Copyright 2015 James Marsh
Hiding From Trout - Part One
Wild and native trout in trout streams from coast to coast will
always be next to impossible for you to catch if they see you. In
order to hide from them, you need to know a little about how a
trout sees the world outside the water. The subject is far to
complicated to discuss in detail in a short article but we can
cover some important points. I will point out that knowing
something about what is referred to as the trout's window of
vision and how they see things both under and above the water
is a big help. For purposes of what I want to point out in this
article, just a little common sense and a little basic knowledge
about how trout see is all you need to help you prevent them
from seeing you.
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Trout don't see objects above the water, especially those at a distance, clearly. To make it simple, lets just say they see things
above the water as a blur. They cannot see anything in detail at a distance. A person standing twenty feet from them is just
a blurred image. Now for those who want to get picky, what I am about to say isn't exactly technically correct, but I am not
writing a scientific paper. I am describing how a trout sees someone trying to catch them. For all practical purposes, I am being
What trout will notice, much quicker than anything else, is the movement of an object above the water. They are used to seeing
blurred images of objects above the water that remain fairly still. Tree trunks and boulders don't move around a lot. Overhead
predators pose a danger to them. Large birds and a animals pose a danger to trout. When something moves above the water,
it gets their attention. The bottom line to this is that you should move as little as possible and when you do move, move as
slowly as possible. Of course, it is difficult to cast without moving.
The other thing about what trout see above the water has to do with the distance the object is from them. To make this simple,
due to refraction of light, they don't see things that are low above the water. The higher the object above the water, the easier
it is for them to see it.
For example, they could see an object ten feet above the water as far as twenty feet away but they would not see an object
one foot about the water that is ten feet away. The lower you are, the closer you can get to trout without their seeing you. If you
stand on top of the highest rock in the stream and look around you, chances are every trout within twenty or thirty feet of you
will see you. Your movements climbing up on the rock and back down will spook them for sure. Stay low and slow, right the
opposite of what you want to do if you are flying an airplane.
Trout face normally face in an upstream direction. Their bodies and fins are streamlined for them to remain in current
expending as little energy as possible. They would have a difficult time holding their position in current if they had their tail
pointed into the current.
Most all of their food comes to them in a downstream direction. Aquatic insects in a current seam are drifting downstream. The
trout face in an upstream direction looking for them. The bottom line to this is that you can get closer to trout if you are
downstream of them. If you fish in an upstream direction, they will not be able to see you as easily as they would if you were
fishing in a downstream direction.
Trout don't see the same way us humans do. They have a much wider peripheral vision. In other words they can see almost all
the way around. Their binocular vision is not near as good as ours. That is part of the reason why they don't see things at a
distance above the water clearly and in great detail or resolution. Sounds simple so far. However, just because you are
approaching them from their back side doesn't mean you can slip up on them and tap them on their shoulders. Trout have a
blind spot in their peripheral vision. It is a small area directly behind them. When they are positioned in the moving water of the
stream facing in an upstream direction, that small blind area enables you to get fairly close to them provided you approach
them from their rear. This must be done carefully and quietly. Approaching them from their front (the direction they are looking)
isn't as easy to do without being spotted.
Again, it is movement of objects at a distance that gets their attention quicker than anything. Another big factor in just how well
they can spot you has to do with your contrast with the surrounding background. For example, If you are wearing a white shirt
and white hat, you are not blending in very well with the typical background of a stream unless snow is a foot deep. You want to
blend in with the background in the same manner a deer or turkey hunter would. In fact, the best clothing you could possible
wear would be the best matching camouflage outfits you could find to match the colors of the background during the different
seasons of the year. I am not suggesting you should go so far as to wear a camouflage net over your head or that you should
shade your eyes. I am not even saying that camouflage clothing is necessary even though it would solve the problem very well.
Trout will not detect your presence near as well if you blend in with the background. Subdued shades of browns and greens
usually work best. You should avoid bright, flashy colors.
Another factor in how close you can approach trout is how well you can see them. If there is a lot of glare on the water, and
there always is, you should wear polarized glasses. There is no sense in stumbling over a trout directly in front of you. It will go
upstream and warn its entire family that a creature is coming. Seriously, when trout suddenly shoot upstream, I believe it
signals other fish that danger is approaching or it at least makes them aware something is not normal. The least fish you can
spook, the better off you are, even if you are not trying to catch them. t helps if you can see what is ahead of you. I don't want
to get into wading yet, but when you can see everything in the water ahead of you, you can wade making the least amount of
Trout do not have to see you in order for them to detect your presence. They can hear you. You can yell at your buddy and
that won't bother them. If you move a rock on the bottom of the stream, it will. If you stumble along the bank, it will disturb them.
They can hear the sound you through their lateral line. Again, I don't want to get technical. This is not the place to discuss how
fish hear in detail. Just be aware that you should walk softly, without disturbing things on the bottom of the stream or the
Lets summarize what I have said so far about hiding from the trout:
1. Keep a low profile. I don't mean crawl along the bank or even that you need to stoop low when you are wading. Just be
aware that the higher you are, the farther away trout can see you. Don't climb up on boulders and search the water for the
trout. They are there. You are just warning them that you are there.
2. Dress to blend in with the surroundings. Don't wear flashy or bright colored clothing. 4. Don't disturb the bottom of the
stream or the ground along the banks. Trout can hear you. Avoid moving or kicking rocks.
3. Wear polarized sunglasses. The better you can see what is ahead in the water, the easier it is for you to prevent spooking
the trout ahead. If you loose your footing and step off into a deep hole you will spook every trout in the creek.
Copyright 2015 Derek Porter
Copyright 2015 Derek Porter