When reading or watching videos on about reading water for fishing in English, I often come across terms like riffle, run, pool, seam, among others. However, when I get o the river ready to float that dry dropper over the riffle, I'm not so sure if I'm targeting the right area. I'm not even sure I perfectly understand what these terms mean.

Can someone help me to make sense of these terms and of which cues should I look for when reading the water.


  1. I often read that seams are where two currents meet each other, but what should I look for? Pictures from the internet don't always look like what I see at the river. I can see that there are different currents when I have my line across more than one, but is that the only way to find seams? What are the general visual cues?

  2. Pool and run (also beat) are somewhat confusing for me. They seem to refer to the same thing: a stretch of fishable river water. Yet, how do I know where the pool/run/beat starts or ends? I know that this should be at the head/tail of the pool, but what should I look for to find these?

  3. I learn that riffles are faster shallow parts of the river, and I usually look for white foamy water. What is the difference between that and a rapid? Is it just a matter of semantics?


1 Answer 1


Riffle vs rapid: a riffle is slow moving over a generally shallow wide flat spot, but has significant turbulence (water moving in all sorts of directions) because of rocks and such. A rapid is fast moving, often deeper section of the river moving faster because it's flowing down a slope.

A pool is a place where the water is deeper than the rest of the river, it's generally very slow in the middle but has movement at the head and the water starts pulling faster at the tail ( which is where the water starts to run, hence the name)

Regarding how to recognize these. That is really tough to explain which is why there are so many books and videos about it. It takes time and experience to learn how to read these features.

Spend some time fishing without your fly rod, walking along the river you want to fish, and study it. A little foam can help, but if there isn't any foam, sometimes you can grab a handful of dry leaves and toss them in the river to see what happens. After the leaves point out to you where a feature is, learn to see it without the help of the leaves.

Polarized sunglasses can help you see into the water (if it is clear) after you have studied the top, and may help you learn what below is causing what happens on top.

That's probably the best way for you to learn. Don't bring your fishing rod with you though, or you will stop paying attention to the finer details because you will be focused on your line.

After a time or two without the rod, you could try bringing your rod but no flies with you so you can reach out and see what the water does farther off.

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