Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I was fishing the Truckee River in mid-July when I smelled something musky. At first, I  thought it was a bear, but then I realized it was a beaver dam. The aroma that filled the morning air was castoreum,  which is the yellowish secretion of the castor sac in combination with the North American Beaver's urine. It is used a beaver marks it's territory.
What the beaver created, other than a home, is very good underwater structure that is certain to hold brown trout. Brown trout historically live in slower water than do rainbows. When you see an area like in the photo, you have one chance to get it right. If you spook the fish away from the wood pile, who knows where that fish will end up.
The first question is how to approach the area without spooking the fish. I will always stay in the bushes or structure myself and come in from downstream if I can. Two things here; you are a predator and all predators need cover to ambush their prey. A fish will hide and be looking up stream, so if you come in from below it will not see you coming.
Once you are in the down stream position hiding in the bushes. What do you do? Make no more than three casts in any given area and be sure to look behind you so you don‘t get hung up before your first cast. If the fish is there and feeding it should hit on the first presentation. Anything more than three casts, you run the chance of spooking the fish.

Work the edges of the wood; if you get a fish on move down river. If you don’t, there is a high probability that the fish will take you into that pile and break you off. Consider this for a moment; 80% of a beaver dam is below the water level, so you may need to get that fish out of there quickly and farther away from the structure than you think.
Re-positioning, after you have covered the water downstream of the structure, stay in the bushes if you can and hug the dam but do not step on it. If the beaver comes out, the fish would presumably swim away or the vibration from your foot could spook the fish as well.
So now you are in front of the dam. Work the edges where the moving water meets the wood. You are presenting a food source so it better look natural regardless of what it is. If you get a hook up, again get it out of there. In this position you don’t have the current to assist you. You may need to get in the water and guide the fish across the current. Do not pull up stream against the current. If it is a nice fish, chances are you will break your line.
If a brown trout was not enticed by your offering in and around the dam you will need to reposition yourself again. For positioning purposes, give your self the best chance to cast into the area called the seam. This is where the fast water meets the slow water.  If you can get to the seam from where you are standing, do not reposition.  If you get a fish on remember about the log pile you are standing next to and all of the under water wood. Both browns and rainbows will sit in the slower water along the seam, expending very little energy, waiting for the current to deliver food to it. Your presentation should be in the faster water moving along the seam; keep your line tight and again make it look natural.
From where you are standing you will now want to hit the deep water. Deep water brings fewer snags near the top, but not at the bottom, where the fish are. In deeper water you will find primarily rainbows, as I do in this very spot. 

 I would also recommend casting to the ledge (where the very fast shallow water drops off to become the deep water) and let it sink. You will want to feel the bottom as you drift along, keep your rod tip up and your line tight. As it moves through the deep water and starts to swing toward you, let the current do all the work. More times than not a fish will hit as soon as the swing starts. Remember that fish will sit in front or behind rocks in the deeper water and let the current bring its food to it. Just before the meal gets to the fish, it floats out of the way, and then the fish will go after it.
Setting the hook is done by keeping your rod tip low to the water. If not, the fish will take to the air almost immediately and spit you out.
Landing fish is something that takes time, enjoy the few minutes in the heat of the battle. This is the very moment you have worked so hard to get to.
On this trip to the Truckee, I fished for three hours in the evening and four hours the next morning. I landed a total of 24 fish with my best fish being a 17 inch rainbow.
Here is an analogy that I hope sums it up; During the Civil War, British troops walked in open fields and they were attached by Americans, who where hiding in structure.  You will want to hide in the structure like the American soldiers  did and cast your offering into the open like the Red Coats. Your offering should find the same treatment as the British.
When you are fishing structure, be ready to tie a lot of knots and bring back up offerings. If you are not losing gear you are not fishing properly. Now go out there and cast into structure with confidence.

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