Updated: Apr 21, 2020
When I decided to start fishing I was in California at the time working. It was something that I felt I could do after work to help me relax as well as challenge me to learn something new. The thought of trying to figure out what I could to catch fish and out smart them, so to say, was a good way for me to relax and enjoy myself. So I bought a rod, some tackle, and some lures and went out targeting large mouth bass. Since I did not have a boat or have any access to a boat I did all of my fishing from the bank.Well I still don’t have a boat so my fishing is still from the bank today. I feel like this has pushed me to learn and challenge myself to get better at fishing and all the skills that are necessary for being successful on the river.
These are some beginning tips and tricks for improving your river bank fishing. It will take practice like everything else but if you stick to it you will find your skills improve along the way, which translates to having more fun, at least in my book.
When I moved to Idaho it felt like I had to learn a whole new different way of fishing. Not only was I targeting a different type of fish but I was fishing from more river banks and dealing with water ways that behaved differently. The first thing I had to do was to find the fish.
A river will, most of the time, always have fish. It depends on the type of river, how fast it is flowing, how much water is flowing in it at that time, and structure in the river can dictate where the fish are going to be. For starting out just begin by focusing on a few things to find the fish. These are Seams/structure, and pools.
A seam on a river is a spot where two different water currents converge. Usually it can be distinguished by one side of the river moving faster and then next to it slower moving water. At least this is the more common type of seam. Seams can be formed when slower moving water meets faster moving water.
You can see that the sand bar acts as a divide and creates a seam where the faster water in the background of the picture and the slower moving water in the foreground. In this case with this river the slower moving water was only a foot to a foot and a half deep and visibility was fairly clear that whole depth.
Fish tend to congregate here because they can hang out in the slower moving water right next to the faster moving water and feed on any food that floats by or venture out of the seam into the calmer water. It also allows them to rest and not use as much energy swimming in the faster moving current.
I have found that these seams can be unpredictable when it comes to how water is flowing under the surface. I would cast a lure into the what looks like a calm pool and be able to feel my lure moving in all kinds of different directions. This often dictates what lure or bait to use when fishing these seams. Although it can be difficult to predict using the right lure and/or bait fishing these seams could be very productive.
Structure is included because it can create seams in the water flow which in turn creates little places of refuge behind or on the side of the structure. Structure can be anything from boulders, bridge pylons, to trees. If it is big enough to create seams and pools of refuge it will have some fish behind it or around it.
When I say pools I am talking about pools that form in bends of the river. There are are some rivers that have meandered to the degree where they have eroded away enough shoreline that the faster moving current is no longer on the shoreline. These areas sometimes have a very slow current moving through them. These pools=use to be a part of the main river until an different way was made by erosion but it still has water flowing through it.
These pools can be surprisingly deep at times and be a great place for fish congregate. The fish usually feed off of what gets brought in by the slow moving current as well as any other bugs or smaller fish that happen to be close by. Again with the right bait and or lures these areas can be very productive. Since these areas are deeper and tend to be slower moving water it is a great place to practice or get a feel for what the fish are going after.
What to use
Overall there are three main type lures/baits that you should start with. Spinners, nightcrawlers (worms), and spoons.
Spinners are made to replicate smaller fish and when used correctly can be a deadly lure to use in a slow to moderately fast river flow. If the river is moving too fast I have found that the lure takes on an action, movement, that seems to turn off the fish and make it look unnatural. These can come in a variety of colors and weight so choose them based on your rod and line combo and on the river condition you will be fishing. Some spinners can have feathers or thread tied onto the hook. These are called rooster tail lures. They are essentially a spinner but with the added thread/feather. Sometimes switching from a bare spinner to a rooster tail has improved my success with hooking up fish.
As you can see spinners themselves come in many different options. The rooster tail is the lure third from the right.
When using spinners and rooster tails play around with them and get a feel for how they act in the water and how they play your rod. They can be expensive too so if you are fishing in and around structure be prepared to loose a couple to snags.
Spoons Spoons are basically a spinner but without the weight on it. These can range in a variety of sizes, weights, and colors. I have found that the smaller spoons work better for river bank fishing. The lighter or smaller spoons work better for slower moving water but ihave had the occasional hook up in moderately fast water as well when used correctly.
The spoons come in different options as well. There are some that even come with
Again buy multiple sizes and shapes as well color variations and play around with them and understand how there action differs from the spinners as well as how similar it can be. Knowing the difference could be the key to hooking up a stubborn fish.
Nightcrawlers (worms) I have found that something as simple as a four dollar container of a bunch of nightcrawlers and some split shot weights can be a killer set up for a successful day of fishing. The simple way to set this up is to have a size eight bait hook, bait hooks have barbs on the shaft of the hook to hold the bait in place, and then a couple of feet up the line crimping some split shot weights on is the easiest set up.
You can add on as many split shots as your rod or line can handle but I like the line to be less cluttered. Sometimes adding a bobber/float can help with seeing a fish take the bait. Tip for the split shots is to get ones that have the wings so you can take them off the line easier and reuse them as well.
This set up can be used to keep the bait at the bottom of a pool or floated down a slow in moderately fast flowing river. In both cases a float can be added to aid in knowing when you got fish hooked up. A tip, is to cut the nightcrawler in half so there is not a lot of the worm hanging off the hook for the fish to nibble on and make you think that there is a fish on the hook when there really isn't.
Conclusion In my decade or so of river bank fishing I have found these things to be fairly common and key to having a successful day on the bank.In my next post I will talk about Rod type, which line to use, and casting in a river. If you feel like I may have missed something or would like to add something feel free to comment. If you have any questions feel free to ask. I would love to start a discussion. Tight lines and good luck.