There is often nothing more thrilling than spotting the occasional boil in the water as a large trout surfaces to feed. Going after sighted trout is one the sport’s truly magical moments but learning how to properly position your boat is a necessity for success. If you plan your presentation and your boat’s approach correctly then you can take advantage of a vantage point that gives you an upper hand on the trout.
The better news is that anchor designs and boats have come a long way in recent years and while wading is a tried and true technique, fishing from a boat can truly maximize your chances of hooking into the trophy trout we all seek. Trout have been pressured by wading fishermen for years and have to be starting to shy away from those methods. On top of that you can factor in the fear or predators such as kingfishers and it is easy to see why trout are heading to the deeper parts of the water.
Proper boat positioning gives you a new angle to fish from and allows you to fish deep banks and get into areas such as mid-river lies that wading anglers cannot reach. Better yet, the open space allows you to cast without fear of obstructions and follow large fish that latch onto your tippet and scurry away.
Yet to make the most out of your trip on the boat, you have to be able to get into the right positions, so let’s look at the five primary boat positions that you can use to locate and catch edge-water trout.
Boat Position for Trout Fishing #1-Upstream Anchoring
Anchoring your boat on an extreme angle upstream works well when there is a major difference between the bank currents, which are slow, and the normal current speed, which are much faster. It is best to utilize a far reaching cast to place the fly as close to the trout. Using too much fly lead can cause far too much drag and take your fly right out of position.
The one drawback with this angle is that it is necessary to pull the fly and leader right past the fish if they do not take on your first cast. This can easily spook fish that are edgy and leave you fishing empty waters. To combat this, mend your line in order to move everything away from the fish and then strip it in towards you before casting again. Keep each cast low and avoid false casts in order to be as sneaky as possible.
Boat Position for Trout Fishing #2-Down and Across
The most common boat position is the down and across angle of 45 degrees. In this position your key is to use a large, full body, reach cast and land the line right upstream of where the fish are hanging out. Try to land the fly between 3 and 5 feet away from the fish and begin to mend the line upstream once your cast lands. Continue to feed line as often as you need to so that you can utilize drag-free motion and keep everything as natural as possible.
Another key to this position is to cast while sitting down, especially as your boat creeps closer to the fish. Standing at the bow increases your profile and is the best way to send trout swimming in the opposite direction. Of course keeping your boat from dragging is the best way to avoid this, but can be impossible in certain locations and in certain types of weather.
Boat Position for Trout Fishing #3-Sitting Even with Trout
When anchoring your boat in stronger flows of water it is common to be situated directly across from the trout you are spying on. This can make it increasingly tough to present your flies in a natural manner but it is possible. An extreme reaching cast is the only thing you can use here in order to ensure that your fly doesn’t drag past the trout immediately. Drop the fly closer to the fish than you would in other positions and accept the fact that you will not get much time to enjoy a drag-free drift. Try to take a practice cast or two away from the fish as they will quickly descend if you present one or two casts in an imperfect manner.
In this position you have the best chance to cast perfectly from the rear of the boat, but be sure to alternate positions if you are fishing with a partner or two. Anchor hop downstream every now and then in order to give alternate looks to the fisher who may be seated at the bow of the boat.
Boat Position for Trout Fishing #4-Getting Out of the Current
If upstream positions are not working or if your anchor is dragging then you may find success by rowing out of the current and getting closer to the shore. What you want to do here is keep far enough away from the bank so that you have room to make a clear and concise backcast. Curved casts are your best bet in this position but if you are struggling you can alternate with an up and over style of presentation. This can work well if the trout are not scared of leaders.
If you do not get a nibble or a take then be sure to allow the fly to carry all the way downstream before bringing it up and making another cast.
For many anglers, floating one the river and keeping your eyes peeled for boils and fish is a lot more fun than simply wading and watching a strike indicator. Utilizing proper casting techniques, sophisticated flies and getting in the right position can bring about one of the most rewarding trout experiences you can find. And the good news is that these boat positions will usually work in all seasons, but you have to be willing to switch things up from time to time.
Try to have two rods set up at all times, one with a hatch-style dry and the other with a nymph or a streamer. Streamers will work well when trout are scattered around the water but hatch-style dries can often lure them on giving you the best of both worlds.
This is one situation where stalking can be quite a bit of fun, and won’t get you into any trouble with the police.