TIP 278. Hit Riffles
Riffles are arguably the best low-water fishing habitat there is. Rifles provide fish, especially steelhead, coho and sockeye, with protection in the form of a broken surface. The fastermoving water, though it does not carry more oxygen than other parts of the river, like many folks believe, does aid in the fish's respiration, which is another reason fish will gravitate to riffles in low water. Angler pressure, if intense, can also cause fish to move into shallow riffles, as can direct sunlight.
Fish have the ability to be camouflaged in very shallow riffles, and it doesn't take much water to hide them. Over the years I've taken steelhead in less than a foot of water, silvers in two feet, and chinook in less than four feet of water. Normally, one wouldn't consider fishing such shallow depths for any of these fish, but because the conditions forced them there, fishing them was well worth the time and effort.
Due to their broken surface, heavy, shallow riffles make it nearly impossible to see fish before casting to them. This means that fishing riffles is normally a blind affair. Given that fact, riffles can be fished with quick passes on light tackle, or deliveries can be slowed by adding more weight.
I've pulled 25-pound chinook from riffles on a fast-moving jig, while targeting steelhead, and taken steelhead on a bait I figured to be way too large, that slowly crawled along the bottom intended for springers.
To effectively and consistently catch fish from riffles, a wide range of techniques and gear may be required. If you are confident fish are in a riffle, but the bite is slow in coming, switch to another method. Experiment with various types of terminal gear, speeds of delivery, angles of presentation and anything else that fits with the water being fished. Diversity is the key to consistently taking fish from shallow riffles, and mastering the techniques required will open up many doors, no matter what river you fish.
TIP 228. Go Back Over Pressured Water
Whether you're fishing from a boat or off the bank, retracing your steps can be a successful approach. Think about most river situations, where anglers continue coming and going throughout the course of the day. Fish in these waters receive constant pressure, and if you're confident fish are there, or that new arrivals could be showing up any moment, then it may be worth the time and effort to go over that pressured water, again.
Some folks will work-over one hole for several hours on end. They may start at the head end and fish it down, then repeat the approach. They may begin low, from the bank, and fish it up to the head, then fish it back down. No matter how you go about it, covering the same water is a good ploy.
Each time you start over you may want to consider changing offerings. By presenting different baits or lures to the fish upon each pass you make, you're increasing your odds of finding something they like. Think about why a newly arriving angler often gets a bite within the first few casts of showing up. Typically, it's not because he was doing anything different, rather the fact he gave the fish something different to look at.
Be creative, don't give up and repeatedly cover that same water. If in a boat with a motor, you have the luxury of running back upstream as often as you like, and bank anglers can rework water until their legs give out. Whether you're re-fishing a hole, a short riffle or a mile-long stretch of prime staging water, dedicate yourself to doing it right. Don't get caught simply going through the motions. Think about where the fish will be and make each cast with as much precision as possible. It just might work.