Knowing how to fish the bend of a river can yield monster trout that move to feed in the slower moving, softer water.
There is a tight right-hand bend in the river with what appears to be a good pocket just off the opposite bank. It’s soft water over there where you know fish move to feed on slow-moving bugs both above and below the surface. Your side, the left side as you’re moving upstream, holds the main current that’s about two feet of depth. Natural temptation might pull you to immediately cast to the pool across the way though that’s not necessarily the best tactic to fish the bend of a river. So what’s the best approach?
APPROACH & PRESENT
Try to stay calm and move slowly, something you’ll hear over and over in regards to fly fishing. Approach this section of the river much like you would any other hole. Right-handed fly casters should stay on the left bank. A southpaw’s positioning is left to their discretion. If you’re able to make a small retreat downriver to cross, do it. If your current bank leaves you with room to backcast, or if you’re a proficient roll caster, then stay.
Ease your way into the water, making as little noise as possible. Again, try to refrain from casting straight to the deep hole. Sure, we know just by the looks of it that a big fish or two could be hanging out against the shelf or opposite bank. But those very same fish could also be in the main current or holding on your bank.
As for what to throw at them, avoid guessing what a trout might be doing at any certain point, place, or time. Their food sources lay under rocks and in trees if you take the time to look. Once you know your fly selection, consider tying on a lighter tippet, something in the 5x-6x range, because trout are way more likely to see your line in that slower, softer water.
There’s a method to casting to any hole that allows you to cover every inch. First work the water closest to you, starting at the back of the pool. If you begin casting on your side of the river and slowly make your way across, then you will avoid spooking a lot of fish. Especially in the slower eddes where a trout is much more likely to notice your line slapping the water. Those big fish do move out of the deep holes and could be holding on your side of the river.
Work your way from the back section to the front. You’ll also want to avoid casting to the spot where you expect a fish to be. Instead, land your fly upstream and allow it to drift over the feeding area.
Let’s hope you hook into a big one. If you do, he’s likely to dive deep. If he can’t shake the hook by diving, he may move up to the faster water and try to make a downstream run. Either way, as soon as you set the hook, start easing back to get him out of the hole and ready yourself for the downstream run.
By getting the fish out of the hole as quickly as possible, you’re less likely to spook any other trout feeding there. Of course, if he’s the fish of the day, then why get greedy? However, you’ll find that multiple fish of all sizes congregate in these deep pools in the river. Getting downstream will also allow you a little time to prepare to net the fish. If you’re a step ahead of him, then you can give yourself the opportunity to get him to the net before he runs down river where he is more likely to break the light tippet.
We can’t stress enough the need for stealth. Fish feeding over in the calmer, softer water can be overly wary. They’re sacrificing cover for food, especially if they’re rising to bugs on top of the water. So match the hatch and present delicately when you fish the bend of a river. You never know when an absolute lunker is lurking just below the surface of this deeper channel.