Whether it’s a small local waterway behind your house or one of the great rivers of the world, river fishing has been a staple of angling since the dawn of time. It covers an incredibly diverse list of species, techniques, and areas you can experience – everything from your first hook up on a smallie to true monster hunting in the rainforest!
What to Catch
It would take us entire books worth of material to do justice to the many species that you can hook up in rivers around the world. Certain species stick out as the favorite of many anglers – they’re often willing to travel across the globe to land their particular prey!
Trout, Salmon, Arapaima, Walleye, Bass, Tarpon, Barramundi, Catfish, Carp, Tigerfish, Crappie, Perch, Dolly Varden, Muskellunge, Pike, the list of species goes on and on and on. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Species vary greatly from region to region and fishing your local river will be a completely different experience than one several hundred miles away.
Common River Fishing Techniques
Waist-deep in crystal-clear waters as you patiently wait for the perfect strike – wading fans know how to enjoy the outdoors. Proper safety when wading is important, as you’ll step on slippery stones and sinking mud pits that can tip you over in an instant. Move slowly and carefully, and never step if you can’t see the bottom. Your best bet is to make your way as far into the river as you can and cast upstream – you’ll raise debris while moving that makes downstream fishing less productive.
Waterproof clothing is a must as you step through the river towards your target. A light rod, adequate clothing, and a small tackle box is all that you need for a day in the water. Bringing a wading stick (which is the same as a hiking stick) is recommended, it’ll give you a tool to properly secure yourself when moving from rock to rock.
River Bank Fishing
Casting from the shoreline of the river is one of the most popular techniques for reeling in river fish. It’s the perfect way to dip your toe into river fishing and there’s no skill ceiling – a master angler can reel as many fish from the bank as from any other part of the river. Depending on the fish you’re targeting you can go spinning, casting, or fly fishing – techniques, equipment, and bait all change based on your prey.
You can bring any combination of rods, reels, and tackle you need. Everything from the lightest graphite rods to stout heavyweight monstrosities can work if it’s appropriate to the fish. Remember to bring a foldable chair for maximum relaxation.
If there’s a technique that’s hard to get into, it’s back bouncing, but the payoff is incredible! You basically bounce your rig off the bottom, trying to mimic a tasty bite. It sounds easy, but the reality is very different – this entire style revolves around making the perfect move and feeling your rod and line like they’re a part of your body. You want to lift the rig, allow it to float a little further, set it down, and wait a bit before doing it again, and again, and again.
Graphite rods that are stout and light enough for you to feel the movement of your lead are recommended as well as a lot of patience! Everything is about finesse here, the weight has to be heavy enough to keep your rig close to the bottom but not anchor it down, the lure has to be appropriate, the rig has to be just right. It’s all worth it in the end – this technique works extremely well with Salmon and Trout, almost to the point of it being unfair.
One of the most popular fishing techniques out there, widely used in fresh and salt water – for good reason! It’s simple in theory, all you have to do is move your rig vertically up and down while trying to entice the fish to strike. As with most “simple things” in angling, the real difficulty comes down to actually doing it successfully and repeatedly. Anglers often develop custom patterns, lure combinations, and other tricks-of-the-trade that only work in their local fishery.
A wide range of rods and lines can work for you, it all depends on the fish you’re targeting, the waters you’re hitting, and your personal preference. It’s always recommended to try and ask the locals about what works best in the area.
River fly fishing is a completely different beast when compared to other techniques. It’s very rewarding and nothing beats the feeling of getting strike after strike, every time you cast. However, it’s also very hard to master as you’ll have to learn how to present your flies the right way, something called a “fly pattern.” It can be done from the shore, from a boat, while wading, and works on a wide range of species.
Fly fishing equipment might confuse an angler who’s just dipping his toes into this style since you’re now looking at line weight, fly size, and many other factors not present in other techniques. Your local fly shop or guide is your best bet – they’ll give you the scoop on what flies work best for the regional fish.
Popular Fishing Rivers Around the World
One of the staples of fishing in Alaska, the Kenai River is home to some of the finest Chinook and Coho Salmon fishing on the planet! You can also land plenty of Dolly Varden, various Trouts, and many other species.
The biggest river in the world by volume hides equally big fishing opportunities! This is the place to go river fishing if you want to tick some of the meanest fish predators off your bucket list. With species like the Arapaima stalking the waters alongside Armored Catfish, Payara, Peacock Bass, and countless others, it’s the go-to destination for rod-n-reel thrillseekers.
Winding its way through 10 different US states, the Mississippi River is the backbone of many freshwater fishing locales. Walleye, Sauger, Bass, Bluegill, Catfish, Pike, and about 100 other species inhabit this great river. It has everything you could want from a single river, from huge open stretches to winding estuaries – it’s no wonder it’s one of the most important angling destinations in Northern America.
The fourth-largest river in Africa is home to one of the continent’s most sought-after fish: the Tigerfish. Apart from this iconic African freshwater predator you can also hook up Yellow-belly Bream, African Pike, Silver Barbel, Tilapia, and about 70 more species. The perfect place to spice up your next vacation!
Get back to your angling roots and fill your lungs with fresh air. It’s tough to beat spending a day fishing a river surrounded by pristine nature as an anti-stress cocktail. Your chances for a fun excursion can only improve with a fishing guide!