Most anglers have a favorite water that they would rather fish if given the chance. Me, I don’t have a favorite lake, stream, river or pond. Instead I like certain situations, a certain piece of water that challenges me. I tend to look for these places when fishing on my own. I will pass up water that I know I will catch fish in just to challenge myself. Whether it is a lake, river, or pond I will find a challenging aspect to keep my interest up.
One of my top five favorite is a Transitional Gradient. A piece of water that drops in elevation with the bottom being extended further downstream than the top. Not a waterfall, but a stretch of water in a river that is kind of like the pitch of a roof. These challenging drops are without a doubt one of the more overlooked, and misunderstood pieces of water. They offer good shelter, food delivery and oxygen. Since most pockets are short the fish don’t have to move far for their food. Most anglers will walk around them and go on to a different section of the river. Transitional gradients can be made up of a virtual rock garden creating a multitude of drops, pockets, and runs depending on the pitch. They can be tricky to wade and a bit difficult to read. But they can be a great place to find big fish, or fish of any size. The Pit River had many of these drops in Pit 3 & 4 and some real awesome ones in 5. With the higher flows that came from the relicensing of the PG&E hydro system many of these gradients are gone.
Fishing T/G will test your understanding of weight placement and depth. It is the ultimate challenge in short line nymphing or short line dry fly. Whether you are fishing an indicator or not it is essential to learn to lob, lift, and lead your fly and weight. The runs and pockets in a T/G can be short and unforgiving. Getting your fly to drop fast is the key. If you are fishing an indicator you want the fly and split shot to hit the water first. This way they start to sink before the indicator and current can pull it down stream. If by chance the indicator hits first, then lift the rod until the indicator is lifted off the water a few inches, then set it right back down. This gives the fly a chance to sink. Then lift the rod and remaining leader off the water. Move the rod downstream at the same speed as the surface current without pulling the indicator, leading the indicator downstream. When you get to the end of the run don’t just pull your indicator out of the water, but instead stop your rod from the downstream motion and slowly start to lift indicator out of the water. This will give the fly a chance to catch up with the indicator. Since the current on the bottom is slower than that on the top, and assuming you did your lob lift and lead right, the fly should be behind the indicator. If you are fishing indicator less do your lob lift and lead, give the fly a chance to sink then pull out in front and move at the speed of the surface current. When I fish a T/G if I am using an indicator, I like one that will barely hold up the amount of weight I am using. This forces me to stay up on my lift keeping a little tension on the indicator. Things will happen fast in these short fast drifts. There is no rule of thumb with T/G other than there is no rule of thumb. For example, there is a mantra that goes around that the correct distance to set your indicator is one and a half times the depth of the water you are fishing. This can be wrong in so many cases and it is really wrong when fishing a T/G. There are no two T/G alike and they require really refining your short line skills. I have found very large trout in some very shallow water in these drops, and when hooked they can really maneuver in and out of the rocks. Remember ledges and edges if you have a ledge or an edge of a rock that is 17” it can hold a 17” fish. I could write a book on Transitional Gradients and how to fish them. Instead, I will just say if you want more info give me a call or email me. I would to be happy to share my experiences fishing them with you.