Trout Fishing photo

I love sight fishing. There is nothing better than picking out a fish camouflaged among the weeds or against a gravel river bottom, then making that cast and earning the bite.

My young son is getting into it also. He has his first pair of little polarized glasses now, and we like to walk along the river, sometimes without a rod or flies, just looking for fish. He summed up the game of spotting fish perfectly last summer when he said, “Hey Dad, this is just like playing Where’s Waldo!” Indeed… while fish don’t wear little red and white striped shirts and beanie hats… the approach with spotting fish is the same as it is when you are playing the game in the children’s book. What you ultimately want to key on with your eyes is the slight inconsistency that gives your subject away amid a jumbled pattern around it.

Here are five tips to help you spot fish better (especially when they don’t pop out like these rainbows).


1. The secret to spotting fish is knowing where to look. Sounds like a Yogi Berra-ism, I know, but if you know where trout hang out… on current seams, in tailouts of pools, on cushions in front of rocks, and fix your gaze in those spots, you’ll see fish. Think of looking through a 3-foot by 3-foot window pane that moves with your eyes from one fishy spot to another.

2. Put the sun behind you, without putting your shadow in front of you. Do that, and the river lights up so you can see better.
3. Look through the water column,** not only at the bottom or the surface of the river. Looking through the water allows you to pick up motions that reveal a fish’s presence.
4. You’re looking for a star, not the whole night sky**. In other words, focus your gaze, and realize that what you are really looking for is a fin, or a shadow, or a glint reflecting off scales. You don’t see a whole fish (usually) until you learn how to spot part of a fish.

5. Learn to recognize what is NOT a trout. If you teach yourself what wagging weeds and sticks on the bottom and so forth look like, you hone in on finding the trout through the process of eliminating distractions.

Do you have any sight fishing secrets? I’m all ears (er… eyes)…