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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Day Trips

day trip 1- day trips start before first light
Day Trips Start Before First Light

Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

Since I actually don’t live on a river anymore (I did live on a lake on the Coosa River in Alabama for 12 years), I can’t pop down to the stream for an hour or so in the morning or evening. I’ve got to make a day trip to go fishing. When relatives or visitors come for a week or two, we’ll make an overnight somewhere to save the hassle of a day trip and get more hours on our favorite waters. But by and large, most of my fishing from March through November is just a long string of day trips to my favorite rivers. Day trips don’t require a lot of planning or preparation. Indeed, different rivers or lakes, different seasons and weather may require some adjustments in fly boxes, fly rods, and clothing, but over the course of the season, these adjustments are made much like the audible in football. Wake up, survey the situation, make a decision on the destination, and grab the right gear and go.

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