Skip to main content

How to Read a Fishing Lake or River Without Any Electronics

Before there were electronic fish finders, you set out on a lake or river with only your eyes and your wits. 

It's easy to fall into relying on electronic items in any outdoor sport, from fish finders to trail cams. While these technological advancements are great, don't get us wrong, they're not always available, and are a far cry from what some feel it means to get outside.

Stepping away from all electronics is an appealing factor for many anglers, and it's not impossible to still glean facts that can give you an edge. Here's how to read that fishing lake or river without any technological help.

Reading the River

There are three essential parts of a river where most of the fish activity will either take place, they'll wholly avoid, or spawn inside.



The first part of the river to learn are the riffles, where the current rips through a shallow section quickly. This is where you'll notice white-capped rapids, especially in wide rivers.

Especially when fly fishing, riffles are essential to the natural movement of a fly through the water. While the riffles of a river will sometimes seem like they only hold smaller trout, don't overlook it because there are hungry monsters hiding there in hopes of snagging any passing insects.

River Run


The river run is your best bet to hooking fish, especially trout. You can identity a river run because the current will be moving at a moderate pace, slower than the riffle but faster than a pool. There will also be structure in this area, as well as shade from tree limbs and sunken rocks.

Adult fish will, nine times out of 10, be in the river run because from there, they can gorge on the insects floating down river and can be as lazy about it as they want.

River Pool


Finally, the river pool will hold deeper water and the current will move extremely slow, sometimes not even fast enough to carry your fly if you're fly fishing. While some huge trout can be waiting here, it rarely provides enough food to sustain many at a time.

If you're coming to the river after key feeding times, try your luck at a river pool. The fish lingering there may have had their fill, but could be tempted again. You'll have more control over the action of your lure or fly, so use it to your advantage.

Reading the Lake

Reading a lake is deceptively simpler than reading a river, but there are things you'll still miss if you don't pay attention. Again, this does depend on what kind of species you're after. To read a lake, focus your eyes on these two elements.



Follow the vegetation along the lake edge and you'll be sure to hook into some bass. Because it provides food and oxygen, where there is flora along the edge, there will be lunkers lurking.



Lake fish also tend to gravitate toward structure, man-made or not, in order to maintain a decent hiding spot. Docks, stumps, overhangs of a tree, and rip-raps (chunky rock segments) are your best bets. Because structure also offers shade, getting your lure in a prime place in front of the structure is key in casting out.

When you're less reliant on electronics, and have the right gear to get the job done, fishing a lake or river can be all that much more satisfying.

Be sure to check out Cabela's Tackle Shop before your next trip out on the water, but don't forget: you can rely on your instincts and read the water all on your own.


oembed rumble video here


you might also like

How to Read a Fishing Lake or River Without Any Electronics