Rob Snowhite: Fly Fishing Consultant

S01E12 Types of Water | Reading Water


Series 01 Episode 12: Types of Water and Reading Water



bridge waterfalltailwater

Slow tailwater, enough to freeze

Slow Water
slow water

classic pool


  • Water comes out of a dam (lake, reservoir etc.)
  • Water coming out of the base of the dam is cold
  • Water coming over the top of a dam (spillway) is warmer
  • Access limited closer to dam for security reasons (dams that produce electricity)
  • Fish congregate in section between dam and fishing area and may be pushed out during higher releases
  • Fluctuating levels based on needs of power company, water level behind dam, recreational uses (kayaking/rafting)
  • Water is crystal clear closer to dam, runoff and feeder streams contribute to water levels and loss of clarity down stream
  • Year round fishing
  • Water temperature is constant closer to dam and remains unfrozen in winter
  • Water begins to freeze downstream from the dam in winter as the stream is cooled by ambient temperatures
  • Plants and animals grow year round closer to dam = increases chances for huge trout
  • Rocks and bottom tend to be slick as algae grows year round
  • Some western reservoirs were stocked with shrimp to feed stocked fish. These highly nutritious shrimp are carried with the water release.
  • The trout closest to the dam get first dibs and can grow to immense sizes and display a variety of bright colors
Flooded valley and town with tailwater
11 mile

Recreational spring fed lake with tailwater
mtn lake

A trout that feeds on shrimp:
typical tailwater trout

Dense SAV
spring spring

tail tail

Pocket water and algae covered rocks
tail tail

savage tail

tail 11mile


Spring Creeks

  • Grow in flat land such as valley floors and pastures/open fields. The stream will try to meander (S shape) through the topography to slow itself down trying to reach an equilibrium
  • Water percolating out of the ground at a constant temperature year round
  • Stream usually narrow toward originating spring with marshy area surrounding
  • Stream width grows as more water enters from other springs and banks are eroded
  • Water does not freeze in winter
  • Allows plant and animal life to grow year round
  • Water quality is very clear
  • Less susceptible to flooding as stream is fed by springs, not runoff
  • Stream bed and surrounding geologic structures made of limestone. The chemical properties of limestone buffer or lower the pH (acidity) of the water
  • Few to little boulders or structure in the stream
  • Allows for a variety of animal life that require specific pH of water, such as cress bugs, shrimp, mayflies, etc.
  • Cut banks where trout can escape from predators and sunshine
  • Soft bottom
  • Overhanging plants
  • Submerged aquatic vegetation grows very thick as it does not die back in winter
  • Fish may congregate closer to spring sources in hot weather to keep cool

cut bank, mossy creek beetle chum

spring creek

spring creek spring creek spring spring spring spring creek

Hot thunderstorm + cold water = fog
spring creek

Local buildings and structures (bridges, fences etc.) may be made of limestone
spring spring spring spring spring spring spring spring spring

Beavers inhabiting spring creek
spring spring creek

mossy mossy

Stream opens up downstream from the source



  • Stream fed by springs at headwaters and runoff throughout its course
  • Size increases farther from source and may be tidal where meets ocean or bay
  • Water colder closer to spring-fed sources
  • Water levels and clarity fluctuate with precipitation
  • Temperatures based on ambient temperatures
  • Variety of stream bottoms from pebble-->rocks-->boulders
  • More sources of structure to fish in, near, around (log jams, boulders, pools etc.)
  • Fast loss of elevation creates waterfalls and plunge pools
  • Fish species change from source to end based on water temperatures, tides, elevation etc.

A stream starts from springs and runoff


A stream starts as snow melt

The stream grows in size as more water enters the system
SNP trickle

headed downstream

Cold, clear water with waterfalls as water heads from source downstream

"Pocket water" forms when elevation drops and the water is broken up by exposed rocks. Plunging water (plunge pools) increase Oxygen levels.
pocket water

Plunge pool
Plunge Pool


Stream begins to open up once it reaches lower elevations
plunge pool followed by long section




Mac Hodell

The body of water begins to broaden as it leaves elevation and encounters flatter land
Roaring fork

River gains size and depth when changes to tidal

Brides on the East coast are typically built just above the fall line (interstate 95)

shad fishing

This section of the Potomac was flooded. The right side of the image shows the bank.
This section was about 10' deep now and dry two weeks later.
potomac shad flood

Junk that flows down, now is structure


Outgoing tide




flats flatsflats flats