Everyone needs to take a breather from time to time, and fish are no different. Just as you might rest a moment during a long hike, fish take shelter from the quicker currents alongside midstream rocks. That’s why when you’re fly fishing, you need skill and technique to effectively present flies to fish that may be hiding behind midstream rocks.
Identify Pockets Before You Cast Your Line
To help you choose the best place to drop your fly, you’ll need to understand a stream’s anatomy. Three pockets exist around a midstream rock. They are generally termed:
- Behind: This pocket, sometimes referred to as the “rear,” is found behind a rock and causes the current to flow toward it. Trout and other species of fish like to hang out in this spot.
- Side seams: The current flows most quickly around the sides of a rock, which makes side seam areas the most challenging for fly presentation.
- Front: In front of rocks, the current slows down a bit. Fish spend time here because they don’t have to fight extreme currents.
Once you find the rear pocket of a midstream rock, you can target that pocket effectively with a fly rod. Always look to track trout patterns and find the best rock candidates midstream.
What’s the Ideal Distance From the Rock?
Although you don’t want to spook the fish, getting close to the target rock can help you land your fly more precisely. Stand downstream from the rock at a slight angle and make sure you don’t cast a shadow over the water.
Pay attention to the eddy behind the rock, which forms a “V” shape before the two side streams converge. You’ll find presenting flies easier when you have a larger eddy, since you can maneuver your fly with more flexibility. Remember that larger rocks create wider and longer eddies.
Keep Your Line Out of the Water: “High-Stick” Your Rod
Since fly fishing around midstream rocks requires you to get closer to the fish, you need a shorter rod, such as a 9- or 10-foot model, that will allow you to pick up the slack as you present the fly. Otherwise, you risk stripping your line when you feel a strike, which will likely result in a lost fish.
When you cast, aim for the edge or shoulder of the rock, then let the fly drift into the eddy. “High-stick” your rod in order to keep the tension in the line. Let the line drift to the point of the “V” before you pick up the fly and try again.
How to Use Dead-Drift Techniques in Shallow Water
If you have a strike indicator on your line, consider dead-drifting to present flies behind midstream rocks. To do this, cast upstream of the rock, and let your nymph sink below the surface before it reaches the area behind the rock. When the nymph reaches the target area, give your rod a slight jerk to mimic an emerger—a bug or other food source emerging from the water.
Some trout will follow the dead-drifting nymph until you apply the jerk. At that point, the trout will strike and you can set the hook. Strip your line as the nymph nears the end of the drift so that you have enough tension to reliably set the hook.
Get Fish Out of All Their Hiding Places: Rocks, Logs, and Trees
Rocks aren’t the only midstream obstructions that present fishing opportunities. Fish often congregate in front of obstructions instead of behind them. Food is more likely to flow to them from this direction.
Since fish don’t favor one midstream obstruction over another, you can experiment with different areas of the stream to learn where trout and other species like to congregate.
Why You Should Vary Your Approach to Midstream Rocks
If you haven’t tried fishing midstream rocks, you’re missing out on hungry fish. Practice these techniques to entice fish when they’re resting and to improve your dead-drifting technique. Using fallen trees closer to the shore can help you practice when the stream swells too much for wading.
To find the best fly fishing rods and wading gear, browse the selection at Stillwater Fly Shop.
Have you found success when fly-fishing behind midstream rocks? What techniques have produced the best results for you?