• Get a quality pair of polarized sunglasses. The right sunglasses are essential when trying to spot a fish. Sun on the water can cause a lot of glare, making it quite hard to spot fish. Polarized glasses removes that glare, making it easier to see beneath the surface.
  • Fish midday. While it is true that fishing early and late (when fish are more actively feeding) increases your odds of catching them, when you are learning to spot fish - and thus better understanding their movements, preferred lies and feeding habits - the middle part of the day (when the sun is high overhead) gives you a better advantage. A high midday sun means places little glare on the water, allowing you to more easily see into the river.
  • Approach the stream carefully. How you approach a stream is a critical step to your success. Always walk gently, careful to never stomp your feet. Keep low, even squatting or crawling if the fish are spooked. Stay in the shade if at all possible. If you wade, you should go very slowly, keeping your ripples small and close to your feet.
  • Look for a fish's shadow on the streambed. Even the most experienced angler has difficulty spotting the fish holding in its lie. Millions of years of evolution have given trout an amazing ability to blend in with their watery surroundings, but there is a trick you can use: look for the fish's shadow.


Now that you've burned some midday hours trying to spot fish (learning where they live in the river and why), it's time to learn to find and catch the fish you can't see. And (quite honestly) that is most of them, most of the time.

While you may not always be able to see fish, you can learn to read any river (as they all share common traits). Learning to read a river means being able to recognize the type of stream habitat the fish are most likely to favor at different times during the day (both at rest and while actively feeding).

All streams or rivers have the same basic sections and share common traits. Fast water can be broken down into three categories: rapids, riffles, and pocket water. Slow water can also be broken down into three categories: pools, slicks, and eddies. Fish prefer to live in a slower current most of the time as this helps them conserve valuable energy. Trout, for example, generally lay up in front of or behind rocks or in the gentle seam of where two currents meet.


  • Boulders: Fish love to hang around boulders for the protection and feeding opportunities they provide. Boulders protruding from the water's surface usually create a pocket of slower water. The front pocket is formed by the damming effect on the current, causing the water to stack up and create a bulge of slower water. You can learn to recognize this bulge and sometimes see a wave breaking just in front of it.
  • Stream Banks: Look for fish along the shore or banks of the river where the water is deep enough to hold fish or allow them to move into the shallows to feed. Particularly in the early morning, trout will move into surprisingly shallow water to feed on nymphs or emerging insects. Look for active fish down stream from any irregular shoreline feature, bump or other protrusion you can see (such as a series of rocks jutting into water). Fish will hold in the slack current behind obstructions like these, so you can be confident they are there (whether or not you see them feeding).
  • Fallen, Submerged Trees: Finding fish means first finding their habitat, and trees that have fallen or been swept into the river can provide plenty of that. Whole or partially submerged trees create a slack current attractive to fish (look for a slick water area or area of calmer water).


Example of a Head, Gut and Riffle



  • Head of the Pool: At the end of the rapid or riffle there is a transition area called the "head" of the pool. Water rushes down the rapid area and hits a deepening stream bottom (that might also widen) and slows the current. Water becomes smoother and quieter in its movement as it enters the pool. Fish feeding on bottom-dwelling nymphs can be found in this area. Just downstream from the head of the pool is an area (shallow on one bank) known as a "shelf." The shelf may consist of a gravel, sand, or mud bar. There should be a very distinct line between the fast flowing channel current and the shelf's slower current. Look for fish feeding in the slower moving water of the shelf, as well as the outer seam where the two currents meet.


  • Tailout: A tailout is located where the pool empties into the next rapid or riffle, often referred to as simply the "tail" of the pool. Notoriously shallow and susceptible to the eyes of predators, the tail of the pool does not fish well during daylight hours. 




Fishing streamers can get you started catching fish. Requiring less finesse and delicacy in presentation than dry fly or even nymph fishing, streamer fishing requires its own skill set, but it can reward you with true lunkers. After all, streamers are used to cleverly imitate the minnows, juvenile game fish and other baitfish larger fish key on. Streamer fishing is also a good alternative for when weather or poor water conditions prohibit you from fishing other flies; big fish are almost always feeding and streamers might be just the invitation they were looking for. Follow these simple tips to improve your streamer fishing skills:

  • Streamers are big flies that sink fast and swim naturally. They give trout fishers an added advantage because trout rarely see objects of this size and appearance. Unlike dry flies presented on a nice, slow run (that gives a trout ample time to decide if it is interested), streamers are "stripped" past their face in a hurry. This method kicks in a trout's predatory instincts, often inciting powerful strikes before the fish has any time for second thoughts.
  • When using streamers, you want a big rod - 5-7 weight - and big flies. Toss out your streamer above the general area where fish hold against the bank (see illustration above).
  • Let the fly sink a moment, then strip in the line, varying the rate of speed and number of stops, suggestive of an injured baitfish. The keys are locating the target depth and finding the optimum retrieval speed. It has to appear natural for trout to strike.


  • When fishing cut banks (see above illustration).
  • In spring runoff.
  • In muddy water after a rain.
  • If there are few rises and no sign of a hatch.
  • When fishing deep pools, plunges, or shelves.
  • When traversing lots of water quickly.
  • When ambient temperatures are frigid.
  • Fishing in lakes for trout or bass.
  • When big fish are the goal.
  • When fish hold under limbs and other obstructions.
  • When fishing riffles and runs and gravel bars in bigger rivers.
  • When there are long stretches of pocket water with a multitude of obstructions.
  • On overcast and rainy days.
  • Early in the morning and in the evenings.

Fishing Report

Fishing Report -- About weather & flow conditions

Fishing report are about the adult salmon count, weather and flow conditions for the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and Washington to help you plan a successful fly fishing experience. The current weather conditions com from the Weather Service giving you current weather conditions and one week forecast. The current flow condition for the Deschutes, John Day and Hood River are provided. The Columbia River Fish Passage provides current fish counts. 

Adult Salmon Count

The adult Salmon and Steelhead count can be found Here!  The fish passage data is updated regularly, sometimes every hour. The site gives you a lot of information about adult pit tag detection, links to Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife agencies of interest to fisherman. 

Current flow conditions Fishing Report: 

The current flow conditions is provided by USGS. The Deschutes River reports are taken near the Culver Madras and at Moody near Culver Oregon. The John Day River reports are taken near John Deer, Camp Creek, near Galena, Ritter, Mounument, service Creek and JcDonald Ferry. All sites are located in Oregon. 

The Hood River reports are taken at the Tucker Bridge near Hood River and Columbia River at Hood River Oregon. 

The Klickitat River reports are taken above West Fork near Glenwood and near Pitt. All sites are located in Washington 


 Columbia River Fish Passage Fishing Report

Adult Returns for Columbia and Snake River Damns. Adult Returns fishing reports for Columbia and Snake River Sams -- Graph Adult Salmon Database.