Bob Boese, Louisiana

May 11th, 2009

By Bob Boese, Louisiana

I know an excellent fly fishermen who stinks at solitaire. For reasons unexplained, he lacks the ability to see obvious red on black number sequence play. As a casual kibitzer I am astounded when the fisherman sits there with a brain cramp. But … put the same fisherman to the task of reading a river and it's magical.

"You see that?" the guide said, and the lady at his side answered, "What?" Normally, this wouldn't have mattered, except it was the twentieth time in a quarter hour the conversation had been repeated. Between 'What's' the guide had patiently explained, in precise and excruciating detail, every 'What' his client was to be looking for. She was not getting it, not at all, but everyone in hearing distance there were three of us on the water relatively close by was getting a free lesson on such things as how to watch your strike indicator, how to spot fish between the rocks, and how to see a trout make a ripple-free take of an emerger. Suddenly a trout was suicidal and her indicator disappeared against the current, leading to another few minutes of free lessons for the rest of us on how to fight and land the fish. A beautiful rainbow was netted and the pink striped catch was displayed for all to see, a photo was taken and then she said, "Do we leave now?" If ever a guide was conflicted…

Solitaire, as the name suggests, is a game for one person, played with a deck of 52 cards and is known in Britain as "patience"… which you won't have if you keep losing. Curiously, there is no definitive history of the many hundred games of solitaire, but the word solitaire is of French origin, meaning "reclusive". Some forms of solitaire may be 700 years old, but historians are certain that between conquests Napoleon is said to have spent time playing solitaire, and likely got good at it on Saint Helena (the island to which he was exiled in 1815). To people who are clever at solitaire, the raft of cards before them is read at a glance, much as the experienced fisherman sees a stream.

As guides will explain, reading a stream is a matter of knowing what to look for and where to look for it. Listing such places is no substitute for seeing them, but here are a few to consider. There is a common theme running through these notes and that is trout don't use more energy than they have to. Slower water means less work to stay in place and, if the food comes by or accumulates there, trout take advantage of serendipity.

  • In riffles and shallows, especially during insect hatches. Good polarized glasses can allow you to sight fish here.

  • In front of boulders, where the water speed in front is slowed by the rock behind. This is a popular spot during heavy hatches where insects may accumulate against the rock.

  • Behind partially and fully submerged boulders or other protective pockets. that offer protection from the current. Feeding lanes may exist on both sides of the rock.

  • Along banks where the current is slower and terrestrial insects fall in. Free food without all the work.

  • Under or inside undercut banks because it provides protection from predators (herons, kingfishers, eagles, etc.) yet also offers the feeding options of a stream bank.

  • In front of or behind fallen timber and other surface features in the stream that can trap insects.

  • In smooth runs where the water is slower and quiet pockets between subsurface ledges.

  • In the shade of an overhanging streamside tree protected from view.

  • In and around weed beds.

  • In the tail of a run where the current is slower.

Many books have been published on solitaire and it is now estimated there are between 300 and 600 identified solitaire games. On any given stream there may be that many possibilities for trout holding locations. So…which of the ones above should the fisherman choose? Here are some suggestions.

Sight fishing is always better than guessing. If the trout is not spooked by the fisherman's presence, casting to a known target holds more promise than blind fishing possible holding areas. I have watched trout ignore every offering when I was a noisy careless fishermen, and yet, when I was careful, have caught trout practically between my legs. Polarized glasses are a must, even on gin clear streams, and watching a trout's feeding pattern can give you a good idea of appropriate patterns.

Submerged boulders are easier to fish than partially submerged ones because there is not a riffle around them to made a good presentation difficult. Trout do not seem to have a particular preference but a nymph bounced over a submerged boulder may enter a feeding lane that is impossible to reach with part of the rock out of the water. Also, a good drift can be had on either side (near or far) of a submerged boulder, opening up even more feeding lanes.

Smooth runs are fun to fish because it is easy to get a good layout on the initial cast and easy to mend to get a good drift. Sometimes a good drift is more important than the perfect holding area because your fly is in a fish attracting position much longer and you can cover a lot of fishable water. In wide runs it is often profitable to stand in the middle of the stream and cast 360 degrees.

Banks are always a good choice if you have seen grasshoppers, ants or beetles near the stream. Undercuts and under trees are excellent choices, but require a much more accurate cast. A good drag-free drift would find a terrestrial imitation in the right location if it were no more than 12 inches from the bank. Strikes are vicious.

Any stream will have clues as to how to identify the red jack to put on the black queen. Sometimes it's obvious and at others it may be hidden behind the club ten. Many fish holding features, like boulders or riffles, are obvious even from the road and others require careful study of the water. The best way to get better at finding trout is experience and practice…and patience. ~ Bob Boese (coach)

About Bob:

Robert Lamar Boese has fly fished for five decades. He is an environmental negotiator, attorney and educator who has provided environmental legal services for more than thirty-three years including active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Justice. He is a well known fly tyer with several unique patterns to his credit. He has developed and authored federal and state regulatory programs encompassing a broad spectrum of environmental disciplines, has litigated environmental matters at all levels of the federal and state court systems, and is a qualified expert for testimony in environmental law. He has authored over 60 published text chapters, comments or articles on environmental matters, is a member of the Colorado, District of Columbia and Louisiana Bar Associations, and is a certified mediator. In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Boese has been a high school teacher, an associate professor of Environmental Law and Public Health, has authored numerous fiction and sports publications, and is a softball coach and nationally certified volleyball referee. He is the president of the Acadiana Fly Rodders in Lafayette, Louisiana and editor of Acadiana on the Fly. He has been married for thirty years and is the father of two fly fishing girls (25 and 21). For additional information contact: Boese Environmental Law, 103 Riviera Court, Broussard, LA 70518 or call 337.856.7890 or email

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