|  First Published: February 2005

Streamcraft is a technique of locating trout within a stream when the trout are not showing themselves by way of normal surface feeding activity. It will also suggest the prime lie of a trout within a stream, which is the angler’s main target. Even though streamcraft is a term used by many trout fly-fishermen. The application of the technique can be used to different methods of fishing for trout, and also to the many different forms of fishing in general.

Trout Requirements

To use streamcraft we firstly have to look at the trout’s requirements to survive within a stream.

The first and most important requirement is;


Trout require cover for protection against predators which can take many forms like fallen submerged trees, undercut banks, weed beds and rock structures. It can also take the form of shade created from many structures and even the ripple water surface can create cover for a trout. Lets now look at the many different forms of cover that can be found within a stream.

Shallow Ripple Runs

Sections of a stream that have rippled water surface are excellent locations for trout because they provide surface cover hiding the trout from the angler and the angler from the trout. Additionally the shallower the run the better, as trout can easily intercept food flowing under and above the surface. It can be a great advantage when these runs flow fast as the trout haven’t the time to closely inspect the fly and in most cases more trout will be caught in such water.

This type of water can be fished with success all day long. Earthworms and scrubbies would be the best baits to drift through this type of water, with flies more dependent on the time of day and to what insects are about, but when nothing can be seen weighted nymph patterns are good choice like gold bead head nymphs, pheasant tail nymphs and seals fur nymphs as an example.

Deep Ripple Runs

Deep ripple runs also hold trout but to a lesser degree and the angler will have to work his fly a lot harder. However this extra effort will be a trade off into sometimes producing trout of above average sizes. This type of cover can also be fished at all hours of the day with drifting baits like worms and scrubbies and weighted nymphs a better choice.

In addition, wet flies that imitate smelt patterns are good selection, especially when worked through the water at a medium to fast retrieve.

Some recommended patterns would be size 10 Tom Jones, olive and grey Clouser minnows, and bag flies.

Shallow Smooth Clear Runs

Shallow smooth runs will hold less and limited numbers of trout especially throughout the middle parts of the day. The absence of rippled cover leaves the trout opened to predators forcing the trout to wait until the late afternoon and evening before feeding. The only time to fish these conditions is at first and last light. Flies to use will be dictated by the hatches that occur, but a good searching fly would be a Royal Wulff.

Deep Smooth Clear Runs

Runs that are deep with a smooth, clear surface are a better proposition to the angler, as the trout can use the depth as cover, then dart upwards to intercept any passing food items. This can sometimes be hard or easy fishing all depending on the extent of the feeding activity. Success can come all day long, but the evening rises will be the best time with flies needed dictated by the hatches that occur at the time.

Runs Leading and Existing Pools

Leading and existing runs from pools are possible the best places to work either wet or dry fly patterns as there normally rippled and shallow. Additionally, these narrow runs become main flows, channelling the food to the trout that lie in wait on the edge of the pool where the fast flowing water is entering. Earthworms, scrubbies and mudeyes would be the first choice for bait fishermen with weighted nymph patterns drifted through the fast flowing runs the best selections for fly-fishermen.

Side Runs with Shade

Shade created by trees and other streamside objects along the edges provided excellent cover for trout and these are desired locations for the angler to target. Especially if the main flow of the stream is channelling along the edges. Shallow depth will produce more success, with the midday period the best time to fish. Recommended fly patterns would be nymph patterns and beetle dry flies like size 16/14 red tags, tee tree beetles and foam beetles.

Deep Backwaters

Deep backwaters can produce the bigger sized fish within a stream and are best fished in the early mornings and late evenings when peak feeding is occurring. The middle of the day can also produce good catches only when the angler is elevated above the backwater to enable the sighting of the trout.

Examples of these backwaters are best found on many tailrace rivers. If the angler cannot see into the water then fishing success is reduced. However if the angler wants to persevere with this time period and fishing conditions, then other techniques need to be used to suit these deep-water conditions.

Bait fishermen will find that using earthworms, scrubbies, maggots and mudeyes work well in backwaters. Best fly patterns are weighted nymphs especially when sunk to the bottom and twitched the moment the trout is in sight of the fly.

Shallow Backwaters

Shallow backwaters are only practical where there is good cover from trees in the form of shade or from other objects. If there is good cover for the trout then the anglers approach is the most critical aspect to the point of crawling on your hands and knees.

Like deep backwaters, natural baits and artificial nymphs are the best trout attractors.

Fallen Trees in Shallow Water

Any fallen trees or wooden structures or even large boulders within a stream provide trout with excellent cover. Targeting these areas with wet or dry flies and natural baits drifted in close are bound to produce good trout. When these structures are found in fast, shallow water, trout will on most occasions intercept the fly quickly with little time to inspect it, which will definitely benefit the angler!

Fallen Trees in Deep Water

When fallen trees, wooden structures and large bottom objects are found in deep water good trout will lie in wait and in most cases the water will flow a lot slower. In most situations trout shall have more time to inspect a fly or bait requiring a careful approach and presentations from the angler.

Weed Bed Pockets

Weed beds with clear pockets of river bottom also provide good cover for trout and can produce nice trout when fished with techniques to suit the conditions. Again, where there is cover for the trout is better and if the cover is in association with shallow water, then you’ll be on a definite hot spot. Natural baits can be drifted or left stationery with flies drifted or worked past this type of cover.


As we know that trout need food to survive - gained through underwater aquatic, surface aquatic and terrestrial insects, trout in a stream will continually keep a look out for passing food items both in and out of the water.

Main water flow

This is where the main water flow travels within a stream and will have the greatest concentration of food both under and above the surface.

Water depth

This has a great bearing on streamcraft. The water temperature of the stream and will dictate the areas where trout will be found throughout the fishing season.


Selecting a prime lie is where we take the locating of a trout to a finer degree. By going back to the requirements that trout need to survive, we simply place all requirements together to pin point the best possible location of a trout in a stream.

To do this we select the best cover from the above examples within the section of the stream we are observing, and then look for the main flow in the stream that is channelling the greatest amount of water through that cover.

This cover will protect the trout and the intercepting main flow will direct food to the trout.

Food will come to the trout at varying depths, from well below the surface to sub-surface and this is where the last requirement of water depth comes into play. By working or drifting your fly pattern at the depth of the cover selected within the main channelling flow will placed us in a location that we can now call a prime lie.


With trout feeding more times under the surface then above the surface there will be plenty of days where trout won’t show themselves. Streamcraft is a fishing tactic that needs to be learnt and practice to give the angler the best fishing opportunities at these times. Streamcraft goes hand in hand with observation and into the bargain goes the better understanding of trout life and behaviour, but best of all your trout captures will increase substantially.

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