Anatomy of a River (nuts-bolts-primary salmon-steelhead waters)

September Trinity River
Riffle Hook-up!

What kind of waters should I target when steelhead fishing is a question we constantly hear from beginning steelheaders as well as visiting anglers new to the area.There is no easy answer or formula for best describing or selecting prime holding waters. Salmon and steelhead worlds are constantly changing; influenced by current weather/water conditions, sexual maturity as well as the timing of the runs themselves. Desired approach or method of fishing (skating-swinging-dead drift indicator nymphing, conventional fishing) also greatly determines what waters are best suited to compliment methods applied. Understanding a basic/elementary classification of water compositions and associating fishing methods is one way that may help lead you to success and keep the odds in your favor.

Trinity riffles
John Hazel dissecting pocket waters.

Riffles (chutes)—broken surface waters that vary in water velocities and depths. Generally flows into a pool or glide. (Great for protection, holding, spawning, oxygen, food sources).Compliments all fishing methods at one time or another. Most obvious waters recognized by all anglers. Good most anytime, especially early in the season when water temps are high and fish seeking oxygen/protection.

Pools–Deep slower flowing waters that vary in both depths and velocities. Most often fed by riffles. (Ideal for staging/maturing, resting, and fish seeking sanctuary and protection) Best compliments-Deep water sinking line dead drifting/swinging, indicator nymphing and most all conventional fishing (baits-hardware) most anytime. Especially winter and during prolonged low water periods.

Mark Noble skating for steel.

Glides—Non-descript, smooth surface waters that also vary in velocities and depths and unlike deep pools, are much more drawn out in length. The most difficult waters to understand and fish as they are often overlooked for more obvious water compositions. Generally sandwiched in between riffles and/or tailouts of major pools. (Good for resting/holding, protection, food sources) Compliments swinging, dead drifting, skating, indicator nymphing and most all conventional fishing. Excellent water choices during low water periods, cold water periods and especially during heavy pressure times. When all else fails—fish’em.

Pocket Waters–Fast flowing, short/brief deeper waters that vary in velocities and depths. Generally below tailouts/pools and ahead of riffles.(Ideal for temporary resting/holding, protection, oxygen) Compliments, skating, indicator nymphing and some conventional fishing) Good water choices during low, warm water periods, high angling pressure, and major migrations or rotations.

Tailouts—slow moving to moderate velocity waters that greatly vary in depths. Generally located below major holding pools and glides and/or the bottom end of tapering riffles. (Good for resting/holding, protection, food sources, spawning). Compliments Skating, swinging and some conventional fishing. Often overlooked and personal favorite waters to target during early season migrations/rotations, during high angling pressure, and high cold water periods.

Trinity River guided trips
No matter what H2O water compisition
or what method fished-all steelies
are special!

Now factor in “Ma Nature”, atmosphere pressure changes, various water columns, weather, water heights/temperatures, seasons, full moon, planet alignments, and Big Foot, you have a mixed formula that challenges even the most devoted. Speaking of impacting factors current record breaking temperatures have settled in, creating some very demanding angling. Lead fall fish are scattered well throughout the mid-lower system. Fish early-late and target west bank shadows. Fall colors, Chrome eruptions, Screaming reels—Born to Skate!