The 3 C’s of Trout Fishing – Current, Cover, and Cuisine

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Here’s the Million Dollar Trout Fishing Question….

Are you putting enough emphasis on the 3 C’s in your trout fishing? The availability of Current, Cover and Cuisine most often dictate where trout decide to set up shop. Being able to consistently pick them out will ultimately determine how much success you have on the water. Furthermore, if you can find a spot that has all three C’s, you’re probably staring at a honey hole that holds the trophy of your dreams.

As a ignorant rookie fly fisher, I recall early on in my career, how I’d start out my day selecting a section of water, and go about mindlessly fishing its entirety from point A to point B. I had no understanding of trout’s survival instincts and how it influenced their whereabouts. All the water looked good to my untrained eyes, and I’d spend equal time fishing the entire stretch of water, regardless of the depth, where the current and food were located, or if the spot had any elements of cover. Back then I was completely clueless there was a reason 20% of the water held 80% of the fish, and in turn, I spent way too much time fishing in all the wrong places. It was amazing how long it took me to figure out why I wasn’t catching very many trout.

Don’t make this common rookie mistake, you’re better than that. Instead spend your time eliminating unproductive water, and locating and fishing productive water that has all three C’s. Doing so, you’ll find your catch numbers and size increase dramatically. Below are basic descriptions of current, cover, and cuisine, and why all three are equally important.


Trout have a love hate relationship with current. They love the fact that current collects and funnels food to them, but it also requires effort for them to swim against it.  Because of this, trout prefer to hold in spots of the stream where they can feed and take in more calories than they’re burning. Trout accomplish this by directly avoiding current that is too fast and excessive, while still staying close to enough current, that they can take advantage of the best feeding lanes. I tell my clients all the time to look for current that flows over areas with deeper water. Examples of this are drop offs behind shoals, buckets, troughs or channels in the stream. It’s important to remember the deeper a trout holds in the water column the slower the current will be moving. Anglers should also look for soft seams where slow water meets fast water. These areas allow trout to save energy by picking off food drifting on the edge of the fast current.


Have you ever wondered why there always seems to be big fish located near cover in the stream? The fact is, you rarely will find big fish where cover is nonexistent, spawning is the only instance that comes to mind. Trout rank cover too high on their survival list. It’s no different than the survivor guys on T.V stressing the importance of building a shelter. Examples of cover that provide safety for trout are big boulders with eddies, undercut banks, wood lay downs, deep water, and turbulent water (water predators can’t see into). It’s also an added bonus that most cover also doubles as a current break/buffer. When your fishing a productive piece of water, search out where the cover is located, and you’ll usually find the sweet spot, where the best trout are holding.


One of my favorite things in life is good food, and I do what I can to make sure it’s always within reach, in case hunger calls. Trout are no different, they’re always going to search out areas where the most food is consistently available. It’s doesn’t make sense for trout to hold in water where every time they want to grab a snack, they have to move significant distances to search it out. Anglers should always pay attention to where the food in the stream is drifting, because if there’s not any food, you won’t find trout. Pay attention to foam lines and bubbles that can tip you off on where the food is drifting. For the most part though when you walk up to a hole, look where the most current is, and that’s where the most food will be drifting.

In conclusion, it’s important to state that all 3 C’s are equally important. Trout search them out together to ensure survival. The good news is, most productive trout water usually has all three of them if you look closely. I hope these tips bring you more confidence and success on the water.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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7 thoughts on “The 3 C’s of Trout Fishing – Current, Cover, and Cuisine

  1. Some of the biggest brown trout in the system are the shallow water bank sippers or the inside bends – water most anglers wade through never realizing they are spooking the brutes that barely have their backs covered. Shallow water funnels available food (bugs) into higher concentrations. And never over look the micro-rips in these areas!

  2. Rick,

    Your comments about big brown trout hanging in tight to shallow water banks sipping is very true. I’ve spooked many over the years thinking this water sub par. I’ve found this especially true during the warmer months. I also think there is some truth that those smart browns on pressured water realize most anglers over look this type of water and they stay off the radar. Thats why its so important for anglers to always scan the water during the day from spot to spot. Many days have been saved guiding by slowing down and utilizing the polarized glasses to spot fish.


    • Those bank sippers in warmer weather are perfect targets for terrestrial. This kind of fishing is more like (trophy) hunting.

  3. Add this to this standard to the “where to find trout list”

    ROCKS rock!

    WOOD is good!

    Made in the SHADE

    Home is where the FOAM is!

  4. I find it amazing that folks will try and figure out a trout’s lie, but just step into the top of a steelhead run and cast across, every three feet, for the an hour. Steelhead have favorite lies (they are trout after all), and in numerous 50-100 foot runs there might be only three or four lies. And, I’m talking Oregon and Washington rivers. If you only fish favorite steelhead lies you can move through three or four times as much water as the “cast and move” viewpoint.

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