The Three Types of Trout Lies – Foundry Outdoors
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The Three Types of Trout Lies

     When I was a little kid, it seemed like my father had some sort of magical ability to catch fish. Thus, I distinctly recall asking him one day how to catch fish like he did but, instead of providing me with a simple answer and/or a simple set of instructions, he instead gave me one of the most valuable pieces of advice I have ever received by telling me “If you want to catch fish, then you need to learn how to think like a fish.” However, it was not until many years later when I became enamored with the ancient art of fly fishing that I began to realize just how profound that simple statement was. But, since then, it has literally become the foundation of my approach to any type of fishing and especially the art of fly fishing for trout.

     So, in order to learn how to think like a trout, you must first understand the environment that they live in and how it affects their feeding behavior. For instance, because trout live in a constantly moving environment, they look for places in the stream that provide them with shelter from the current which enable them to conserve their energy and, these places area called “trout lies”. Therefore, in order to become a successful trout fisherman, it is imperative that anglers understand that there are three different types of trout lies and that each type serves a different purpose for trout.

     For instance, trout need havens where they can find shelter whenever they feel threatened by either avian or aquatic predators and, trout fishermen call these havens "Sheltering Lies". Of course, the reason for this it that a trout’s instinct tells them that if they see any movement at all either above or below the surface of the water that might represent a danger to them, then need to run for the nearest sheltering lie as fast as possible and then stay there until they are certain the danger has passed.

     Thus, you can rest assured that all of the trout in any given stream have thoroughly explored the section of stream that they inhabit and thus, they know exactly where all of the nooks, crannies, ledges, and undercuts are. Therefore, a Sheltering Lie is defined as a place that provides a trout with shelter from predators but does not offer access to food. Consequently, good examples of Sheltering Lies are under or between large rocks, deep inside dark caves created by overhanging ledges and, beneath undercut stream banks.


     On the opposite end of the scale, there are places in the stream where trout will gather en masse only when one the many different aquatic insects species is hatching even though doing so may expose them to avian and/or aquatic predators and thus, fly fishermen call these places "Feeding Lies". However, feeding lies provide trout with the distinct advantage of allowing them to expend very little energy in order to maintain their position in the current while also providing them with access to an overabundance of food.

     Consequently, trout are generally found schooling in feeding lies in such places as calm pools and glides where the water is crystal clear and the trout can suspend themselves above the stream bed while expending very little energy to maintain their position in the current while they lazily sip hatching aquatic insects as they rise to the surface or suspend in the surface film. Therefore, a Feeding Lie is defined as a place where trout congregate only because it provides them easy access to an overabundance of drifting aquatic insects but, does not provide them with shelter from predators.

     Last, there is a third type of trout lie that provides a trout with the ultimate place in a stream to “hold” because it offers the trout both shelter from avian and aquatic predators and easy access to food and these types of lies are called "Prime Lies". Consequently, regardless of what stream, creek, or river you fish, you will always find the largest fish inhabiting the Prime Lies simply because the Prime Lies are the best real estate available in that section of stream. Therefore, the largest, most aggressive, trout will always displace smaller trout in the Prime Lie for that reason.

     Thus, the way to identify a prime lie is to first look for places in the stream that offer a trout shelter from both the current and predators such an eddy behind a large rock, an eddy behind a log protruding into the stream or laying on the streambed or, a ledge with a deep cave that faces upstream so that the trout can see any food items drifting toward it without exposing itself to danger. Also, the eddies on the edges of riffles and runs are also prime lies for trout because the turbulent surface of the water makes it nearly impossible for predators to see the trout even in shallow water but, at the same time, provides them with easy access to food. Furthermore, the small pockets of calm water found in what trout fishermen often refer to as "pocket water" are also excellent prime lies because the turbulent water around them often sweeps a significant amount of food into the pockets. Last, water deeper than three feet (even if it is crystal clear) usually causes a trout feel reasonably safe and thus, they will often cruise in deep water while rooting for nymphs or plucking Periwinkles.


     So, now that you know about the three types of trout lies and how to identify them, the next time you approach your favorite trout stream, try approaching slowly while using the streamside foliage to conceal your presence and then take some time to see if you notice trout congregating in the tails of the pools or cruising in the glides. If not, then proceed to approach and cast your fly only to the Prime Lies because everything else will either be barren water or hold only small trout.




Written by,


Bill Bernhardt

Outdoor Professional

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