When Fly Fishing from Shore can (sometimes) be Better
Updated: Nov 1, 2021
From float tubes and canoes to tricked-out skiffs, fly fishers take to the water in a variety of craft. Fishing from one of these is undoubtedly fun and can be extremely productive, but is being on the water always the most productive way to fish? Typically, I would say that yes, you'll get into better action much of the time, but in some instances wading or fishing from shore can be just about as good — or even better!
There's also something just plain neat about fishing while on foot. The walking, the wading, the climbing, and the bushwhacking makes it a more raw, basic, and intimate experience. On top of all that, when you do have a very productive day on foot it can feel more rewarding, too.
So, when and why can fishing on foot be an advantage? Here's a few of the ways...
When Staying in Position- When on any type of floating craft, you're often fighting against drift caused by wind and current. Products like Power Poles and special trolling motors can help to quickly and conveniently hold a boat perfectly in position, but the majority of vessels out there aren't equipped with these luxuries. Fishing on foot keeps you in one set place, thus allowing you to focus entirely on effectively and thoroughly fishing a spot rather than having to simultaneously deal with constant movements or getting out of position.
When You've Gotta be Extra Sneaky- Craft like float tubes and kickboats can be pretty quiet, but some boats (and boaters) make their arrivals known from quite a distance away. Whether it's hull slap, the sound of an outboard engine, or simply dropping something heavy on the deck, there's many unnatural noises that can instantly let the fish know you're getting close. Fishing on foot takes all of that out of the equation and typically enables you to get closer to your quarry — especially important in calm, shallow water.
When Extra Elevation is Helpful- While you're actually looking for fish in the water, having some added elevation helps a lot. Even just an extra foot or two. That's precisely why most guides that run flats skiffs have that little platform on the bow for their clients to fish from. Generally speaking, being on a boat offers an excellent vantage point for sight-fishing because you're always at an elevated position above the water's surface. Of course, more elevation gives you an even better view. I have seen guys redfishing on the gulf coast that bring actual ladders on their boat to spot fish from!
One cool thing about bank fishing is that depending on the topography of the shoreline, the angler might be able to access some high ground to scan for fish or likely underwater habitat. I've used tall shoreline rises, bluffs, and even sand dunes to get a better look at what's going on; sometimes even casting and hooking fish from atop these high spots before scrambling back down to the water's edge. Observing from such a high spot can reveal some awesome surprises that you'd otherwise totally miss.
When Dealing with High Winds- Wind can really improve the fishing, but too much of it can prove annoying, sketchy, or even life-threatening when actually out on the water. Even on the nastiest days, the wading or bank angler can often find somewhere or some way to effectively wet a line while staying completely out of any possible danger. Strong winds have a tendency to keep less-devoted or less-experienced fly anglers home, so don't let these conditions necessarily deter you. Just because you shouldn't launch your boat or tube doesn't mean you still can't make a great day out of it.
I haven't owned a boat in quite some time now (looking to change that soon!), but bank angling isn't necessarily always a handicap. Even when I owned boats, I still enjoyed the occasional shoreline adventure just to mix things up or to fish an area that was simply more effectively done on foot. It's a great way to quickly, cheaply, and easily go fishing, gets you outdoors and moving around, and hey, when nature calls it's a heckuva lot easier to take care of business!
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