Man Fishing River


You’ve heard the saying ‘softly, softly catchy monkey’, but the same approach can help you land more fish. Fly fishos talk about the perfect fly, ideal conditions, compare casting techniques, and chatter about tackle, but many overlook stealth as a key component in their fish-taking success.

This is especially relevant for lake and impoundment fishos making the transition to river fishing. On the impoundments, it isn’t uncommon for the fish to come within a rod length of your fairly conspicuous position, but on the river, it is a different game. The stocked fish are likely used to human presence, making them approachable, but many river species are not, and therefore easily spooked.


Most fly fishermen know that movement within the water must be kept to a minimum, but most don’t realise the full implications of their movement out of the water. Near my house there is a river with a small footpath bridge about 20 metres above the water. Because Trout and other river species have birds of prey as a potential threat, they are incredibly astute to movement above the water and will easily spook if there is footfall over the bridge.

Keep your movement slow and cautious when moving along the river’s edge as well as in the water to avoid spooking your catch. I’ve seen blokes crawl up to the waters edge. You don’t have to do this, but feel free if you want a bit more adventure in your fishing. At the very least, keep a low body position when scurrying around at the water’s edge. When the conditions are clear and there is good visibility in the water, plenty of river species have a good eye for movement above them.


Despite what the magazine covers suggest, fly fishing in brightly coloured gear won’t do you any favours. Your stealth tactics should start at home. Put on something which blends in with the surroundings. Browns and greens will help you blend in and give you the edge.

Flashy watches, bracelets, and rings also need to stay at home. The reflection from the sun can scare the fish away. I learnt this from a Kiwi guide when I was fly fishing in New Zealand last year. Leave your bling in the car.


Sound travels further under water, so keeping sound to a minimum is imperative. Heaps of wading staffs come with metal tips, which clatter against rocks and cause a racket under the surface. If you think you’re making a bit of noise, you are probably painfully loud underwater. Move twice as quietly as you think you need to and you’ll notice an improvement in your catch volume.


Some species, including Trout, feed by sitting facing upstream and waiting for food to drift their way. As a result, they are usually facing upstream while feeding. Approach the water from downstream to maximise your chances of remaining in invisible and elusive. If you have to walk downstream, walk away from the water’s edge and circle back to your chosen location.


Moving shadows are a sure-fire way to spook fish. Avoid this by fishing with the sun in your face, casting your shadow out behind you rather than in front where you are casting.


To stop your line spooking the fish, cast into the area closer to you first, then gradually cast further and further away. Don’t start by trying to hit the opposite bank. Your line will spook any fish lurking in the area between you and your cast. By casting closer first, the fish further away won’t see your line until it drops on top of them.

Be stealthy and elusive to get the drop on Trout and other river species. Fish are not as stupid as you think. Respect their intelligence, keep noise and movement to a minimum and you will notice a serious improvement in the volume of fish you are catching.


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Jackson Williams
Jackson Williams

Jackson Williams has been fishing around Australia for 20 years and loves his home region of far north Queensland.