I was talking with Anthony yesterday about the best approach for fishing the structures on the Arkansas below Pueblo Reservoir.
I fish these structures in circles. If possible, I literally walk a circle around the structure casting and getting drifts in every direction imaginable. I fish every possible drift line. I always encourage folks to fish these structures carefully and thoroughly. On a rich river system such as the Arkansas Pueblo tail-water, chances are that there will be fish on all sides of the structure. Treat each section as a different “hole” and keep moving in circles around the structure making various casts. Be sure to move your body to stand in the best position as possible to make the best cast and drift. Sometimes I cast up and across, down and across and every angle in-between. Take the time to take up the best position and set up the best cast. Be strategic. Stalk and plan. Move.
Many of these structures hold fish downstream of the boulders (which is obvious to most fly fishers) but also along the sides, in front of (upstream), and in-between. Try to systematically cover every drift line. Some of the drifts will be short others will be longer depending on the structure and the drift line. Be sure to hit the seam lines in-between faster and slower currents created by the boulders. When it comes to fishing seam lines, often the difference of a few inches makes a huge difference. If you are not hooking fish make adjustments such as the amount of weight or the type of nymphs.
Often beginners make the mistake of NOT fishing in front of the boulders or upstream of the boulders as this approach seems to defy logic. We usually think of a rock structure as only providing a break for the fish that lie behind or downstream of the boulders. But in reality, the hydraulics can be such that a fish can lie in front of the boulder and be in a good lie. Also, by being in front those fish have first shot at the food that is coming their way. I have caught some of the biggest fish by fishing in front of the boulders or upstream of the boulders. I learned how to do this effectively years ago on the Taylor River tail-waters where monster trout lay in front of the boulders. But realize that you can’t just run your nymphs straight into the rocks. Know where your flies are throughout the drift and know when it is time to pick up and cast again before you snag. With some experience, you quickly learn to wait to the last second to pick up right before you hit the rocks. Or, better yet, the fish takes the fly at the last second before you hit the rocks.
Have fun! This is the essence of fishing the edge. This is nymph fishing to structure and problem solving at it’s best.