5 Reasons Why Turbulent Water Can Provide Great Trout Fishing

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The turbulent water allowed me the ability to get in close and catch this trout. Photo Louis Cahill

Many of my beginner level clients, struggle when it comes to reading trout water.

More specifically, they find it difficult when they have to compare two different sections or types of water, and quickly decide which one of them should yield them a higher percentage for success. In turn, I get asked the question often, “What’s the type of water I like to target first, when I have the opportunity.” I usually respond with “If I have a choice, and I’m looking for consistent fishing locations year round, I prefer to target turbulent water (faster moving) over calm water (slow moving).” It’s the riffles, pocket water and main current seams that fly anglers will generally find the turbulent water, and that’s the kind of places that not only will provide everything a trout needs to survive, but furthermore, the trout will usually be less picky as well (easier to catch), since the water is moving more swiftly. Below are five reasons why fly anglers should search out and fly fish turbulent water when they’re fly fishing for trout.

1. Trout tend to be easier to catch in turbulent water

The faster the water is moving, the less time a trout has to study and examine your artificial flies. Faster moving water, forces trout to quickly make the decision to eat or pass on food prospects, while slower moving water provides them significantly more time to study our flies. Riffles, pocket water and main current seams, usually have an abundance of turbulent water and trout. I prefer to fish these locations when I’m dealing with educated trout and clear water.

2. Turbulent water provides a buffer between the fly angler and the trout.

Turbulent water that dances and has a choppy look, serves trout well in two ways. First, it provides a blanket of overhead cover (camouflaging effect) for trout, which makes them feel comfortable and safe. Second, the background noise created by turbulent water, masks many of the negative noises found in a trout’s underwater environment, that causes them to become spooky. When I can’t get my four-month old daughter do stop crying, the first thing I try to do to calm her down, is go into the bathroom and turn on the exhaust fan. The consistent sound and noise produced by the fan motor, generally soothes her and stops her crying, because she subconsciously starts focuses on the noise of the fan and forgets about whatever noise or scary sight was bothering her in the first place. I’m no scientist, but I think the consistent sound of turbulent water has much of the same effect on trout. It drowns out most of negative environmental noises that can cause them to feel endangered and stay on edge, and in turn, anglers will find trout holding in turbulent water to often be more laid back and happy. What ever you do, don’t tell the trout that those two qualities of turbulent water they find so attractive, also provide us the noise and sight buffer we need to sneak up close to them undetected.

3. Turbulent water generally allows us to make more presentations before trout catch on to our presence.

Just as turbulent water helps anglers sneak up on trout undetected, it also helps to mask the sound and sight of our presentations. In turn, you’ll generally find that turbulent water will allow you to work a piece of water much more thoroughly, without spooking or alerting trout, where you might only get a couple presentations if you’re fishing slower moving water that’s calm. In many situations, you’ll even find that turbulent water will allow you to catch more fish before you have to move on to new water.

4. Trout are attracted to the high levels of oxygen and food that Turbulent water provides. 

Trout rank oxygen and food very high on their list of survival needs. After all, without adequate levels of either, a trout’s life cannot exist. Since turbulent water provides a wealth of both oxygen and food, trout will naturally be attracted to it on every stream and river they inhabit year round. And that’s one more reason fly anglers should search it out.

5. It’s usually Easy to get a drag-free drift in Turbulent Water.

Many times, but not always, turbulent water will have a smaller number of conflicting currents for us to manage during our drifts. For example, if you take the time to study your average size riffle, you’ll notice that most of the time there’s large sections of it that will have the same current speed. If you work the consistent current seams across the riffle, you’ll usually find success. In a nutshell, turbulent water makes it easier for fly anglers, especially the novice, to consistently get drag-free drifts during they’re presentations, because the fly, leader and fly line will be drifting together from the similar current speed. Rarely do you have to cast more than 15-20 feet to catch trout in turbulent water. However, when you do find yourself in situations when there’s lots of conflicting currents, remember that turbulent water allows you the buffer to get you in close to your target. Then all you have to do, is make a short, quartering presentation upstream of your target, and high-stick it through the drift to manage the different currents and get a drag-free drift.

The five reasons I’ve stated in this article on why turbulent water provides great trout fishing may not always hold true in every situation on the water. Fly fishing always poses inconsistencies that forces fly anglers to adapt and modify their tactics to catch fish. What’s really important for me, and my hopes for this article is that all the beginners reading this will become more aware of the advantages that turbulent water provides them for catching trout. Turbulent water won’t always be the most productive water on the stream or river to fly fish, but I can assure you that day in and day out, it will provide some of the most consistent and forgiving water for anglers to consistently catch trout. In situations when there’s no rising fish, plenty of educated trout, or low or clear water, anglers will find it very productive to search out and fly fish turbulent water.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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12 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why Turbulent Water Can Provide Great Trout Fishing

  1. Thanks Again Kent>
    you always bring up some valid points and open my eyes to more fishing strategies. I am going to approach a certain spillway differently this weekend.
    Tight Lines & Wet Waders,

  2. Great post Kent! I love fishing pockets and faster runs for laid back happy trout. Those are the best kinda trout anyway! Well, I do like tangling with a gnarly angry brown too. I euro nymph quite a bit and it really excels in these types of situations for all reasons above.

  3. Hi Kent,

    Since my favorite mode of fishing is swinging streamers or wet flies I understandably seek out the faster moving more turbulent water for exactly all of the reasons you listed.
    Good post, thanks.

  4. Good stuff. I love fishing this type of water as well, and especially while I’m euro-nymphing. Like you said, consistent currents, the provided buffer, and the increased amount of presentations able to be made make this type of water very attractive for anglers using this method. Even when when I’m using other methods though, I’d say I still prefer more turbulent water.

  5. Adding to point 1, I find turbulent water to be better suited to new anglers that I am teaching (Project Healing Waters and Boy Scout Fly Fishing Merit Badge) for the reasons you stated (easier to fool) and because I find they hook up more often because the “takes” are more solid and sometimes the fish even hook themselves. I am not exactly sure why.

  6. Good lookin’ out Kent. As a beginner to fly fishing and trout fishing in general this really hits home. I tend to avoid fast moving water and concentrate on pools and holes with mediocre success (and probably spooking half the fish in the river while I’m at it); now I definitely have some food for thought….

  7. Kent,

    I catch a pile of fish in this type of water and im sure alot of people do also, but in the winter do you seem to notice that more fish move out of that type of water into calmer water. I was always told that in the winter or colder months alot of the times they will be found in the tail of the larger pools, since they dont have to use that much energy and a few other things. Do you notice this also.



    • Anthony,

      You are correct that a good number of trout inhabit deeper water and the tails of pools and runs during the colder months of the year to capitalize on slower moving currents and save energy with their lower metabolisms. That being said, it doesn’t mean all of the trout will be found in those obvious places. Slower moving water can also be found below the turbulent water that I talk about in this post (ex. deeper riffles, buckets or drop offs). The deeper you go in the water column, the slower the current moves. And you also have to take into factor the irregular cobblestone bottom of trout water that creates drag to slow the water current. Those irregularities like boulders, troughs and other underwater structure also provide underwater eddies that the trout this time of year will often hunker down in while they’re awaiting food to enter their feeding lane. Just because the water is fast on top doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fish beneath it in the winter. I hope this helps.


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  9. Pingback: 5 Reasons Why Turbulent Water is Good Fishing | MidCurrent

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