If you want to catch trout, you need to know the truth about trout lies. I’m referring to the places where trout lie — as in “hang out and spend their time.”
Gary Borger is the expert on this. In his book, Reading Waters, he defines a lie as the “place that the fish holds in the current.” Then, he identifies three basic categories of trout lies. Fly fishers who understand these will know where to look to find trout:
The Sheltering Lie
Trout need protection from predators.
According to Borger, these “sheltering lies” exist under something. This might be a place under the bank, under a rock, under a log, under deep water, or under vegetation. Typically, fish do not eat when they are in these places. Borger says they zip their mouths shut and hunker down until they feel it is safe to go out again.
The Feeding Lie
Trout, of course, need to eat.
They need protection from the currents in the river, yet they need those currents to bring food. So they will often lie in slower current, right at the edge of faster moving current. We refer to this spot as a “seam.” Borger notes that the slow current behind a rock or another obstruction is a great place for trout to feed.
One of the easiest ways to spot a feeding lie is to look for the line of bubbles which meander down the current.
This is the food line! It’s where insects drift through the current.
The Prime Lie
Fly fishers hit the jackpot whenever they fine a prime lie.
According to Borger, this is both a sheltering lie and a feeding lie rolled into one.
A classic example is an undercut bank. The bank itself provides protection from birds of prey. Yet, the current brings the food close to the bank. That’s why trout will dart out from under a bank to take your hopper pattern or even a tiny dry fly. Sometimes, you’ll find a prime lie in a deeper pool or in water under a foam patch. The key is to look for places which provide both cover and food.
Good fly fishers shouldn’t tell lies. But they should be able to spot them.