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Do You Fish Upstream Or Downstream For Trout? 

As a child, I was always in awe of my father’s fishing skills. In fact, that’s what got me interested in taking up this activity in the first place.

When it was my time to take on the fishing rod, he generously let me start with what’s considered to be a relatively easier species to fish, i.e., trout. Naturally, one of my first lessons (besides getting a grip of the reel) was determining the direction of fishing. And I was surprised to discover how so many different factors need to be kept in mind.

Do You Fish Upstream Or Downstream For Trout?

Trout fishing is best achieved upstream, especially with dry flies, simply because you can use the current to your advantage while remaining largely undetectable yet directly behind the species. Plus, fishing upstream requires less effort than fishing downstream. That being said, there are certain times when fishing downstream becomes the ideal way to go about the job.

Here, I should also mention that there is considerable debate and discussion regarding a “suitable” direction, most of which are primarily based on personal preferences. But when you become a pro, no direction is too tricky!

So, get your fishing gear ready as I walk you through the specifics of fishing both upstream and downstream in the following sections.

Upstream Vs. Downstream Fishing

When you’re fishing upstream, you’re basically throwing the fly towards the direction of the current so that it floats downstream with the current. As a result, the fish will “move down” from its location towards the bait. A good way to decide on your casting position is walking against the current along the stream or river. This will give you a better idea of casting from a downstream approach.

An important thing to note here is that only the leader is visible for where the fly would ultimately land. If some of your normal line gets into the spot, it will not be visible once it floats downstream when the bait finally reaches the spot.

On the other hand, downstream fishing means you’re throwing the fly further down from your original position so that the current can navigate it. Although downstream fishing is considered to be somewhat a more precise technique, it requires practice and patience to not let the line get too tight. Otherwise, you may end up pulling the fly away from the desired location.

Advantages Of Fishing Upstream 

Some of the sought-after advantages of fishing upstream include:

1. Reduced Noise

As you may already know, flowing current distributes sounds better than when the water is still. While the sound travels downstream, the gushing water negates the upstream movement of sound. So, when you’re walking upstreams, the sound of your feet may not reach the trout at all.

2. Reduced Dirt

Trouts can detect even the slightest change in the clarity of water, causing them to move away. When you move the bait upstream, any mud or dirt picked up will wash downstream behind you without alarming the fishes upstream.

3. Reduced Resistance

While the fishes may try to resist the pull against the current by your hook, rest assured that it will exhaust them pretty quickly, making your job that much easier! Moreover, catching them early on will help them recover completely to contribute to a better-quality fishery.

4. Safety

Sometimes, it is just safer moving against the current than going downstream with it.

Advantages Of Downstream Fishing

Now, it’s time to look at the common advantages of fishing downstream:

1. Line Visibility

Okay, I know that line visibility is not something you’d prefer for landing an agile species like trout. Still, it can be of great help, especially in remote areas with minimal fishing activities. 

This means that even with the fly line over their heads and the floating line visible to them, there’s a good chance they won’t back away. However, this will not work in streams or rivers with intensive fishing.

2. Less Tiring

There’s no rocket science here – walking downstream to find your casting position is less tiring than walking against the slope. Sure, this may not seem very significant in areas with almost flat terrains, but your legs will thank you when it’s near a hill or mountain.

3. Enticing Pressured Fish

There’s no doubt that constant castings combined with the whispers of the dry fly whipping on the water will catch the attention of the fishes. But if they are already under pressure from frequent fishing, there’s a great chance that they will grab onto anything to escape, even if it’s bait.

Some Other Tips 

Regardless of whether you’re fishing upstream or downstream, here are a couple of tips that will come in handy when you cast in water.

1. Decide The Target Pockets

Instead of giving in to your temptations of fishing from the entire water body, decide on the precise pools or pockets you’d like to target. Not only will this cut down on your time and effort, but it will also help you focus more.

2. Wear Polarized Sunglasses 

Although I agree that polarized sunglasses are perhaps among the worst style statements, the fact is that they enhance visibility by enabling you to look beyond the water refraction. Hence, you will have better control over visual navigation.

3. Wear Adequate Feat Gear

A good pair of felt-soled wading boots are your best bet to ensure a firm grip on the ground while dampening the sound of your footsteps.


That’s all that I have for today.

As you may have already figured out by now, the decision of fishing upstream or downstream depends on the advantages you get from the technique in a particular situation. While some people may choose the former to improve the survival rate of the fishes, others may proceed with the latter for fishing in busy streams.

I’ll now take your leave. Do drop in your comments on suggestions in the comments section!