Fishing new streams and rivers will always have a learning curve, no matter how much experience you have. Insect activity and prey will vary from stream to stream, and in some cases, pool to pool.

First things first, before nearing the water’s edge keep your distance for a few minutes of observing. Take notice of where you believe fish to be and pay close attention to areas where you ‘doubt’ fish to be — often times you’ll be pleasantly surprised where fish will sit. 

Watch the surface for any insect activity, disturbances, or shadowy silhouettes of patrolling fish. If you’re uncertain of what fish are eating and there are no obvious insects along the banks, start with your ‘confidence flies’. These are flies that you know and trust to do the job right. Of course, don’t go rogue and try casting a grasshopper pattern in the dead of winter — keep it simple. For me, I tie on a size #14 Tungsten Missile 12-inches below a size #16 Juju Baetis. These are flies that have constantly performed for me and do so no matter where I go.

More important than fly selection is the presentation (casting) of the fly and the key to a good presentation is location, location, location. Search the shores or shallow water, where you can stand to take advantage of water flows, shadows, and distance without spooking the fish. I strongly believe that there is always an ideal position to cast from that will leverage common complaints to your advantage or eliminate the majority of casting issues even in thick brush, high winds, and fast currents.

Because you are in new territory be cautious of your surroundings for man-made and natural dangers. Just to be safe, let others know where you are or, better yet, bring a fishing buddy.

Before stepping into the water or getting near the edge, make casts along the edges and structure for the occasional fish feeding on the outskirts. Oftentimes, you can find and hook into these fish without spooking the rest of the pool.

Once you are ready to cast into the main pool or riffles, you’ll want to mentally section off the water into grids or areas. Why? The best way to fish unfamiliar water is to use this prospecting technique of a grid system to target each and every section of water. No rock left unturned, right? 

  • Keep your distance and mentally scout the water for places you would like to fish.
  • Observe the water for visible insect and fish activity.
  • Use confidence flies when there are no obvious hatches.
  • Find the ideal spot to cast from.
  • Let others know where you will be traveling to fish.
  • Cast along the shoreline and places you wouldn’t expect to find fish.
  • Mentally grid the water up into multiple fishable areas to avoid missing opportunities.

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