Last month we ran a great article from Alaska West alum, Jeff Forsee, on ten tips on sight fishing for trout. We love sight fishing for big trout in gin-clear back channels at Alaska West. Not only is it a blast to watch a fish take a fly, it’s also extremely effective. After all, your odds go way up once you can see what you’re trying to catch!
Therefore, today we’re coming at you with 5 more tips for one of our favorite ways of targeting rainbow trout in western Alaska.. Sight fishing!
Sight Fishing for Trout – 5 (more) Tips
In our previous article on sight fishing, we focused primarily on how to spot fish. After all it’s tough to sight fish for trout if you can’t see them. Today, we focus on the rest of the experience. That is, once you have spotted your quarry.
- Work Upstream. Trout can only move in one direction, forward, and therefore nearly always point upstream in a riverine environment. Thus, it is important to work upstream in order to avoid being detected. Sure, there are times when working upstream is not desirable, but when looking to spot fish, working upstream whenever possible is your best bet.
- Stay Low. We don’t mean you have to crawl on your hands and knees. However, trout are believed to have a cone of vision that extends out of the water with an outward bend (due to the refraction of light), leaving around a 1o degree blind spot from the surface to the ‘cone.’ Staying low can keep you nearly invisible at certain distances while attempting to make your cast.
- Hold Your Cast. Upon spotting a fish, a common mistake is to make your cast as quickly as possible. Instead, take a moment to study his behavior. If you have done everything right, odds are he has no idea you are there. Perhaps he is moving back and forth between structure and a feeding lane. Or, maybe the fish you spotted isn’t the largest fish in the lie. Study the situation and make your cast when your target is most comfortable.
- Let Him Eat. We get it, it’s exciting to watch a fish eat your fly. However, when anglers are able to see the take, they often pull the fly right out of the fish’s mouth (especially on bigger fish). Allow the fish time to close his mouth or turn his head before setting the hook.
- Fish Out a Refusal. Being able to watch a fish eat your fly means being able to watch a fish refuse your fly as well. If a fish rolls at your fly but does not take, continue to fish out your drift well below your target. It’s not uncommon for an aggressive fish to ‘stun’ its prey and chase it down a few feet down the run. Furthermore, ripping your fly out of the water immediately after a refusal is a great way to spook the fish as well.
Jim Herman says
If I may, I would add one small caveat to Tip #1: Work Upstream…..
While working upstream is, without pause, the most fundamental of techniques when sight fishing, we would do well to remember that any time we are fishing upstream (not only when sight fishing), we will almost certainly encounter swirls and eddies that are likely to hold fish. When these situations occur, the fish will most times be facing into the current created by the swirl or eddy, which will frequently cause the fish to be facing DOWNSTREAM. Learn to anticipate and recognize these counterintuitive circumstances and plan your presentations to these spots accordingly.
Kyle Shea says
Fantastic point Jim! Hydrodynammics rule when it comes to trout lies and presentations. Thanks for weighing in!