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Thread: River speed

  1. #1

    Default River speed

    In researching, about how to find trout in the river, I have purchased and read the Orvis book by Tom Rosenbauer - Reading Trout Streams. First, I think it is a very good book, and intend to use as much as I can next time out to relate physical experience to what I have read.

    My question is about river speed. Now the Truckee River currently is running at about 310 cfs and in the book it talks about trout liking to lay in water that is .5 fps or less but have access to water that is around 2 fps

    The area where I fish is about 100 to 120 feet wide, and the depth is around 5 or 6 feet in the middle third of the river.

    I have taken fish out of the seams, and I have pulled a few out of the head of the riffles, and I have taken some out of pocket water.

    I am not sure how important it is to know what the middle of the river speed is, but I was wondering if there is an easy way to get a feel for the speed of the river in FPS vice CFS.

    Thanks for any input/advice.


  2. #2

    Default Re: River speed

    Well i just came up with this after reading your post and it seems like it would work but i'm sure there are better ways...

    Anyway FPS is feet per second. Sor for a general idea it seems like you could watch a leaf or someting floating by and use a stop watch go for about 5 seconds though or it would be hard to do.

    Hope that made sense.


  3. #3

    Default Re: River speed


    Yeah, I kinda figured I could do a 10 count or something following a leaf down the river, but I was curious if when the river is running at a stated SCFM, if there was a way to relate that to "trout terms". The Truckee is running at 310 SCFM now, and they are saying that the flow is excellent for fishing, so I was trying to put that in perspective.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: River speed


    Since cfs measures “cubic feet per second” it’s a measure of the volume of the river bed as well as the speed of the current. And since rivers gather more and more water from tribs as they flow down stream, the CFS in one section doesn’t relate to the CFS in another at least in terms of direct comparison. A small trib could be roaring at 100 cfs, but the main stem might be barely moving at 1,000 cfs.

    Normal walking speed is roughly 4 fps, so tossing something in the current and following it, or timing it over a distance (counting mississippi’s for a ball park guestimate), would give you a rough idea of the actual speed. As an aside, I pulled that from a civil engineering site that was discussing timing of traffic lights at crosswalks

    The fish are always there, but will move to different parts of the streambed under different flow conditions. The best thing to do is get a sense of where to find fish at different cps flow rates over time--- a log will really help. And knowing at what point wading becomes unsafe for the rivers you fish is also a good idea.

    You can also use fishing reports to get a good idea of conditions over time for different bodies of water. For example at 380 cfs in Reno, and 430 cfs at Farad the water is moving, and off color- perhaps a good time for streamers. Fish may have been pushed to the banks or dropped back to pools, or settled into holes on the bottom…. Look for the same current speeds you caught trout in before… only this time they’ll be in different places out of the main current, perhaps even in places that were high and dry during lower flows. The Little Truckee at 130 CFS appears to be a normal flow, and the East Walker is low at 21 cfs. So even streams in the same area can vary quite a bit, and obviously tailraces can be all over the place based on water releases:
    Fishing Report - Pyramid Lake, Truckee River, Eagle Lake and more

    Here’s link to USGS data, info on the Truckee is in the Pyramid and Winnemucca Lakes Basin section:
    USGS Real-Time Data for Nevada_ Streamflow

    Note that there is a cfs, height, and f3ps measurement. The height is a good all around measure because it will tell you where the river is compared to "normal" conditions, and is particularly good if you go to other water you're not familiar with and don't have a base line cfs to compare current conditions to. The F3PS measure is really a speed/volume measure (cubic feet) like cps, not just speed like an fps measure.

    What you might want to do as a baseline, is to see if you can go back in the database to the banner day you had on the Truckee a couple of weeks ago.

    If you can find the CFS data for that day, you’ll have a benchmark, since you’ll know where you caught the fish when you were being cheered from the sidelines. Similar cfs rates, fish the same spots and same lies. Then experiment with different water levels, higher water, same spots, same lies and lies with slower water within the same general area, plus some other spots with slower water. On lower water cfs , same spots same lies and lies with faster water in the same general area, and faster sections like riffles until you start to dial it in. Record date, time of day and water temp, as well as flow rate. Over time you’ll start to develop patterns, when hatches occur in different parts of the stream (time of day, time of year, what sections of the river), where to go when stream temps start edging high ( look for highly oxygenated water in or below riffles), where to head and what lies to fish under different flow rates, etc etc

    Hope this makes a bit of sense...


  5. #5

    Default Re: River speed

    Mark, as usual, you are a wealth of information. Thanks for the links and the info/advice. As you are most likely aware, the Truckee is freestone, snow melt, rain water, and we have had some weather in the hills west of town lately, flow says it is around 380 right now, was at 310 a couple weeks ago - banner day. So, ideally, if I am understanding you correctly, areas that stretch out, and are maybe 250 on a "normal" day may be up at the 310 mark on days like yesterday, so these "slower flow" areas could be better to fish on high flow days while the area I fish now, may be blown out, or fish in deeper pools, and eddies, slower seams on the high flow days.

    Something else I noticed, yesterday, even though there was a hatch, not quite as good as a couple weeks ago, the wind had a major effect on the water surface, and the trout, only rose for a few minutes, and were no where near as aggressive as they were on the banner day which was slightly overcast, but not windy until later in the day near the end of the hatch - the wind coming up basically shut everything down on that day (and froze my ears) as well.

    The places where I have been fishing lately do not give up a lot of fish, but the fish it does give up are usually "quality" fish 16 inches and bigger - possibly because it is pretty quick through the area, mostly pocket water, a few decent seams, etc, but not a lot of slow water. I believe that the smaller fish may very well be food for the bigger ones in this area, as there are not a lot of places for them to rest, and there are a few monsters in this area. I know where there is on big old brown I bet goes 6 to 8 lbs, only had him on a hook once - but still trying.

    I think I will try another area, further east, where the flows are a bit slower, next time I get out and when the main flows are higher, to see if it is as good as it looked on my last scouting expedition.

    Thanks again for all the help


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