“Reading the water” refers to when fly anglers find places in the stream to cast their line. This requires you to analyze the type of water to which you have access. There are five major types of water in river systems. These are created depending on three characteristics of rivers: the gradient of the river bed (which determines the speed of the water), the bottom structure (which determines how turbulent the water is), and the water’s depth (which determines if the turbulence will reach the surface). The five types of water that result from these variables are rapids, runs, riffles, pools, and flats.


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Rapids are the fastest and roughest type of water. In rapids, there are large boulders, as nothing else is strong enough to be stationary in the water. In general, rapids cannot be fished, but it is possible for some pockets of calmer water to form. To fish rapids, look for these areas near the banks of the river and behind boulders.


Riffles are shallow areas of water with cobbly bottoms and moderate flows, creating small waves. Because of the shallowness of the water, light penetrates the surface, and the aquatic vegetation can grow more easily. These are food-rich types of water, making it prime fishing territory.


Runs are deeper and smoother than riffles. They tend to have smoother bottoms and slower flows than riffles. While insects can thrive in this type of water, they are less successful than riffles in this regard.


Pools are the deepest type of water, and generally have very slow flows. Generally, pools are deeper than six feet. There is less life underneath the surface of a pool because of the lack of light penetration.


Flats are the stillest part of a river. They are usually found where the river is wider. They have virtually no gradient and a smooth bottom. They are not very deep; generally, less than three feet.

When you are ready to try out your new water reading skills, come try fly fishing in Colorado! Contact Kirk’s Fly Shop in Estes Park today.