Tips for Sight Fishing Trout

By Conner Jones:

Even out in the open, trout are remarkably adept at hiding their presence. The muted colors and speckles of their backs are beautiful out of the water. In the water, these features make them invisible to the untrained eye. Most of their predators come from above, so spotting and stalking trout is difficult, which is what makes sight fishing them so much fun.

Here are a few tips to help you successfully sight fish for trout:

Go Slow: This cannot be overstated. The easiest fish to see is the one you just spooked. As the fish bolts you will inevitably ask yourself, “Why was I in such a rush?” Go slow, start at the tail of the pool and work your way to the head. Be methodical.

Look for Motion: It’s amazing how little motion it takes for a trout to keep its place in the current. However, these small movements are sometimes all it takes to give away a fish’s location. Look for unnatural movement like the side-to-side pulse of a tail or the telltale white of an opening mouth. Sometimes, this is the only clue a trout will give to its location.

Look for Shadows: A trout’s camouflage is effective, designed to hide it from predators with better eyesight than humans possess. Sometimes the best way to spot a fish is by looking for shadows. If a fish is suspended any distance off the bottom, it will cast a shadow that contrasts against the bottom more so than the fish itself. Find the shadow, and you have found the fish.

Find the Right Water: This means using the angle of the sun to your advantage. Try to position yourself so glare is minimal. Heavy currents and deep water can obscure what is hiding below, so be sure to check the shallows. Tail-outs are the shallow stretches at the end of a pool, usually with a uniform current and gravel or cobble bottom in free-stone rivers. These features make the tail-out ideal for spotting fish, but their shallow nature can put fish on edge, so be sure to go slow!

The Gear: It’s hard to overstate the importance of good sunglasses on the water. Good sunglasses will not only cut the glare off the water, allowing you to see the underlying structure of the river, they will also enhance your ability to see fish. Good sunglasses are the key to being able to spot fish and also the easiest way to step up your sight fishing game, so invest in a good pair.

Conner Jones is with Cohutta Fishing Company. Contact him at [email protected] and visit their website at

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