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Fly Fishing Underneath the Bridge

You’ve probably seen it: someone fishing off of a bridge that is incredibly high off the water. Maybe you have even engaged in this behavior. I suppose you can do it the “right way” by using a saltwater rig with super strong line. Still, I would be very interested to see how someone would manage to deal with catching any fish of notable size under the circumstances.

I’ve even see fly fishers do this for trout, hook up, and then realize that with their 5X tippet and tiny net that they need to run the length of the bridge, scramble down the bank, and land the fish. It works, but it ain’t pretty.

That’s not what I’m talking about.

Fly fishers should fish under bridges… by standing under bridges. ¬†Because, of course, fish live under bridges.

There are plenty of reasons why this is true:

  • That’s where the stocking truck drops them.
  • Insects and other forage items congregate around bridge structures.
  • The depth and current of the water is usually altered by the bridge’s existence.
  • Shadows and structure give fish the sensation of cover and security.

Is it the most scenic way to fish? Absolutely not. Particularly if there is traffic rumbling overhead, spiderwebs inhibiting normal movement, or other more nefarious “under the bridge” contributions to the ambiance.

The truth is, you probably do need to be careful. The same current and depth variation created from the bridge that facilitates holding water for fish can also lead to much deeper holes than in the rest of the stream. A narrow concrete structure makes casting difficult, and can endanger your rod on the cast or hook set. Depending on where you are, broken glass and other pointy debris is always a real possibility.

I think that the key to fishing under bridges, whether they be enormous railroad trestles spanning a wide river or tiny culverts you can barely fit through, is to just read the water as you would anywhere else. The bridge isn’t the destination for fishing on its own merit, rather for all of the ways that it impacts the water below. These impacts may very well be negative, and you should ignore these situations just as you would any other unproductive stretch of river.

Don’t do the opposite and discount a pool just because it is under a highway bridge or in a rusty culvert. If the food and shelter that it facilitates are positive for the fish, then they could not care less what is stretching overhead. To be serious about catching fish,¬†wherever they live, you shouldn’t either.