How to Fish in Freshwater (Like Streams and Rivers)

Most fishermen get their start by fishing for trout in a local stream. This tends to be a delightful way to fish because it offers you the opportunity to find seclusion and to enjoy some time on the water in a picturesque setting.

As you get started with freshwater stream fishing, you will find that you are developing your own techniques according to the type of water where you are fishing. That being said, here are some of the more common types of fish and methods that are used which can help you get started with this enjoyable pastime. River fishing is very similar to stream fishing, although it is done on a larger scale.

Basically, you are fishing water that is on the move, which makes it quite different than fishing stationary water, as we discussed in the chapter on pond and lake fishing. In many cases, fish still tend to look for the same or similar hiding places that you will find on the lake, but they may be located in different areas. We will discuss some of those specific areas in the techniques section of this chapter.

Regardless of whether you are fishing in a local stream or if you are going to go to a river, it is crucial for you to be safety conscious.

Even small streams can turn treacherous in the right types of weather conditions, and you need to be conscious about the area around you, even though you are likely to be paying attention to the waterfront of you. You should also be aware of other wildlife in the area, particularly if you are in a secluded region in the wild. You are intruding on their space, and in some cases, wildlife can get aggressive. It is unlikely to happen, and being aware of your surroundings makes it possible to avoid bad situations in most cases.

Common Fish Species

The majority of those who are going to take part in stream or river fishing will be fishing for trout. Streams also offer a wide variety of other possibilities, such as fishing for suckers or for salmon, depending upon the location where you will be fishing. Here are some of the most common types of freshwater stream and river species that are found in most areas.

Brook Trout

The brook trout is native to the United States and can be found in many of the smaller streams that have fairly good water quality. The areas of the stream that are frequented by the brook trout are much shallower than those that are preferred by the Brown Trout.

Known as the “brookie,” they are relatively aggressive and look for vegetation in the stream to provide the cover that they need. Brook Trout are small in comparison to rainbow or brown trout, and if you get one that is much larger than 12 inches, you can consider it a trophy.

Rainbow Trout

The rainbow trout can be found in many areas of the United States, but it is native to the West Coast. In most other areas, they are stocked by the Department of Natural Resources during trout season, but there also pockets of rainbow trout available in cold-water streams throughout the United States. The rainbow trout prefers a faster flowing, whitewater streams. Many anglers love to catch rainbow trout because they are quite acrobatic and will typically jump several times while you are retrieving them

Brown Trout

A cautious fish, the Brown Trout must be stalked if you want to catch them successfully. Even casting your shadow on the water where they are hiding could make them skittish for a few hours. Brown trout are from Europe, but they can be found throughout the United States and are often stocked by the Department of Natural Resources for trout season. They are a larger breed of trout than the brook trout or rainbow trout, and in some areas of the United States, you might be able to land a trophy fish of 24 inches or larger.

Salmon Fishing In some areas of the United States, salmon fishing is a prevalent and well-followed sport. A number of different species exists, including Chinook (King Salmon), Chum, Coho, Sockeye, Pink and Steelhead. Freshwater fishing for salmon may be possible year-round, but when they are running, the action can get intense.

Tackle

Most fishermen enjoy stream fishing with an ultra-light spinning rod and a fast action. If you are going to be fishing in an open meadow, you can opt for a longer rod which will give you more of a feel for the fish but if you are going to be fishing in the woods or other areas that are more confined, you should use a rod that is less than five feet in length.

The hooks that are used for fishing for trout are much smaller than you would use for other species of fish. Typically, you will be using a #10 hook, although it is possible to increase the size in some cases. It is not generally necessary for you to have much in the way of weight for your line. In fact, it is better if you use less weight because you want to drift the bait in a natural way down the stream past the waiting fish. In some cases, you would benefit from using some split shot sinkers but do not to overdo it.

Bait

Fishing for trout is often done with natural bait, such as night crawlers and insect larva. You can often pick up enough of these natural baits at your local bait shop for use in a typical afternoon on the water. You can also enjoy gathering night crawlers on your own, provided the weather is right, and you live in the right part of

the country. Other popular options for fishing for trout include corn, cheese, and small minnows. Different types of hardware can also be used for fishing for trout, although some of the native species are rather choosy. Jigs and spinners are popular for fishing streams, and a wide variety of colors are available. You should try to choose a color and size, which matches the natural bait that it is trying to mimic, and you will likely find more success in doing so.

Techniques

The technique that you use will differ, depending upon the type of water that you are fishing and the bait that you are using. For the night crawler, you can either drift it downstream or find a pool of water and simply let it sit on the bottom.

Other forms of bait, such as cheese or corn, can be drifted downstream past areas that are likely to contain feeding trout such as eddies or where some rough water enters into a pool. Try to keep the bait as natural as possible and avoid pulling it upstream. It is also essential for you to stay hidden while you are fishing for trout. If the fish see you or if your shadow goes across the water, it could startle the fish, and they will remain skittish for quite some time. You should also be light-footed, as trout can sense vibrations. Avoid walking in the water, unless you have hip waders and are fishing upstream.

The time of day is also important for fishing for trout. Although you may get a bite or two in the middle of a hot summer afternoon, it is best if you fish in the early morning, particularly when the weather is warm. In the springtime, while the water is still quite cold, you may find some success fishing in the afternoon hours.

You might also enjoy fishing after a storm passes, as the changes in barometric pressure have been known to cause fish to get into a feeding frenzy. If you are casting hardware, such as spinners or jigs, you do not need to be concerned about the drift being natural.

Hardware is meant to mimic some of the natural food available to trout, such as minnows and these can swim upstream, as well as downstream. Identifying areas of the stream or river where fish tend to congregate can help to improve your odds of being successful. Here are some of the common areas that you may want to try, the next time you’re on the water.

Eddies

We mentioned this briefly, but it is worth mentioning a second time. Fast-moving water can enter into a larger area of the stream or river, which would create a backflow or Eddie. This is often seen on the surface as a whirlpool, or it may be a slow area of water in the middle of fast-moving water. Fish tend to congregate in this area because food gets caught in the Eddie and is easy prey.

Bends

Any time that the water makes a change in direction, it could create an area where fish would gather and feed. The best choice for fishing at a bend is to fish on the outside edge because the water tends to be slower moving and any food which is traveling down the current could get pushed to that area. If there is also any type of shelter in the area, such as a rock or a fallen tree, it could produce an even better place to cast your line.

Boulders

When the river or stream has a boulder, it is going to break up the natural movement of the water. Not only will the water flow around the object on either side, but it is also going to form a pocket of calm water where the fast water meets it. Fish will tend to be in that area, facing the moving water and watching for any food that may be moving downstream. Trying to drift your bait naturally by these areas and you may find some success.

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