Spotting Big Trout in all the Wrong Places

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Heavily pressured fish are smart and often sneaky.

One of my home waters, where I spend 500 plus hours a year guiding on is notorious for big fish holding in water that most people would consider horrible trout water. I’m talking about water that is less than a foot deep that even veteran anglers would regularly walk by without fishing. The other day guiding I spotted a huge hooked jaw male rainbow pushing 30 inches. It was sitting in plain view on a gravel bar in six inches of water hugged up against the edge of a rhododendron. My partner and I watched the fish feeding regularly for about five minutes, while we planned out our spot and stock. I had seen big fish laying in this shallow gravel bar in the past many times, but nothing this size. Here’s the ironic part, right before we had approached the spot I had just explained how important it was to scan the water, even ridiculous looking shallow water before making a cast in the chances we might spot a big fish.

Heavily pressured fish are smart and often sneaky. I truly believe big trout will often search out under pressured water that anglers tend to overlook to stay off the radar. Doing this keeps them from getting harassed by 90% of fly fishermen. Next time your fishing heavily pressured trout water that holds big fish and the water is clear enough to sight-fish, don’t make the mistake of overlooking subpar trout water on the way to your next honey hole. You may very well end up spotting a trout of a lifetime. Just because you’ve fished a spot several times with no luck, doesn’t mean it will never hold fish. Ask any veteran guide, and I’m sure they’ll tell you stories about telling their clients, “Let’s walk through this water and get to the next spot. It never holds fish”, and about that time, a huge fish spooks out of the water. It’s happened to me on more than one occasion.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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25 thoughts on “Spotting Big Trout in all the Wrong Places

  1. Great article!! Definitely something to think about. We need to remember that the whole river is home to the fish. They can be anywhere.

  2. This is way off topic, but why do guides hold the fish for their client? It’s not every time, but I’ve been noticing it a ton lately in pictures. If I popped a hog with a guide, you better believe my hands would be the ones with stink on them.

    • Kyle,

      A lot of anglers, especially novice, are not good at holding trout but they all still want that perfect photo to show off and remember that the trophy by. I always let my client try to hold the fish for a photo but before hand it over, I usually have the buddy snap one with me and the client together. This assures the fish is photographed well. Many times I’ve done it the other way around and the trout slipped out of the clients hands before the picture was taken or the fish was held poorly and the photo was no good.


      • Good point. I most always let a customer hold the fish for a photo as it is their fish to hold, not mine. However, I school them well on how to properly hold the fish as to do it minimal damage. Some would say that is impossible to hold a fish without some damage. Some guides hold the fish I believe in concerns for it’s welfare and that it lives to fight another day. I don’t think it is for any other reason. They know it is not their catch or fish. And there lies the dilemma, which way is safer passage for the fish. Current scientific view is to never take the fish out of the water to decrease any harm. Face it, we all have egos and want a picture of a good to great fish while holding it. I always admire the very few fishers who won’t take the fish out of the water, picture or no picture. A great photo is of the fish with the fly in his mouth, on the surface still swimming.

    • Thanks guys. Good info. I have no problem with this being done, I was just curious why. I figured it had to do with the health of the fish. I don’t guide and have only hired a couple, but see this all the time.

  3. Actually, looking at that photo again and paying attention to the kype, that big boy was almost certainly in spawning mode. Poor form, Kent, poor form. Not only are you teaching your clients habits that harm the resource, you are broadcasting it to beginners on the internet that come here for fly fishing tips.

    • So you’re saying you don’t fish for trout during the spawning season? Just because you see a trout with a Kype doesn’t mean they’re spawning. The bottom of that trout’s tail might be a little tore up which might be an indication that it has been preparing a redd, but this is only a guess that might give your argument some validity. Another thing, if anyone is going to be a proponent of not trying to catch trout on a redd, it’s kent and Louis. You’re statement is based on nothing but your own assumptions.

      • No, I am saying that I don’t target trout that are clearly in spawning areas. When I fish for trout in the spring I tend to fish dries in back eddies, boulder gardens and other areas where I am not likely to pick up a spawning fish. (and even more importantly, places where I am not going to walk all over the redds)

        My statement is based on the information provided by Kent: The fish was in shallow water, “on a gravel bar,” and the photo shows a rainbow in spawning colors with a huge kype. If the fish wasn’t spawning at the time, it has recently. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out this mystery.

        • I would say Sherlock would be able to figure out that just because the fish is on a gravel bar in the shallows dosen’t always mean the fish is spawning. It may just be that the fish is finding unpressured water which is what I think the point is of this artical. I’ve seen male fish with good color and a kype that wasn’t spawning and fish that wasn’t all that colored, no kype, that was spawning. Just sayin……

          • Exactly JSA. I don’t understand how we got so focused on the photo and not the post itself, but whatever. We know nothing about the photo above and those that are making accusations are basing their opinions (and they are just that) on their “expertise” and assumptions. I’ve caught tons of colored up, male rainbows throughout the year. And if you knew anything about where this trout came from, you would know that this big, colorful, male, Kype-jaw rainbow is the norm for this piece of water…year round. Kent, of all people, knows the difference between a redd and a gravel bar, and wouldn’t try picking off a trout that was sitting on a redd. I believe there is a past post about this subject and I hope that Kent and Louis might repost it now that this has become an issue. The evidence for your argument, JFWellsPDX, really doesn’t support your claims. That’s like me saying that all largemouth bass caught in shallow water, near the bank must be on a bed. Hell we don’t even know when this photo was taken! I say we just need to put up and shut up, then move on. The original intent of this post is a great message about not overlooking less desireable lies when fishing for trout. That is all my dear Watson!!!

        • Hey guys. Kent is tied up with some family stuff so I’m chiming in for him. Kent would never pull a fish off the redd. This stream is a place he loves and stewards with a vengeance. Spawning schedules are pretty crazy in GA. Not at all what’s typical and that’s not an especially colored up fish, for that stream. I understand your concern, but I assure you that’s not how it went down. I know a whole lot of anglers, and none more ethical than Kent Klewein. The man cares for for our fisheries than you can know. He is knowledgable, professional, and ethical. I am proud to be his friend.

          • I’ll second Louis’ defense here. Also worth noting that in our neck of the woods, successful reproduction of rainbows is a rarity at best and is something reserved for mainly 8-12″ fish I’m tiny blue lines.

          • Wow, I am gonna have to second Justins comments. The stream this fish is from is a jewel and has colored up fish like this year round. You know what they say about assumptions….they can make an ASS out of someone.

    • JFWellsPDX,

      You are totally wrong about my client catching that trout off a redd. It was just a mature old male rainbow. When male trout get old enough they can have kype’s like that year round.

      It’s pretty apparent to me that you have not been following my posts for very long because you would know without a doubt that catching trout off of redds isn’t taught or practiced personally by me.

      I really feel you’re just trying to start negative chatter of which is a very rare thing to find on Gink & Gasoline. I’d appreciate you reading the comments from the other readers, many of them being anglers that know me personally.


  4. I wouldn’t like people throwing fake food at me when I’m spawning, but once I pick up a fake hamburger and get my picture taken and they leave, I likely wouldn’t have any problem going back and finishing the job. I assume there’s some measurable decrease on spawning rates when anglers are catch and release fishing for spawning fish through overall health and effects and mortality of the released fish, but is it really any worse than just wading through redds (assuming this healthy male fish is released to go fertilize some eggs or may have already done so)?

    • What if you had to run 10 miles and then hold your breath for 3 mins? Still in the mood? That’s a better comparison and the fight and photo take a lot out of the fish. Walking through redds is poor form as well and should be avoided.

  5. Let’s not digress and turn this into a finger pointing contest. The overall message here is a good one regardless of what “others” want to speculate. Many times the largest fish I tangle with every season are in inches of water and in areas all of us would easily walk by. I agree with your assessment Kent, big fish want to be in hassle free water, and that in part is the biggest reason they got so big in the first place. Keep up the great posts.

  6. I have picked up large fish in some pretty featureless, non-attractive spots. In areas where there is heavy pressure I have seen fish hit the edges in the shallows also. I have also seen them hang around spots that are sandy in nature. Not sure why but I have caught several nice fish in sandier spot. Great write up and good point to bring up! God bless

  7. Beauty fish! Good write-up. I’ve caught some big fish on my first cast of the day casting to the close bank from 30-40ft away while I watch my friends sloshing into the water down stream from me. BTW…that’s not a 30″ fish…..maybe 25″, but mean lookin’

  8. I was really enjoying this article until I got to the comment section. This is why I don’t read blogs or get on the internet much anymore. They were probably hoping if you were reading the article and knew where to find it, then you would know that no fishing guide or writer of fly fishing stuff would write that article and just hope no one noticed it was a spawning fish. Stop fucking up my mojo negative internet commenters!

  9. Just to mix the stew even more b/c a world w/o contest is a boring place to live where all are eating soma, viagra, et al…any fish over 16″ shouldn’t be single-handed: look at the morphology for fucksake; respect for the fish and not for the blog. Sponsorship and pats on the back is what it’s all about, right? We can always supplement healthy, wild populations with pellet fed toads we can single-hand! Slap those bastards against the bank as Gollum does and cheers a tasty scotch, bourbon, fine cigar, or even a Hamms. Long live the glory of exploiting a natural resource! frack your fucking river b/c the clientele (not this gent in particular) cares more about money than fish. Stop lying to yourselves and combat the worse case scenario.

  10. What’s the point of this blog? Simple, congratulatory posts about how good, right on, and ethical we are on catching and releasing fish? It seems to be an open forum for opinions and dialogues about the state of fly fishing. If this is the case, then I congratulate G&G for succeeding. Either way, dialogue is the stepping stone for solutions in effectively managing & utilizing our natural resource: watersheds and fishing. Thanks fellas for uncensored dialogue about our fly fishing passion.

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