I paid special attention to the fly fishing guide from Minturn Anglers in Denver when he started talking about pocket water. First of all I had no idea what he was referring to, until he explained that a “pocket” of water was an area behind and in front of a large boulder or rock where water moves slower than the water flowing around the rock. These areas are like tiny pools where fish tend to gather for relief from fighting the surrounding current.
The description set off a spark in my mind, confirmed when the fishing guide went on so say that beginner fly fishers should focus on casting to pocket waters as the best way to increase catch rates. The suggestion was to first cast to the area behind the boulder. Not only do fish gather in this area to rest, but they also congregate in these areas because the rapid surrounding current tends to move food into the pool. Fish often simply sit in the pool and feast on the food brought to them. The Minturn Angler staff suggested that a streamer, nymph or a dry fly can be quite effective.
If you are not getting immediate action from the pocket pool, try casting the faster sides of the pocket stream where fish may be lurking and feeding on food carried by the rapid current. The faster current here quickly moves your fly out of the area. I was advised that it may be necessary to cast the fly several times before being successful.
Try the pocket in front of the bolder as well. The current hitting the rock creates a cushioned area. Fish like to sit here as well, with mouths open and simply catching food as it comes to them. The guide suggested that the best approach is to cast ahead and let the fly float into the pocket.
Fishing pocket waters has another advantage, I learned. There is no special casting technique involved, allowing the fly fisher to use whatever casting style works to position the fly in the pocket. Still, the next time I book a Minturn Anglers guide I will be sure to ask for hands-on instruction, just to improve my style and success rate!