How to Riverbank Fish: A Beginner’s Step-by-Step Guide

By Debbie Hanson

Apr 15, 2024

Steps to learn how to riverbank fish, summary of river fishing tips that can help you get started, casting techniques to focus on, fishing in strong current

If you want to learn how to riverbank fish, there are simple tips that can help you get started and certain casting techniques you should focus on. Freshwater fishing from a riverbank or riverbank fishing from your boat can be rewarding experiences that give you opportunities to connect with nature while developing the skills necessary to fish in river currents. Use this step-by-step guide to develop a basic understanding of river fishing techniques.

1. Select the Right Spots

When you learn how to identify the best spots along a riverbank, you significantly increase your chances of catching fish. Look for areas along the bank with features that attract fish. These features can be undercuts in the bank, submerged rocks, fallen trees, and riffles in the water. You should also consider factors like water depth, current speed, and available food sources for your target fish species. Read local fishing reports and network with experienced anglers who can provide insights into the type of habitat that certain river fish species prefer. For example, smallmouth bass are often found in areas of clear water around rocks and riffles.

2. Gear Up Properly

Before you go on your first trip, get a 7-foot medium action riverbank casting rod and reel setup that can be used for subtle presentations. Spinning setups are popular choices for riverbank fishing due to their versatility and ease of use, but many anglers like to fly fish from riverbanks using a 6 to 8 weight fly rod (choose a fly rod based on the distances you'll be casting and size of flies you'll be using). Have different types of lures or flies with you so you can adapt to changing conditions and forage preferences (ask an experienced local angler what types of prey items are common in the area).

3. Learn River Dynamics

Rivers are changing ecosystems influenced by factors like water flow, temperature, and structure. Whether you are fishing from the bank of the river or riverbank fishing from your boat, understanding how these factors affect fish behavior is another important key to finding and catching fish. For example, fish tend to congregate in areas with slower currents or seek protection near submerged structures. By observing a river's flow patterns and structure, you can eliminate unproductive areas of water and pinpoint the hotspots.

4. Practice Riverbank Casting Techniques

Casting practice is essential if you plan to fish from a riverbank, particularly when you are limited to fishing in tight areas with overhanging trees or surrounded by vegetation. Practice different casting skills such as sidearm casting techniques or overhead casts improve your presentation and accuracy. Pay attention to wind direction and obstacles to avoid spending your time untangling snags. With practice, you'll become proficient at casting your lure or fly upstream and letting it move downstream with the current for a natural presentation.

5. Patience and Persistence

Just as with any other type of fishing, river fishing requires patience and persistence. Be prepared to experiment with different techniques depending on the weather and water conditions. Stay observant of your surroundings by paying attention to subtle signs of life such as ripples, surface activity, or bird behavior.

6. Respect the Environment

As stewards of the environment, it's important to practice responsible fishing practices when fishing from a riverbank. Leave no trace (properly dispose of trash), respect fish limits, abide by gear regulations, size regulations, and fishing seasons to help maintain healthy fish populations. Check the regulations for the specific state and river where you will be fishing before you go.

7. Enjoy the Experience

Appreciate the new experiences of learning to fish from a riverbank or casting upstream from a boat. Whether you're getting accustomed to fishing in river currents or just enjoying the serenity of being on the river, every day spent on the water helps you become a more versatile angler.


To sum up, learning how to riverbank fish isn’t hard. Focus on choosing the best spots along the river, gear up properly, understand river dynamics, practice your casting techniques, have plenty of patience, respect the environment, and enjoy the experience – your catches will be an added bonus.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.