How To Fish In A River With A Strong Current

Whether you are a new angler or looking to expand your abilities, it’s a good idea to know how to fish in different circumstances. Many people feel that you can’t fish in a running current. This is untrue. In fact, with the right understanding, you can fish in a current quite successfully. Let’s take a closer look at the process.

How To Fish In A River With A Strong Current

How To Fish In A River With A Strong Current

You need to understand the water flow

The key to successfully fishing in the current lies with understanding hydrodynamic theory. This is basically the study of how water moves. This theory goes way beyond just checking the tides. For starters, water movement is crucial in creating the topography of a system.

Water movement will expose reefs, scours out drop offs, forms sandbars, isolates islands and opens or closes river mouths or inlets. All of these influence the flow of water. The terms used by fishermen are “pools”, “riffles” and “runs”. A mixture of these elements creates flows and depth changes. These changes help to form habitats that hold and concentrate fish.

It is helpful to understand that pools are deep sections of a stream with slow water, riffles are shallow sections with fast, turbulent water usually formed by running over hard bottom and runs are deeper sections of a stream with fast water but little or no obvious turbulence.

In the presence of current, the volume of water needed to pass this constricted point “riffles” the water through at an increased speed as you have half the depth to move the same volume of water. The riffling effect is created by pressure waves, upwellings and turbulence. A riffle is easy to spot, just look for areas where there is an increase in the speed and flow of water.

Once the water hits the deeper edge of a riffle it settles down and you usually have a run. This means that there is still fast flowing water that usually holds large predatory fish.

You will notice that around prominent points or bends in a river, there are deep pools where the water runs slower.

These three water features can be found within a water system. But there is another feature to look for – eddies.

Most rivers have obstacles that break up the flow of the water and these usually create eddies. Eddies are a disturbance in the speed and direction of the current. It is also somewhere that a fish may use to ambush prey or take a rest.

So where are the fish?

You need to understand the traits of the fish you are hunting, in order to know where to find them in a strong current system.

For example, the bream is a known forager and is quite adapted to fast running water. Catching bream in a riffle is a smart choice because they are using the current to feed on crustaceans and mollusks that are exposed or dislodged by the fast running water.

How can I fish successfully?

There are two ideal ways of fishing in a strong current. You can cast from a stationary boat and casting from a drifting boat. In this case, stationary refers to using an iPilot.

With the iPilot in spot lock mode, you have the ability to fish in runs or eddies. The water flow is ideal for cast and retrieve. The basic technique is to cast up current and then work the lures back to the boat. Fish will sit nose into the current and when you work your lure back to the boat, the lure will be coming in a natural direction for the fish. You can use a similar technique when fishing in eddies. You should be sure to position down current of a pylon or point, cast into the faster flowing water and bringing the lure back into the slower water. It is interesting to note that the line of water movement usually holds bait and, in turn, predatory fish waiting nearby. Remember to always fish as light as you can. The lighter your lead the more natural the presentation.

The second technique used to fish in currents is from a drifting boat. You can do this for both riffles and pools. Since the water in a riffle is usually rushing through, casting up current from a stationary boat will have the lure back to the boat before it’s had a chance to work the bottom.

If you are in a drifting boat, a lure that is moving at the same speed with the current and the boat, will be able to get down deep. The key here is to cast ahead of the boat in the direction of the current. This allows the fish see the lure well before getting spooked by the boat.

You can also drift fish in a pool. Remember that pools have a slower flow and can be large expanses of water. A solid technique to use here is to drift through making casts to the shore and the working the lure down the embankment into the deeper sections of the water. Once again, you can use the iPilot to help decide the rate of drift, but basically you should place a cast every 5-10m along the shore. When fishing in a pool, you might have better success sticking to the edges and drop-offs, instead of the middle.

Other helpful tips

  • Plastic tube baits are often overlooked. Truthfully, they are a good option for catching bass, walleye, pike and crappie.
  • Use a two-anchor system for your boat. This helps make your boat steady and less likely to rock.
  • Wearing polarized sunglasses can be very helpful. Remember that the sun and moving water will play tricks on your eyes. Having a good pair of polarized glasses will lessen the effects of glare.


Many people often overlook the bounty of fish to be caught in fast moving currents. However, to be successful, you have to understand the currents and how to cast appropriately for it. Once you have an understanding of this you open yourself up to some nice fishing.

Tom Chandler

"When your hands hit the floor, they get cut up. When mine hit the floor, they slide with ease"

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