Sight Unseen: How to Fish Through Bad Weather

Three pros share their secrets for how to spot fish in unfavorable conditions.

Photograph by Brian Grossenbacher

Nothing is sweeter than sight fishing on a calm summer day in crystal-clear water. It’s even better when the fish are feeding a short cast away. But when a storm rolls in, the wind picks up, or a cold front pushes your targets out of the skinny stuff, sight casting can turn sour. However, it can be done if you’re willing to plan carefully, put in your time, and lean on the tips from these expert sight-­fishing guides from across the U.S.

When a Sudden Storm Approaches

Pro: Asher Koles
Home Water: Provo River, Utah
Target: Trout rising to a hatch

Even if spotting big fish in clear water has been the game all day, Koles doesn’t panic when a storm looms. “A storm coming means there’s a drop in pressure,” he says. “This usually triggers a hatch. The cloud cover also diffuses the water’s surface, making the fish feel safer and making it more difficult for them to spot an angler.”

Of course, it’s harder for you to fully see the fish, too, so the key now is to read the rise forms, Koles advises. Splashy rises typically mean small fish. Soft rises or swirls are usually the bigger ones. In low light, it can be easier to pick out rise forms up- or downstream than directly across.

After a Cold Front

Pro: Kevin Morlock
Home Water: Lake Michigan
Target: Carp moving to deeper waters

“When there’s a cold snap, carp move off the flats fast to look for warmer waters,” Morlock says. “If that happens, I go where they were yesterday first and look for any lingering fish. If there’s no life whatsoever, it’s time to start working the flats edges.”

The problem with fishing the edges, however, is that they’re deeper. Add in some cloud cover and mud from rooting fish, and getting a good line of sight on your targets becomes tricky.

“Look for little mud tornadoes,” Morlock says. “The tighter the spiral, the more recently it was made. Sometimes that’s all you have to go on to lead a fish when conditions are poor.”

During Strong Winds

Pro: Justin Price
Home Water: Mosquito Lagoon, Fla.
Target: Redfish feeding in the shallows

“When the wind kicks up, do your best to get out of wide open water,” Price says. “Find the lee side of an island and work the shoreline. The water under the mangroves won’t have as much wind ripple, and it’s easier to spot fish in the shade here.”

If you simply can’t escape open flats, put your boat in the skinniest water you can find. According to Price, the shallower you get, the slower the boat will blow in the wind. As you ride the gusts, look for fish in downwind holes or channels where baitfish may get blown to waiting reds. Weighted lures and flies will get into the strike zone faster when it’s windy.