How to Fish Rivers

Tips & Techniques on How to Fish Rivers


Big, small, slow & fast! Rivers can be quite intimidating to those who don’t know how to fish them, but when you do you will never look at river the same! Let’s start off with a few tips on basic river fishing.

My first tip.

Scouting a river or stream is by looking at my surroundings, is it fishable? Can I fish it without getting caught up on my back cast? Can it be fished with a roll cast in those tight spots? Also ask yourself where are the holes I need to fish from these tight quarters and can it be done.

My second tip.

Water conditions; clarity, water temperatures, and water depth, this will give me a good idea on how I can start and where I can fish it best. With high water levels fishing the river and stream banks I find to be very successful with fish tending to push to the shoreline when water levels are rising. When the water levels are lower, I tend to lean towards pools, eddies, and riffles. These areas are great spots to focus on when the river is slow and low. Trout for instance love to hold in deeper areas which offer cover on the river banks or behind structure like dead trees or boulders. Finding these spots will offer all anglers a greater chance in hooking into some great fish.

My third tip.

Walking and wading; and if I’m alone how do I stay safe and not get myself in a pickle? Not being able to cross the river or coming back, or having troubles crossing the river in general things you should take into consideration. Knowing your river before you go fishing alone is key, staying safe especially when you fishing alone it’s very important and can mean life or death in certain situations while fishing rivers. So if you’re not familiar with a new river system bring a friend or just don’t wander off to far from your waypoint.

So now that I’ve covered my first 3 pointers, let’s kick this thing off strong and really get down to the fun stuff.

We all know that rivers hold fish that are big and small but how do we find out where they are? Like I mentioned in my second tip, we look for structure. Structure is key when fishing large or smaller rivers, fish like trout tend to use these areas to hold while either migrating up river or for feeding. Structure like boulders create swirls under the rivers service which shoots food in behind the boulder in a slower motion while the trout are facing up stream. This gives the trout the opportunity to feed while using minimal energy to create energy. Fishing these areas from behind the boulder or casting up stream to the boulder are great tactics for catch fish in structure.

So what times are best for fishing, morning, afternoon, or night? This can be a grey area depending on the water temperatures. Early morning can offer some great fishing in certain areas of the Province if not all, a lot of bugs come off the morning and can be very rewarding for the fly anglers when using dry flies. The Afternoon depending on the weather, can be a bit slower. If the temperatures are high, this will slow down the fish from eating and if you’re a fly angler like I am, this is when I start to nymph the river while going down deep. The evening will offer anglers yet another hatch! The fish will go ramped and the surface action could be remarkable. This is why I love fly fishing, it’s the anticipation of what’s next or what’s around the next corner; and will I get my best catch yet?

River systems hold a great amount of bug life. The entomology of the sport and understanding it is going to be critical for any fly angler or fisherman. Knowing this part with improve your success as a fly angler and offer greater respect to the sport. It also offers the opportunity to teach to others.

Nymphs, dry flies, streamers are great options and are very important for every angler. I first started to understand bug life after 6 years already in the sport and by self-educating by researching online, watching YouTube videos, going to fly fishing seminars, and also signing up for fly tying courses as a young child at my local fly shop. This gave me a great introduction which I have evolved from immensely after 20 years as a fly angler.

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