Don’t Underestimate the Undercut

Exposed undercut along Yellowstone River
Exposed undercut along Yellowstone River

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, MT

One of the primary skills any angler acquires with experience is “reading water”. The ability to observe a piece of water, especially moving water, and determine the most likely places to encounter fish when a fly or lure is presented properly is an essential skill for the successful angler. Without exception, authors writing about general fishing skills always cover aspects of “reading water.” Some water is easy to read, some isn’t. The fish themselves complicate reading because they move around from place to place in most rivers as they feed and rest. You know where they should be, but they aren’t always there. Of course every river is different but the formula is pretty consistent—Fish = Dark and/or deep (protection from predators) + relief from current (resting) or a current seam (access to food). In Joseph Bates 1974 classic How to Find Fish and Make Them Strike, this formula is consistent throughout his descriptions of the best places to find trout in rivers. In my experience, one of the most favorable parts of a river to find trout is the Undercut Bank.

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