful surroundings you’ve chosen, a place of wonder and discovery.

[Capt. Joe Demalderis is a partner in Cross Current Guide Service & Outfitters, with offices in Milford, PA & Hancock, NY. In 2010, he was the 2010 Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide of the Year.]