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A basic understanding of the waters is imperative in becoming a fly-fisherman. The neophyte takes their rod out and casts out to the middle of the stream, regardless of riffle, run, or pool. They may be lucky enough to catch a fish but if they do the fish will be far and few between. The more likely outcome will be frustration and negativity which will end with a rod for sale. To avoid this we need to get to know the water as soon as we possibly can.
Getting to know the water is more than just figuring out where the sweet spot is or where all the fish in the water seem to reside. Getting to know the water is learning where , when, and how fish move throughout the waterways. It's riffles, runs, and pools, it's undercuts and pocket water, still and running water. The fly-fisherman is charged with knowing how each and every one of these interact with one another and how the fish use them to their advantage, both in staying safe and maintaining a food source.
Along with knowing how the water and the fish interact, the fly fisherman should know what the fish are biting on. If there's a caddis hatch happening and nothing is biting that hopper that you have tied on, it's going to get super frustrating, super quick. Most of the fish are eating subsurface, the best way to find out what they're eating on is to turn over some rocks and take a general census of what the most common type of nymph you can find. But how do you know the mayfly from the caddis nymphs, and what about those monsters, they're grasshopper larva right? Check online, get a book or two, but get comfortable with the aquatic entomology of your local streams, it will pay dividends when you can tell that it's a Green Drake hatch instead of a Blue-Wing Olive one.
As always, Good Luck and Guid Luck!