I recently blogged regarding the importance of how accuracy is often more important than distance. In a closely-related subject, many anglers instantly set their sites on fishing further out than they need to. You may literally be standing over the fish and not even know it until it's too late!
Often, the best thing to do when approaching the bank is to just stand back for a moment and observe. Many anglers have the tendency to just rush down to the shore and either wade in or start making long casts. This can be a big mistake because fish in shallow water may spook before you even make it to the water's edge. Of course it depends on the species, body of water, and other factors, but if you first study what's going on closeby it can pay off in a big way.
The most obvious sign of fish will be...well...the fish themselves! You may actually spot a cruising or feeding fish before it spots you by simply using your eyes and not causing a ruckus. This is important because fish can both see and sometimes feel you coming. Besides seeing the whole fish in the water, you may only see a subtle sign of its presence in the form of a ripple, wake, the tip of a fin, or the shaking of a weed stalk. These not-so-obvious signs would otherwise go unnoticed by someone in a hurry not paying close attention.
Nearshore structure and cover can hold fish even if you can't physically see fish. Nearshore ledges are a prime example. Fish love to cruise or hold right along ledges, and even if the water is crystal clear the fish may be down deep off the ledge out of sight. It can often be the best tactic to stay back and focus your casts along the drop-off at different angles. The same thing goes for something like a weed bed or brush. Casting your fly around cover that's nearly right on the shoreline can yield surprise strikes from unseen fish like bass and bluegill.
Fly anglers targeting trout in rivers and streams may come across undercut banks quite a bit. These banks have eroded around and below the waterline which allows fish to tuck in underneath the overhanging shoreline. I can't tell you how many trout I've caught by staying several feet back from an undercut bank and simply dropping the fly along the edge and letting it drift. I also can't tell you how many times I've seen anglers trudge up and down the same type of shoreline and cast to the middle or opposite site of the creek....pretty funny when the fish are....or, WERE....basically right at their feet!
Next time you hit the water, take your time and observe whats going on. Look for fish, signs of fish, or places they might like to be. The most action may be right there in front of you!
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