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Mark Stangeland - NUFlyGuide
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Fish Move!

Posted by Mark Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I met up with my buddy Marty on the river the other day and we had a great time fishing and just hanging out. As is always the case when guides get together, we exchange stories and observations of the rivers we fish and how the steelhead behave in our particular waters. We both shared experiences guiding where clients have hooked fish behind other people.  It got me thinking, why are we as steelhead fisherman so adverse to fishing second pass through a favorite run? I mean we all like first shot at a producing run but that isn't always possible. Just because someone has fished through a run first doesn't necessarily mean they fished it well. And even if they fished it perfectly there is a factor that we often forget. Fish Move!

Fish are constantly on the move. Maybe not running hard up the river covering miles but many times they are moving around in a particular run. Fish are lazy and are always searching for a place that they can hold where they can expend the least amount of energy. When they find that temporary spot they may stay for a short time, like as little as a few minutes, to maybe an hour or so. Some will hold for hours or days, even weeks in some conditions. We are looking for the moving aggressive fish not the dour fish down in the trench. I have watched fish come into a holding lie that is a long term parking spot and sit for awhile and then move out within minutes. Why did that fish move from that perfectly good spot? Everything was perfect but he got antsy or something and moved. Steelhead are on a mission and even though they stop in places to rest, their instincts keep them in a state of almost constant movement. These are the fish that are grabby, the ones that are used to moving more, the ones that have no problem moving to eat your fly. These are the fish that move around in a run and are in a taking position when you fish the run. The guy before you fished it well but the fish was not in position or of an attitude to eat a fly.A fish can become aggressive to a fly in an instant if he is in a position to do so.

A number of things will make a fish move around in a run, rising or dropping levels, clarity, water speed, numbers of fish in a run,structure availability or the need to find a mate to name a few. We as fisherman need to realize that this constant movement can work in our favor. We need to fish every run with confidence knowing full well that any swing of the fly through a run may attract a fish that was not in a taking position just minutes before. I see it constantly with the people I fish with. We fish some of the same runs on the same day at different times and we hook fish  behind each other all the time. These are our peers who know the lies and the water as well as anyone.

Bottom line is, it doesn't always matter who got into the run at first light. It's the person that is in the right place at the right time when that fish settles into a taking lie and eats your fly. You could be second person through or the tenth person through.

Fish move, so fish with confidence every time you step into a run. Don't let the fear of someone else fishing the run in front of you get you off your game.

Thanks Marty for hanging out with me. You always inspire me to think about these fish in new ways.

Genesis 1:20- And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life........
Tight lines


  1. Great read Mark! I definitely agree about fishing through water others have fished and making multiple passes through productive runs. This point was made real to me last year when I was out early in the season on a favorite big water run. It was the end of November, "Black Friday" and I was making multiple, guilt free, passes through this water since no one else was around. On about my 6th pass in the early afternoon, I got two hookups in water that was "barren" earlier in the day.


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For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.(Rom 1:20)