1.) Trib Mouth
Work a spinner, drift a nymph, or deep-drift a worm and split shot at the juncture of a trib and the main river. Probe the current seam between the tributary and the main flow. Add weight until you feel the split shot or lure tick the rocks. Bottom-fish the slack water created at the lower end of the current seam or the resulting deep pool. You may need to change positions to do both.
2.) First Riffle
Locate the first riffle upstream of the tributary mouth. This is a particularly good spot to focus on when the big river is running high and muddy, because it can likely hold any trout that might have worked their way upcurrent. Drift a worm, half of a nightcrawler, or a salmon egg through the patch of water running close to the bank or where the bottom disappears.
3.) First Pool
Fish thoroughly the first pool upstream. Trout always face the direction of the flow, so try to approach the pool from below. With bait, spinner, or nymph, fish the tail of the pool first, where fish will be most actively feeding. Work your way to the head, where fish will be closer to cover and less skittish. Stay low and cover every section of the pool with short and long casts.
4.) Cut Bank
Look for undercut banks, particularly in brown-trout streams. Ease to the head of the bank and let your wobbler, streamer, or spinner-and-worm drift downstream beneath the bank. Work the water slowly, holding the presentation in place for as long as 10 minutes. Drop it back in 1-foot increments. Approach the undercut softly so your footsteps won’t spook fish.
Seek out slow-moving, deeper stretches of stream with overhanging trees or brush. From downstream (previous page), use a bow-and-arrow cast to zip your lure, fly, or bait upstream. Grip the outside of the hook bend, arc the rod, aim, and release. From the upstream end (above), remove weight if necessary and pay out line so your lure or bait drifts far beneath the obstruction.
Drift bait or nymphs in circular or back currents, which will be slower than the main flow. Be sure to work the seams between the circular currents and the main current downstream. The center of the pool makes a good spot for bottom fishing. Cut a forked stick, add a split shot to your line, cast out a worm, and eat lunch while you wait for the rod to bounce.
7.) Largest pool
Focus on the biggest pool in any given stretch, as it will almost certainly hold the most and biggest fish, many of which probably wintered over and are still there. Fan-cast with spinners. Drift worms or nymphs through the head, middle, and tail sections. Fish the water closest to you first, then methodically cover the rest of the water, increasing the length of your casts as you do so.
8.) Fish Blockage
Work your way up to the first impassable pool, such as the one below a high falls. Deep-drift bait or nymphs, especially if there are spring-spawning rainbows, which will often stack up, nosing into the current. Approaching from downstream, try to make deep drifts through the deeper stretch with more current, as this is where fish may be staging. Keep a low profile.
From the April 2012 issue of Field & Stream magazine.