Fish always face upstream. True or False? 🤔


The answer might surprise you... False. 😳

Fish face up-CURRENT. But how could the current go upstream?? That is where eddies come in to play. To start, check out the diagram below.


An eddy, or back eddy, is formed when the main current is obstructed and pushed to one side of the obstruction (rock, tree, protruding bank, etc.). As the water flows by, it still wants to occupy the area and rushes in at the tail. The angle of the faster water creates a vortex and revolves around until it again reaches the head/main current. This results in many different currents, some medium and some slow (In fact, the water at the center is close to motionless, kind of like the eye of a hurricane ⛈ ).

In the current section, we learned about seams (areas of water where fast and slow currents meet). If you analyze the different currents within the eddy, you will notice there are tons of seams! And you know who likes to hang out near seams? You guessed it, FISH! 😎 The next diagram (below) shows some of the places where fish like to hang out. Referring back to the initial question, you will see that most of these fish aren't facing downstream... but, they are swimming against the current.       

Recognizing eddies can be difficult at first, but if you slow down while on the river you will start to notice a bunch of them. They vary drastically in size, some as small as a bathtub and others the entire width of the river. Refer to the pictures below for real life examples. 

What is the best way to fish eddies?

The hardest part about fishing eddies is avoiding drag and unnatural drifts. Because of the differing currents (see diagram below), it can be difficult to keep your flies and line in sync.  

The most important aspect is position. Adjusting your angle of approach, even by a few feet, can be a game changer. We have found the two most effective spots to fish from are:

Location 1

Within the main current, slightly downstream. This is completely dependent on the river you are fishing. In large/medium rivers with deep fast main flows, this is likely not an option... unless you want to go for a swim 😜 . But, if the opportunity presents itself and you can keep your footing... go for it! Get as close to the eddy as possible without spooking the fish (ideally one or two rod lengths away).

The key here is going to be keeping your rod tip high and line out of the main current (this will cause it to drag downstream and look unnatural). It might also be helpful to use a long 12 foot leader or adding tippet to your existing leader (keeping as much of your fly line off the water as possible will minimize drag).

Location 2 

Upstream. Because most of the fish are facing downstream (but up-current!), this is an effective position. However, be very careful as you approach. Keep a low profile and move slowly so that you don't spook any fish. This is most important in clear, shallow eddies.


As far as rigs go... dry fly, no-indicator nymph, and dry-dropper rigs are probably your best bet. Big picture - you want a rig that is not going to be influenced as much by the conflicting currents. It is very similar to what we talked about in the how to fish pocket water section. Click here to check it out.

Eddies can hold a ton of fish. Be sure to keep your eye out for them next time you are on the river!

In our next water type section, we'll be covering pools.