River Fishing Techniques, Tackles, and Proven Tips

river fishing techniques, tackles and proven tips

What makes fishing interesting is the versatile options it offers. You can fish in a pond, stream, lake, ocean, sea, or river. Most anglers prefer fishing in rivers because they are readily accessible and offer versatile fishing options.

River fishing is ideal for beginners who don’t want to carry expensive fishing equipment. They can also learn the art of fishing in a river before advancing to other large water bodies.

So, what do you need for river fishing? Here, we will discuss how to catch fish in a river, river fishing tips, and the techniques you can employ to improve your fishing success.

Larry Stark

Professional fisherman, who loves to review new fishing gadgets.

Table of Contents

What Fishing Technique Do You Employ When Fishing in a River?

The fishing technique you employ depends on the species you’re targeting. Different species have different feeding patterns, and the type of technique you choose should match their feeding conditions.

I prefer fishing in areas with structures and underwater vegetation. I like casting my line in areas with thick cover, sunken trees, weed lines, branches, and stamps because these areas usually attract insects and baitfish.

Other areas where you can find fish include rock piles, big rocks, and boulders. If fishing in fast-flowing water, I prefer fishing in tailwaters and backwaters. This is because most species don’t like feeding when the water is rolling.

Also, the water is constantly rolling around, thus decreasing the chances of noticing the lure. I caught a trophy trout by casting my lure into calmer water.

You can also fish in areas with a change in depth and current because some fish species hide in river bottoms and drop-offs. You can tell where the current water breaks by checking the spots where the water slows downs or swirls.

You will find a few fish feeding for baitfish in areas where there is a current change.

River Fishing from a Bank

river fishing from a bank

As a beginner, the best place to start fishing is from a river bank. When using this fishing technique, ensure you get as close to the river as possible so that you can be able to make 45-degree casts.

Moreover, ensure you’ve carried the right baits and lures to increase the chances of inducing a bite. Most river fishermen fish from a bank using spinning and fly fishing methods.

If fishing in a stream, focus on making short, pinpoint casts. Doing this helps cast your bait without snagging it in cover and branches behind you.

Since there are many rocks and boulders in streams, ensure you fish in slower water, deeper pools, and under the river banks. Also, use these tips when fishing in a smaller river.

If you’re fishing from the bank of a big river, ensure you make longer casts. Most fish in big rivers like hiding in deep areas and don’t linger in areas with shallow water. You can use the best fish finder for bank fishing to locate where the fish is.

Cast upstream and let the current carry your bait when river fishing from a bank. Also, stay quiet and use the right spinning tackle. You can as well use a fly rod. I recommend this fishing technique to beginners or anglers who want to fish but don’t have advanced fishing equipment.

Wade Fishing in a River

wade fishing in a river

Wade fishing is another excellent fishing technique you can use to find fish. This fishing technique aims to get to areas you can’t access when fishing from a river bank.

Always wear wading clothes to protect you against the cold water when wade fishing. Also, bring a lighter tackle and rods to make your movement easier. Ideally, carry an ultralight fishing gear, live bait, and a backpack.

Wading in unfamiliar areas can be dangerous, so plan your route. Streams and rivers change constantly, and you don’t want to get in deep pools. Always use a wading staff to guide you when navigating in an unfamiliar rivers.

If fishing in a big river with a lot of current, keep your body sideways to help decrease the force of the current.

In an emergency, you can let go of the fishing gear to use both your hands to swim or move to safety. Wade fishing is ideal for anglers with limited fishing gear who want to catch different species.

River Fly Fishing

river fly fishing

Did you know you can land a rainbow trout by fly fishing? This fishing technique differs from other fishing methods, and you need to practice more to get it right.

Most anglers prefer fly fishing because there are many species you can catch using this method. The most popular species you can catch include trout, smallmouth bass, carp, salmon, and Pike.

This fishing method’s best tackle includes a fly rod, fly reels, fishing line, tippet, and flies. Ensure the flies you bring along can imitate the movement of a bait fish or insects.

When using this technique, ensure you cast the fly upstream and let it flow naturally to the downstream side where the river fish feed. Casting upstream help your bait fish appear as naatural as possible.

River Fishing from a Boat

river fishing from a boat

Most anglers prefer this river fishing technique as it is versatile. By fishing from a boat, you can fish in most river places, including in the deeper water where big fish like hiding.

The type of tackle you use depends on the type of species you’re targeting. When river fishing from a boat, ensure the water current are not too strong to enable you to navigate your boat safely.

If fishing in a big river, it’s advisable to tag along an experienced guide to help you get the most out of your fishing trip.

What Fish Species Can You Catch in a River?

Many fish species reside in rivers, and the one you catch depends on the location and the water temperatures. Here is a list of the most popular game fish you can catch in a river.


Trout are common in rivers and like residing in areas with slow water, like pools and deep waters where the current is slow. You can also find them in areas under the river banks.

Trout are most active during spring, and you can catch them early or late afternoon. Like rainbow trout, most species reside in cold waters, which are less oxygenated water.

Live bait and small lures work best when fishing for trout. Bring a spinning tackle, a fly rod, and baits such as worms, minnows, and mealworms.

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass like residing in rivers with warm waters. The potential gold mine you can find bass includes areas with logs and lily pads.

Smallmouth bass is mostly active mid-to-late afternoon until sunset. They are more active during summer, and you have to cast further because they like feeding in deeper areas.

When targeting bass, use live bait such as minnows, worms, and frogs. Use lures such as swimbaits and crankbaits if you prefer to lure fishing.


Crappies are common river fish that are more active in warm waters. They like residing in medium-depth waters, and you can also find them in cooler water pockets. They also like feeding around areas with a cover like sunken trees and near drop-offs.

Crappies are more active during late mornings and late afternoons and will feed until sunset. If you prefer ice fishing, you can target crappie, as they are active during early fall. Use live bait like minnows and artificial lures such as soft plastic jigs.

Yellow Perch

Yellow perch are popular game fish that reside in cool rivers. They like feeding in areas with shallow waters, and you will find plenty of them during summer. You can find a trophy yellow perch in deeper waters, especially areas with cover.

You can catch more fish in the river from midday to late afternoon. Nile perch are active all year round, and you can catch them using live bait and small lures like spinners and PowerBaits. If fishing in the iced river, use small spoons and jigs with mealworms or waxworms.

Other fish species you can catch in rivers include salmon, walleye, muskellunge, Pike, bluegill, and catfish.

River Fishing Tackle

The beauty of river fishing is you don’t need to buy complicated fishing gear. Here is the essential river fishing tackle you should carry to make your fishing journey successful.


Fishing in a river requires you to use light and flexible fishing rods if fishing in a shallow river, a light rod of between 7-10 foot range will do.

If fishing in a deep and wide river, use longer rods of up to 13 feet because they improve the casting distance. They are also ideal if you’re doing bottom fishing. If targeting trout, ensure you choose the best fly rod for trout to increase the chances of landing a trophy trout.

Buy rods made of graphite and fiberglass because they are lightweight and durable. If you like float fishing in large rivers with fast-flowing water, use baitcasting rods because they are versatile and can hold large fish.


The fishing line you use depends on the fish species you’re targeting and how clear the water is. If fishing in clear waters, use a fluorocarbon line because it’s lightweight and almost invisible in clear waters.

Some anglers prefer fishing with monofilament lines, especially when fly fishing. When using a monofilament line, ensure the line weighs between 4-22 lbs.


There are different reels that you can use when fishing in a river. The fishing reels you choose depends on your preferences and the type of fishing you’re doing.

Ensure the size of the reel you choose matches the size of the rod. Use fly fishing reels if you target trout and a spinning reel for salmon and steelhead trout. Spinning reels are also ideal if you are fishing with lighter lures.

If fishing in a big river, use baitcasting reels, which are the best for throwing heavy lures and baits. Since you will be dealing with lighter gear, you must use smaller reels between sizes 1,000-2500. Use reels with a front drag because they are easy to handle when fishing in a river.


It’s not a must for you to use a leader when casting and spinning in a river. This is because leaders can prevent the fish from spotting your lure. If it’s a must, use a leader and ensure it’s up to 4 feet long.

When fly fishing, use a leader of a length between 6 feet to 12 feet. The actual length you choose depends on the area you’re fishing at.

If fishing in smaller streams and rivers with heavy brush, choose a smaller leader up to 9 feet long. However, you will need a longer leader fishing in a wide river with clear water. Ideally, the leader should be between 9 feet and 12 feet long.

If you want to extend the leader, add a foot of tippet at the end and ensure you secure it with a surgeon’s knot. Tippets are usually added when a good fish shy away from taking dry fly because it makes the lure drift more naturally, thus giving a subtle presentation.


Sinkers work best, especially for anglers who want to lower their baits and lures to a certain depth. They also help to propel your rig farther when casting.

There are different types of sinkers, and the one you choose depends on your personal preferences. Most anglers prefer egg sinkers because they are almost compatible with all rigs.

If targeting smaller fish, choose small sinkers from 1/4 oz. However, there are larger sinkers that you can use if you target larger fish.

Main River Fishing Tips

You can follow many tips when fishing in a river to increase the chances of catching fish. Here are some tips that will enhance your fishing experience.

Find the Fast Water

You can increase the chances of catching fish by fishing in the fast-moving waters. This is because fish like hiding at the river bottoms where the current is not strong.

Most anglers fail to secure a catch in fast-moving water because they use light lures that don’t get deep enough to induce a bite. Using sinkers in these areas will help your bait reach where the fish is hiding.

Ensure the bait you’re using bounces along the bottom, and you can only achieve this by using sinkers that bounce after every second.

Additionally, ensure you cast upstream so your lure can sink and bounce the bottom for the longest stretch of the river. This allows your lure to cover more bottoms, thus increasing the chances of inducing a bite.

Seek Out the Depths

There are times when water in a river significantly reduces because of lack of rain. If fishing during this season, target fish live in the shallowest areas because that is where oxygenated water is.

Fish Early and Late

Knowing the best time to find your preferred species is ideal if you plan to go river fishing. Most fish species are active early in the morning and late in the evening.

Go an hour before sunrise or an hour after sunset because the food is abundant during this time, and the fish are actively feeding.

Remember, most fish species are less active during the day and prefer hiding in cooler, deeper waters. However, some species, like yellow perch, are active from midday to late afternoon.