Sunday’s Classic / 4 Reasons Waterfall Plunge Pools Can Hold Trophy Trout

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Targeting deep plunge pools below waterfalls for big trout. Photo By: Louis Cahill

There’s few things I love more than fly fishing a small stream and stumbling upon a steep vertical waterfall, that has a deep plunge pool at its base. Waterfalls like the one pictured above are pretty rare on small streams, but if you’re lucky enough to locate one of these gems, you could very well next find yourself hooked up to one of the biggest trout in the entire stream. Below are four reasons why I feel waterfall plunge pools are great places to look for big trophy trout on small streams.

1. Tons of food gets washed over waterfalls, especially during high flows.

Large amounts of food (like tiny fish, aquatic insects, crustaceans and amphibians) regularly get swept over waterfalls. In many cases, it provides a steady enough stream of food that a big fish will take up long-term residence, and won’t be required to leave the plunge pool to fulfill its daily food requirements.

2. There’s usually lots of hiding places to make big fish feel safe and allow them to survive for long periods.

During high flows, fallen trees can float over the falls and get snagged, creating perfect log jams for big trout to hide and ambush prey. The whitewater at the foot of the waterfall also provides a protected roof, allowing trout to feed safely without being seen by predators. Furthermore, the constant water cresting the falls, creates a deep plunge pool overtime that provides deep water protection and suitable habitat year round, even during drought conditions, and provides plenty of room for big fish to forage efficiently.

3. Waterfalls that are big and steep enough, create a natural feeding funnel for big fish.

Both juvenile migrating fish and stockers moving upstream in search of cool water or improved habitat, will find themselves naturally funneled into a dead end trap by waterfalls. The natural barrier of a waterfall allow big fish to wait in prime lies to ambush the trapped prey.

4. They usually Provide a high vantage point to help You spot big fish.

When the location permits, I regularly will access high vantage points so I can peer into the deep clear water and try to spot big fish. Just before Louis shot this photo, I had just done this and spotted a trout over 20″. Unfortunately, before I could get into position to make a cast, the trophy spotted me and tucked under a log jam out of reach. Utilizing a high vantage point didn’t pay off for me that time, but it has numerous other times in the past. If there’s a big fish in the plunge pool, you can bet it’s very smart and you’ll probably only get a few presentations before your cover is blown. Spotting a big fish before it spots you, is half the battle, and will tilt the odds in your favor.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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11 thoughts on “Sunday’s Classic / 4 Reasons Waterfall Plunge Pools Can Hold Trophy Trout

  1. Great article for me to read at the start of my Sunday morning. I love fishing plunge pools, and there are plenty of them in the Finger Lakes region of New York.

    The water in plunge pools is often a few degrees cooler than the water up- or down- stream of the pools as well. This is particularly true of the pools below larger water falls. Combined with the hyper-oxygenated water that is created below the falls excellent water for larger fish is even further created.

    This holds true for streams holding small mouth bass, as well as trout.

    Tight Lines.

  2. Right on Kent. I love plunge pools. There are a couple public streams here in GA that I frequent that have a few plunge pools that hold some really nice trout. One is a brookie stream, and there are some true trophy wild Brookies that have been caught in its plunge pools. Plunge pools are always a treat to find.

  3. Large spawners end up in plunge pools, sometimes due to the fact that the said waterfall is impeding further upstream movement. Sometimes the best places to notice redds is in the gravel at the tailwater control of the plunge pool. Irrigation diversion structures also have plunge pools below them a lot of the times. Same factors in play.

  4. Hey Kent
    I really enjoy these daily publications..I look for them everyday>
    I know of a few vertical barriers on small streams where I fact, many of the Great Lakes tribs will have some blockage, or a weir at some point. They are there to prevent the spread of sea lamprey. There are fish to be found in these places as well..Thanks guys> >


    • Spencer,

      Interesting about the lamprey 🙂 We’ve got some native species on a few trout streams where I live. I’ve been wanting to do a post about them on the blog for a while. I’ve got a simple lamprey streamer I tie that the trout hammer. I’ve had a really hard time getting a picture of one, b/c they usually detach as soon as you take the trout out of the water. Thanks for letting me know you enjoy my pieces. Cheers.


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