This is an important criteria to consider regardless of your target species. Ideally you want to stand as close to the fish as possible without spooking them. But what controls this distance? There are a range of factors and we break them down here.
- Water clarity. Are you fishing a shallow spring creek or a freestone post runoff? The clearer the water, the spookier the fish will be. If the water is muddy or off color, you can stand much closer to your target. When you can’t see a fish due to the muddy water, you can do things like “high stick” your rod right above a likely holding area and not risk spooking anything.
- What type of water are they sitting in? Are they in a shallow riffle or a deeper, choppy run? The moving water over the top of the fish does a great job of providing you some cover. The faster the water they are sitting in, the closer to the fish you can get. Another thing to consider is how deep in the water column is the fish? Fish can see great straight ahead of themselves and straight up, but cannot see much directly behind them so keep this in mind as you plan your approach.
- Weather. Is it sunny or cloudy? The brighter the sun and more distance you will need to give the fish. The sun also controls your shadow. You always need to be aware of where your shadow is. Most trout are kings of their underwater domain. Their predators (people and birds) come from above. So a shadow on top of a fish is a great way to spook that fish and send him to cover. It is not just your shadow you have to worry about. The shadow of your rod can spook them, as can something completely outside of your control, like a bird flying above. Rain is another factor to consider. Rain allows you to get much closer to your target. You don’t have to worry about shadows and the extra surface disturbance from the raindrops help provide you cover as well.
- How much pressure are these fish used to seeing? Depending on where in the world you are fishing, fish see a range of angling pressure. If you are in the backcountry of New Zealand, fish are not used to see a person so they will be very spooky if one comes into their view. Are you fishing a crowded Colorado tailwater? Here fish see fisherman everyday and have become accustomed to seeing them. This does not mean you want to make yourself known but you can get closer to the fish without sending them off.
The overall goal here is to position yourself to get the best possible drift without spooking the fish. Experiment with the above factors, make notes of what what spooks them on your local river, and then watch you hook up rate increase!
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