How best to fish rapids starts with safety. The water is fast and most likely cold, and the current is more than strong enough to carry a 200-pound man downstream, extremely quickly, in a good set of rapids. If you are wearing waders, then falling into a fast set of rapids could be disastrous. With full waders, it makes it harder to stand back up, while the fast current carries you downstream and into large boulders amongst the rapids. Rod and reel may be lost or broken, and injuries like sprains andbruses almost guaranteed.
As long as you pay attention to safety, they fishing rapids can be the best place in the river, creek or stream to fish. This is especially true if you are using lightweight gear and looking for a big fight. The best rapids to fish are those that are separated by deep-running, curving pools, with large boulders amongst the rapids. Most fish caught in rapids, especially trout and salmon, will jump high out of the air, giving you that perfect, cover of the National Geographic picture moment.
For a successful fishing expedition amongst a series of rapids, you should stay on the shore, or in shallow side-pools with little current, upstream from your fishing destination in the rapids, for both safety’s sake and a better chance of landing the fish. It is a real shame to fight a trout for a half of an hour, and then lose it because you could not get to your net, due to the fast water flowing through your legs. In the Spring, use salmon or trout egg sacks, and have them lay in the eddy of large boulders, or on the bottom in side pools. Worms, grubs and crayfish can be used in tandem with spinners, or on their own. Sometimes it is better to have a shiny spoon or plate ahead of your bait, to get the fish’s attention, like a warbler or bobbitt..
When fishing rivers, streams and creeks, there are are few distinctive geographical formations that the savvy fishermen will gravitate towards. There are the long, deep and fast pools, with a shoreline overhang, that protect the fish from the Sun as well asshorline predators. There are great spots to fish under half-fallen trees, under bridges and on either side of culverts where the water goes under a road, highway or train tracks. But when fishing rapids, there are special places within, upstream and downstream from the rapids that usually hold fish.
Where a stream or other river joins into the water body you are fishing, or where the river flows into it’s destination are very popular for catching both migrating and stationary fish. However, one of the best places that the skilled fishermen love to fish the most are amongst, and at the bottom of rapids. How to fish rapids starts with fishing upstream, so that your walking through the water does not send sediments into the clear water, spooking the fish. Other than rapids, the side pools and headwaters of waterfalls are extremely good places to fish, and if there is a pool between a set of rapids and a waterfall, then that is fishing heaven at it’s best.
Fishing rapids will usually garner the larger, stronger and hungrier of the fish in the water, as this is where they will feed, gaining strength for the upcoming swim upstream. Pools at the bottom of large, fast and roiling rapids are usually one of the best places in a river or stream to fish for freshwater trout, salmon and pike.
In order to best fish rapids, the fisherman must first approach the rapids properly, from upstream, so that the lures appear to be “swimming” against the current as they are slowly reeled in. This method also allows for lures, or baited hooks, to stay in one productive location, like around the backside of a large boulder in the center of the rapids. Care must be taken not to cause a disturbance on the water’s bottom, which would carry sediment downstream and spook the fish.
The best places to fish in rapids are where there are breaks from the strong current. In the faster current, most fish will linger in spots with little to no current. This allows them to feed on thebaitfish and other food that drifts by in or on the current. Fish behind large rocks, where the water streams off on either side and leaves a calm pool on the rear side of the rock. For fly fishermen, you want the fly to swim along the current, and graze the rock as it goes by. The fish will attack it when they see it go by on the water’s surface, as a real fly would.
For the bait-cast fisherman, worms work very well in streams and rivers, as do lures (red devils) and wet flies with spinners (like Mepps). Cast the bait over the rock, so that it lands at least 5-6 feet downstream from the rock. Allow the bait to drop in the water before slowly reeling in, a couple of feet at a time. Allow the bait to resettle down into the water before restarting the reeling.
Before the rapids start, if there is a point where the shoreline starts to narrow, you should fish this area very thoroughly. Fish love to rest at the tops of rapids, either after swimming up them, or before the fight to go back downstream. Along the shoreline, there should be a rip-tide, where the surface water actually flows in the wrong direction, upstream. Allow your bait, or fly, to slowly float along these rip-tides, as there is usually fish feeding the bugs and worms that enter the water here from the shoreline, or that drop into the water from overhead trees.
The last, and usually most productive of the rapid’s fishing locations is at the bottom of the rapids, or any level areas, like winding pools, between sets of rapids. You can fish these pools from the side, or wade into the rapids, and let your bait or fly drift into the pool from the center of the rapids, as they usually catch their food in this manner.
No matter which spot in the rapids you prefer to fish, you should always fish the entire set of rapids, from about 100 feet before they start, to the first or second bend after they finish. If the water is not too fast and deep, chest waders should be worn so that you can walk in the water where the current is very light, to allow the bait to be properly presented to the fish.
If you are fishing for trout, you will need to be as quiet and stealthy as possible, as they spook very easily. Salmon and pike will attack the lures or bait wherever they encounter it, whether or not they notice your presence. Egg sacks usually do not perform well in rapids, but worms and flies work well, as do split-minnow lures.