Some of the most common questions that need to be answered about the differences between fishing running waters and stationary lakes are: How fast the water is running affecting the fishing methods? Is vegetation a factor both in and out of the water or along the banks? How should one fish in heavily wooded areas? How important is being able to move along the shoreline? What types of bait should we be using? How does the time of day affect the fishing?
We will start with the speed of the waters involved. First of all, all water, whether it be lake, stream, river or ocean moves. The difference between rivers and lakes is direction and speed. I am not going to attempt to explain tides or secondary motions or anything of that nature. Because a lake sits in a bowl of some kind it will always have a movement towards the shoreline or along the shoreline depending on various factors. What I am going to say is rivers, or streams for that matter, go in one direction. I personally have never seen a river flow upstream nor do I expect to. With the exception of pools or bends in a river you will be fishing across currents at all times. Presentation will take your lure or bait downstream as well as across the current. This will make for some of the most exciting fishing experiences you will ever have as there will be nothing tentative about a strike on a moving target. Try to cast no higher than straight across the stream, then retrieve at a rate sufficient to keep the lure up off the bottom. I have found it profitable to keep the lure in the upper half of the river bed. There is a tendency to retrieve too fast. Be steady. Jerking or walking the dog or other similar actions will not be as successful as a steady regain unless you are fishing the shoreline itself.
One of the great beauties of this type of trout fishing is the ability to move quickly the another site. Just a few steps will present a whole new target area. Trout like to hide in shadows or vegetation. Take advantage of this by casting close to but not in areas where one or both of the above are present. Be prepared as the strike will probably come quickly and violently.
I have talked mainly about lures and their presentation. One other thing. This is a case where size does not matter. In fact, smaller is probably better as you will not want to have too much weight dragging your lure down too far which will result in loss of equipment. I like using spinners for this type of fishing. There are several excellent books on the subject. A quick visit to the site listed below will provide you with some of them.
A word about snags which will occur. In most cases a short walk down stream with the line slack will release the lure. If not and the water is not too deep you can always get a short bath by walking out to the lure and unhooking it at the source. Of course you need to watch out for holes. Yes there are holes where one can sink out of site immediately. Few things are as much fun as trying to get out of one while holding onto your equipment, dealing with the ice-cold water and praying your buddy on the shore does not have his video cameras working.
So there you have it. I have not discussed flies which are an excellent bait for the dedicated fisherman who is willing to learn. They, the flies not the fishermen, are better left for another article. Never be afraid to try new things. And never forget: what works for me may not work for you. A fisherman's greatest weapon is himself.