Cover & Current Breaks [Part 2] / Learning to Fish Rivers & Streams

Cover and Current Breaks that form Eddies in Rivers and Streams

Now that we have gone over some of the different kinds of cover, where the most cover can be found, and areas that fish consider to be prime real estate – fish magnets – let’s look at some visual examples so that we have a better idea of what to actually look for when fishing a river or stream.

All of these images have been scanned and taken from an awesome reference titled The Freshwater Angler™: Fishing Rivers & Streams. I’m not going to place the photo link / credit after every picture because there will be quite a few – but make sure to try to get a copy of this book. (My grandpa gave this copy to me and it’s nice to have!)

We’ll start with a definition of a word that gets thrown around a lot…

What is an “Eddy” in a river or stream?

An eddy is an area in a river or stream where the water actually flows against the main current. This is the result of something disrupting the main current flow, like shoreline that extends into the channel, or a rock or log. Eddies typically form on the lower side of the obstruction, but they can also form on the side facing into the current, and in either case they usually create some sort of slack-water area.

How to Identify Eddies & Slack-Water Areas

streamlined boulder eddy in a stream
Streamlined Boulders have an eddy on the downstream side only. This is because water can flow smoothly over the front. (As opposed to non-streamlined boulders, which can actually have an eddy on the downstream side AND the upstream side – don’t overlook the upstream eddies as they are potential fish-holding areas!)
Boils Forming in a River or Stream
Boils can form when water deflects off of a submerged object, like a boulder. An eddy can form below the boulder, several feet upstream of the boil.
eddy forming below a point bar
Point-Bars form along inside bends in areas where the current slows slightly, allowing sediment to settle out. The eddies located below point-bars are prime fish holding locations in many streams.
points in a river can create major eddies
Points or Sharp Bends in a river system can create major eddies. The larger the point or the sharper the bend, the larger the eddy that will form.
bridge pilings have eddies on the upstream and downstream sides
Bridge Pilings have eddies that form on both the upstream and downstream sides – just like large boulders (that are not streamlined). As a bonus this cover is usually even better than it looks because of rip-rap piled at the base to prevent erosion.
shoreline notches create eddies
Notches in the Shoreline of the mainland or an island can cause slack-water pockets that often go unnoticed.
log jams blocking a river
Logjams can sometimes block the entire channel of a river, causing a large eddy to form downstream, or even deflect enough water to cause a new channel to be cut out to the side.
wing dams cause eddies to form
Wing Dams are man-made current deflectors, and they create eddies on both the upstream and downstream sides. There can even be deep holes created off the ends as the current swirls around them.
Channel Markers have eddies on the front and back sides
Channel Markers – especially those built on rock piles – can be excellent fishing spots. These areas not only form eddies, but the rocks can attract minnows, crayfish and other forage for larger predators to chomp.
dunes can form as sediment settles creating eddies
Dunes can often develop on bottoms with shifting sand. The current will brush the dune peaks, but a slack-water pocket will also form right below each one.
tributary junctions can create eddies
Tributary Junctions can be great fishing spots because the delta of the incoming stream creates an eddy downstream from the entry point.
river pools viewed from above
Pools are areas below riffles & runs that look darker when viewed from above. These areas are slow-moving with a slick surface.
weedbeds create unique current patterns
Weedbeds can create all sorts of interesting current patterns. Fish will hold in the slow water of the beds themselves, then dart out to grab food that comes drifting through channels within the same beds.
largemouth bass under a rooted weed clump
Rooted Weed Clumps can develop a mound of sediment around their base. This allows an eddy to form downstream, and can carve out a hole.
tailwater eddies forming below a dam
Tailwater Eddies form along the sides of the fast current below a dam. Sometimes the reverse current in these eddies can be as strong as the mainstream current.
dugouts form below waterfalls
Dugouts that form below waterfalls can be surprisingly deep. The eddying action of the water can undercut the base of the falls, providing fish with an ideal hiding spot.
river island eddies
Islands will often have large eddies on the downstream side. Depending on their shape, they may have a smaller eddy on the upstream side as well. If the sides are irregular (like the notches we mentioned above) even more eddies may form.

Additional Overhead Cover to Look For

Remember that the best spots to hide not only include slack-water – but overhead cover as well – these areas are especially attractive to larger fish!

overhead cover for a gamefish
Floating Leaf Vegetation like lily pads will grow in slack water. These areas will attract fish like sunfish, crappie, largemouth bass and northern pike.
Undercut banks hold gamefish
Undercut Banks usually form along outside bends where the current erodes away shoreline materials. This creates an overhang which can provide shelter to many different kinds of gamefish.
docks provide cover for largemouth and other gamefish
Docks can be great fish-holding areas. Larger docks provide both overhead cover and eddies on the front and back sides of the posts (if they are large enough). Smaller docks will offer some shade, but larger docks with canopies will offer the best protection and therefore be more attractive to gamefish.
freshly fallen trees provide cover for a while
Freshly Fallen Trees will have many branches both large and small that will break the current and create a large eddy that can hold crappie or other fish that prefer slow current. However, over time (a year or two) the small branches will rot away – but the tree may still hold fish that tolerate faster current.

Again, all images provided by this great reference that I strongly suggest you get a copy of: The Freshwater Angler™: Fishing Rivers & Streams.

Moving Forward

Next, we’ll take a look at what species of fish prefer what water temperatures. We’ll also discuss what can cause that temperature to change in rivers & streams. This will come in handy as we start to explore new water this year – so make sure to stay tuned for those videos as we report on both success and failure.

AJ Hauser 3lb Smallmouth Bass
AJ Hauser with a healthy smallmouth bass.

Progress, progress, progress. Tight lines!

NEXT SECTION: Preferred Temperature Ranges of Warmwater Gamefish
PREVIOUS SECTION: Cover & Current Breaks [Part 1]

[ Back to the Index Page for Learn How To Fish Rivers & Streams ]

Next: Have You Ever Caught CRAPPIE This Way? Don’t tell your buddies…

A Crappie Fishing Secret

It’s So Easy the Kids Caught Fish Doing It, and it doesn’t involve a bobber

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