Critical River Fishing Tips for the Beginner

There are nearly 60 million anglers in the U.S, proving we’re a nation hooked on fishing. 

Beginners and old-time anglers know there’s a difference between sea and freshwater fishing as they require different skills and equipment.

If you’re looking for river fishing tips, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s everything you need to know.

river fishing tips
Side view portrait of father and son sitting together on rocks fishing with rods in calm lake waters with landscape of setting sun, both wearing checkered shirts, shot from behind tree

Get the Right Equipment

Before we dive into tips for river fishing, it’s important to get the right equipment to help you learn how to river fish.

First, you’ll need the basics like a rod and reel. Choose a light fishing rod as it’s easier to hold for an extended period and it’ll show you when you’ve caught a bite.

Invest in wider hooks so they catch in a fish’s mouth and learn how to tie on a hook. This only works when you have lures so use these to attract fish to your bait.

Don’t forget weights as they create a larger casting distance and keep your bait underwater. Find split shot weights as they’re the best for beginners because they’re easy-to-install.

Even though it’s not mandatory, get cut-resistant and waterproof gloves to improve your grip and give you more control over the fishing rod. 

And, depending on the weather, polarized sunglasses will help you see through the water so you can track the fish.

Ask the Locals

One of the most important beginner river fishing tips is to ask locals what’s biting and where. Every species of fish requires a different hook or a certain type of bait to improve your chances.

Local anglers also know the best time for going river fishing and may even tell you about a hidden spot.

Consider the Weather

A factor that can affect river fishing is the weather. This is because it determines whether the river drops or rises when the weather and temperature changes. 

Some anglers believe winter is the best time as food is more scarce so fish are more likely to bite. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go river fishing in the other seasons, it just means it’ll be harder.

Know Where to Fish

One of the most useful tips for beginning river fishing is knowing what parts of the river to target. Every angler should know where fish usually reside so you have a higher chance of landing a bite.

Consider these, for example:

Islands or Rock Piles

Depending on where you’re fishing, locate any sandy islands or rock piles. This is because fish rest facing upstream near these locations.

These areas of water can be large or small, so flex your angling skills to find the right spot to catch a bite.

Merging Currents

Find areas where the current changes. These include merging currents, drop-offs, or anywhere the water slows and food sources become abundant.

For instance, fish often rest in drop-offs as they’re the deeper part of the river. Even though they’re not actively feeding, dangle the bait and try your luck.

Also, look out for current edges where a fast current comes in contact against slower moving water, often because of a natural obstruction.

Calm Areas or Eddies

Head to the backwaters where the river is calm, the perfect respite for fish. Cast upstream so your lure drifts towards these areas and you’ll likely get a bite.

You should also go to the river bend where it makes a hard turn, as the water’s deeper which makes it easier to spot fish.


Focus on areas underneath bushes or branches as fish go there for shade and to shield themselves from predators like birds. You should also look around boulders because, like current edges, the water is calm which is attractive to fish. 

It’s important to note the calm water to the upstream side of the rock and not downstream.

Try These River Fishing Techniques

Like equipment, sea fishing and river fishing require different techniques. It’s important to practice these so you perfect your cast before heading to the river.

These are the best techniques, for example:

Bottom Bouncing

This is one of the most important river fishing tips, especially for beginners. Bounce live bait off the bottom of a river and target drop-offs for the best results.

Always bounce the bait with the current and not against it.

Upstream Casting

When fish are feeding, they face upstream because they know the current sends food their way. 

This is fantastic news for anglers because you can cast behind them and they can’t see you. Stand in the middle of the river, or in your boat, and cast your line upstream.

Downstream Casting

When the current is surging past, add a heavyweight to your rig so the bait is still at the bottom of the river. Cast across your body, keep your rod low, and pull back once the line is downstream. This is a surefire way to get a bite.

Crosscurrent Technique

Fish often hide in murky areas of water or where it’s covered for protection. The best way to lure these fish is by using a crosscurrent technique, aiming for the part of the river where the sediment from the bottom has stirred up. 

Even if you can’t see fish, place your line and you’ll likely get a catch.

These Are Our Top River Fishing Tips

Now you know our top river fishing tips.

Before you head to the river, practice your casting techniques, and get the right equipment as it varies between fish species.

Try asking locals for advice about the best spots and test the various casting techniques depending on the weather. Be patient and enjoy the process. Good luck!

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