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Vol. 17 No. 36 - June 21, 2017

reel time

Sight fishing

Reel time


Fishing from the bow of a boat gives you the advantage of better
visibility and a second pair of eyes.


Most anglers, myself included, spend a large portion of their time on the water throwing live bait, flies and artificial lures at likely looking spots. That might be a grass edge, a pothole, a disturbance on the surface or bird activity. This is an effective way to target fish, but many anglers modify their technique when possible, trying to spot fish before making a cast.

Sight fishing, as the name implies, involves visually locating fish, a shadow, a shape or a push (a fish moving just under the surface) before making a cast. Being able to actually see the fish requires sun, clear water and other visual cues. Many fly fishermen adopt this method because it requires an accurate cast, less casting and can be a more rewarding way to connect with their quarry.

Two methods of sight fishing are generally employed: either wade a flat, moving quietly, carefully and slowly while looking for signs of fish or stand on the bow of a boat while someone pushes you along with a push pole. Anglers who have a trolling motor can also work across a flat while being prepared to make a presentation. You can get closer to fish while wading, but the low angle makes them harder to spot. Fishing from a boat either on the bow or a raised platform improves the visibility, but requires staying further away and making a longer cast to avoid spooking the target.

When using trolling motors the same applies because fish are much warier in shallow water. Whatever method is employed, a pair of polarized glasses, a hat with a dark under bill and an accurate cast are key. Site fishing is effective and rewarding when using fly tackle, artificial lures or live bait.

Fish are normally located by moving slowly across a flat. If they're particularly spooky it can be effective to station yourself within range of a pothole or other visible edge and wait for them to cross the sand where they can easily be spotted. This requires patience, but can pay dividends. To increase your chances, station the boat or stand off to the side in the grass so that you don't cast a shadow. When you see signs of a fish, make as long a cast as possible. When fly fishing make sure that the fly lands lightly and never too close. Anglers using artificial lures and live bait can cast well past the target, bringing it back to a position the fish can see. In both cases, make sure your presentation never moves towards your objective.

If you're wading, make sure you have proper footwear and shuffle your feet as you move across the bottom. Many anglers abandon wading in the winter, but this can be one of the best times of the year. The chances of the water being clear are greater, and you're likely to have less competition. The clarity of the water is itself a good reason to wade. Fish can be extremely wary when the sun is high and the water clear. Wading helps lower your profile, allowing a stealthier approach. Whatever your fishing style give sight fishing a try. Not only can it be effective, but it's a rewarding way to experience the thrill of the catch. Remember, always release any fish you won't be eating fresh and handle them with care, keeping them in the water if possible.

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