Find out where the fish are hiding. Fish like to hide in the low-current places such as behind rocks or downed trees because that’s where the food drops out of the river’s swift current. Gold will do the same thing. It will drop out and settle into the gravels whenever the water flow is no longer strong enough to keep it moving. Remember, gold is 19.3 times heavier than the water that’s pushing it. The only metal heavier than gold is platinum which is 21.4 times heavier than water.
When you get to the stream, view it from a high vantage point so you can read the stream in question. Remember, during flood stage the gold will take the straightest and shortest route. Look for gravel bars left high and dry from the winter flood. They are going to be on the inside corners where the water flow slows. The outside of a turn is where the water flows the fastest and you might find some color there but not as much as you will find on the inside. You can usually find “flood gold” every spring in the top eight inches.
Look for downed trees across the stream and the gravels behind them on the downstream side; it acts like a big riffle collecting the stream’s heavier material behind it. Look for boulder patches. The gold will drop out between these big rocks and eventually work its way under them. Be very careful when moving these big rocks, as they can roll and cause bodily harm.
Look for exposed bedrock and follow it into the river and up the bank, popping all the cracks as you go and cleaning them out. If the bedrock is pointed and sharp, someone has already been there ahead of you. But, if the bedrock has been worn smooth from the water flowing over it, you are looking at an unworked area. The bedrock will rise and fall creating low spots that fill with the heavier material, these are areas to concentrate on also.
Start test panning the areas that looked most promising. When you start finding lead fishing weights and old shotgun pellets you are in a good spot. Keep digging and testing, putting all the lead you find to the side to be disposed of later. Be sure to remove this toxic lead from all rivers and streams to do your part for the environment.
Now, you should be finding some smaller pieces of gold, as you go down they will get a little larger. Watch the sides of your hole as you go, looking at the different layers. The layers with the larger rocks are heavy water years and pushed a lot more gold than the sandy layers with out any pebbles. Bigger rocks mean bigger gold! As you are testing the layers and you find one that is giving more colors than the rest, start drifting. Follow the layers that are producing and testing every so often as you go as to stay in the pay streak. Remember that gold is where you find it and sometimes it has missed a good place to hide.