I have written many articles on how to trout fish, and what to look for when on the water. But what are some things to check before even getting to the river.
In this article, I will list 7 key things I check before going trout fishing.
1) I check the forecast
When I get up in the morning, I nearly always check the weather. “Oh, it’s blowing a gale from the NE, and storm clouds are brewing”. Just looking out the window can give me a lot of hints on where I will head fishing that day.
When checking forecasts, I much prefer checking charts, weather maps and radars, rarely the written forecasts. The written reports are usually too vague, broad, and focuses too heavily on bad weather. A written forecast might predict rain in the afternoon when in reality it is just a small front that will blow through in half an hour.
By using the charts and maps instead, I can more accurately see the movement of the different weather fronts and wind speeds throughout the day. It gives a much more accurate picture.
If planning a longer trip, in confused weather conditions I will check multiple sites to try and predict exactly what is going to happen.
Some sites I like checking
National Weather Service government run weather site with, a great selection of maps, charts, and localized forecasts.
www.Yr.co This is actually a Norwegian based site, but they provide some of the most comprehensive charts, maps, and weather radars online. I have used their charts and weather maps in many countries, and they are nearly always accurate down to the hour.
SwellMap forecast map I really like the weather maps on this site, it is a great way to track the movement of weather systems. Less relevant for trout, it also has very accurate maps showing various sea conditions.
2) I check river flows and temperatures
I nearly always glance at river flows, and during the summer water temperature. The best websites are often location dependent, but the USGS National Water Information System is a great place to start.
I check flow levels, because they assist me in figuring out what parts of the river are fishable, and might even indicate where the trout are likely to be. Plus, I hate turning up to a river on a fine sunny day only to see it chocolate brown with flood water. Hard to know when there has been an isolated thunderstorm in the headwaters.
Checking river temperature is also useful during the summer, I see little point in fishing for trout in a river when conditions are too warm for them to be feeding.
3) Check for forestry road closures
There is nothing worst than driving one and a half hours driving to some remote fishery only to find the final section of the access road is closed.
Forestry roads can suddenly be closed any time of the year, and they close for all sorts of reasons such as too much rain (flood damage), or not enough (fire risk). Then there is windfall and logging activity that can see roads closed for extended periods of time. Some of my local access roads have apparently been closed because idiots have been driving up there at night and stealing gas from the lumber sites.
So before heading somewhere remote, in a forest or provincial park. It always pays to spend a few minutes checking the current status of the roads.
Now, sometimes a closed road is a good thing. If a road has been closed for a while, chances are the trout have had a good chance to rest. So when it is allowed, making the effort to walk in on foot can often result in some very worthwhile fishing.
4) Check social media for any recent reports
Sometimes I do this, and sometimes I don,t. But I will quickly search my local fishing Facebook groups to see if there is any discussion about an area I plan on fishing.
When there are discussions, it probably suggests the area is going to be crowded, so best to avoid. When I read, that the stocking trout have just been somewhere, I nearly always head in the other direction. Hopefully, everyone will be chasing the stock trout, leaving the wild fisheries empty.
If there is discussion, but people complain there are no fish. I will investigate further before deciding where to go. Just because someone has been somewhere and blanked, does not mean there is a lack of fish, it might just be bad technique, bad luck, or there at the wrong time of day.
5) Double-check my fishing kit, to make sure I have all the gear.
I once drove over an hour to a lake, only to realize I forgot to pack any reels. I had plenty of rods, tackle, and flies but not a single reel. My fault entirely, I took them out of the car for a quick service and clean and forgot to return them. So now I quickly check if I have everything I need for a day on the water.
On other trips, I have forgotten my tippet, fly floatant and on more than one occasion I have forgotten my fly box. Luckily I had a spare in the trunk, but it did not have the specific patterns I was planning to fish that day.
6) Check the parking spaces for cars
As I approach my fishing location for the day, I will start checking any access spots I drive by just to see how busy they are.
If all the spots are crowded, it probably will suggest the river is also going to be crowded. In some spots, and times of year that is fine. Such as, on famous water in the middle of the summer vacations I expect to fish near other anglers. That is just the price one pays for fishing at that time of the year.
In saying that, in many rivers, fishing in the footsteps of others is going to result in a terrible day’s fishing. So, when I see such spots are crowded, I am going to keep moving to find an empty access spot.At busy times, I also like to use access spots less well known by the general public.
I much rather have an average stream to myself, than jostle for spots on some famous water with a dozen others.
7) Check the parked cars for any intentions
When I do park near other cars. In a non-suspicious way, I often will give a quick glance over the content of cars as I walk by. If I see rod tubes, I know they will be fishing. If I see hunting gear, or a bike rack maybe they are there for other activities.
While this does not happen everywhere. In some remote areas, it is not uncommon for fishermen (and other outdoor users) to leave their intentions written on a quick note left on the dashboard or under the windshield wiper.
It might be something as simple as “Fishing upstream, departed 7am”, or “hunting up the left fork, back Tuesday”. If I have arrived at 3pm, it is a good sign that the trout near the access spot have had several hours to fish so could be worth targeting again. I also know there are hunters up the left side of the valley, so might give that area a skip.
I have even fished a few beat systems, where it was mandatory to leave an intention note saying which direction you were fishing (upstream or downstream). This was to reduce the chances of two groups encountering each other on the water.
Most people do not leave intention notes, but when they do it does make planning somewhat easier. In some areas, it is simply not done, or some people are hesitant to leave intentions, they fear less trustworthy people will take advantage of the knowledge. I don,t hold it against them, I rarely leave intentions myself because I am too disorganized to remember note paper.