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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lansing

summertime scouting

If your local trout stream is too low and warm to fish, you’re not alone. While the weather has been great for cookouts and campfires, many #trout streams have been reduced to a trickle at this point in the season and are not conducive to #catchandrelease fishing, though I hear thunder in the distance as I write this. But, the low and warm water doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stay away from your favorite little #flyfishing spot.

Summertime scouting season is upon us. Heading to your favorite spot and checking things out might give you the itch to wet a line (have at it if water temps allow), but it can provide an abundance of new information. As anglers, we love information. We want to know where hiding places are, where the trout are feeding, what bugs are around, if there are crayfish, what the fish are eating, and where the root ball is that's decorated with beautiful and brand new flies. The low and gin clear water allows us to see into the water, providing you have a decent pair of polarized shades, which is a whole different topic. Do you keep losing flies in a particular spot? You might be able to see the old shopping cart, log, boulder, or root that’s stealing them. Heck, you might be able to see your old flies! We’ll circle back to collecting old flies in a minute, but the point is with low and clear water we can see what’s really happening.

Scouting the stream bottom while it's low and clear for future fly fishing trips
This is a shot I took on my scouting trip today of a run I typically fish. The tree across the head of the pool is a new obstacle.

A river or stream bottom is undergoing constant change. Floods, erosion, downed trees, log jams, and sedimentation can drastically alter the bottom and banks from one year to the next. Some runs and pockets may be deeper or shallower than originally thought. Wading and crossing safely may be better in another area than the spot previously used. This doesn’t mean the bottom won’t change after the next high water event, but I advise against whipping right out into a stream and current without carefully knowing what’s underfoot to begin with. Gravel bars, sand bars, boulders and hiding areas may be in a different area than they were in the spring or in the previous year. On a small side note, check that they are in fact boulders… I was scouting and fishing a new area several years ago and had been fishing around what appeared to be larger 2’-3’ boulders. They suddenly moved and started swimming toward the bank I was on. After filling my drawers, I realized they were giant snapping turtles. On a stream that a two-year-old could heave a baseball across, they were a little close for comfort.

Scouting a fly fishing stream in Central New York.
A good pair of shades helps see what is really going on. In this case, my lens filter does a pretty good job of showing the chaos across the stream.

We can see where currents really are and where the seams and edges really begin. Perhaps there is an eddy you’ve never spotted before. And, just because it’s hot doesn’t mean the trout are done feeding. Check these spots out in the morning or in the evening and trout can probably be spotted sipping bugs. Scouting and using this information gives us knowledge on what to try and where to fish the next time out. Knowing streams intricately helps our success as anglers, which in turn keeps us from being skunked… which keeps us from talking to ourselves and keeps others from wondering if we’re mentally stable.

Cover ground. Keep checking the water, but enjoy a nice morning or evening hike along the stream bank. While I know many anglers who enjoy working and staring at a run for hours, I am not one of them. This is a different post for a different day, but keep moving! This is a scouting mission. Summer is the easiest time to find new water and see what’s what in the stream or river. Look for boulders that hide fish. Look for cover. Look for depth. Certain areas may not be as fishy as we think they are.

I mentioned earlier about collecting old flies. Please collect all the old flies you can find. Some may be yours. Some may still be useful while others may be rusted garbage. If you see them on a rock or a tree branch, please grab them. Nobody wants to see a bird hanging from an old hook or a little kid swimming get a rusty hook in their foot. While we can’t always reach things earlier in the year that we break off, we often can during the summer. Spending a small bit of time on your favorite stream and doing some clean up and picking up some trash keeps the stream safe for us and other animals while keeping it looking clean and nice for you and other anglers on your next outing.

Lastly, enjoy your time in the #outdoors. Bring a camera. There is more to a stream than just trout. If you’re lucky, maybe you spot a family of otters playing. Herons, muskrats, mink, turtles, deer, ducks, and fox are just a few that share the banks with us. Scouting doesn’t need to be an all-day outing, or even a half day outing. Any time spent taking a look around and learning the stream is better than not being there at all.

If it’s a really warm day and you need a swim, bring snorkel gear. You’d be surprised at how differently things look in the water opposed to above the water. Watch out for those moving boulders.

Until next time, have fun and see what there is to find in your stream.

Brian Lansing


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