Beginners Tips For Spotting Fish – How to See Fish in Water

This post was last updated on July 30th, 2021 at 11:02 am

Tips to help you see fish. This cutthroat is well hidden, but you can see it's shadow easily, Using Glasses to See Fish in Water

For some people seeing fish in the water is second nature, for others it seems like an impossible task. Frankly, seeing fish like a fishing guide will take practice, but following a few tips will help to increase your odds of spotting a trophy before you walk too close to it. Whether you are fishing for spawning steelhead, or you are just out looking for a feeding brown trout during a mild hatch, these tactics should help you out  when it comes to how to see fish in the water.

Using Glasses to See Fish in Water

Sweet pair of costa del mar fishing glasses, Using Glasses to See Fish in Water
Sweet pair of Costa del mar fishing glasses.

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Of course, we all know that wearing polarized fishing glasses help to see fish, but did you know that the lens color makes a huge difference depending on the color of the bottom? There is a logical reason why all guides on the saltwater flats use amber or brownish colored glasses. You should choose a lens color that matches the bed of the river or body of water. If the bottom of the river is mostly limestone, a grayish lens will be in order. This will make the fish “pop” out much more than you can imagine. Match your lens color to the bottom, and you’ll be off to a great start.

You should also shop for a pair of glasses with a perfect fit, because letting any light into the back side of your glasses will have a major impact on how well you see into the water. You might look cool with those aviator glasses, but you will see an awful lot more fish with the wrap around style.

A big cutthroat swimming underwater, how to see fish in water, using glasses to see fish in water
I took this image using a grey polarized filter. With the polarized lens off I could barely see the fish in the viewfinder. Notice that all of the glare is completely off the water even though the sun is straight overhead. Without polarized glasses on, this big cutthroat trout might have gone unnoticed.

Wearing a Good Fishing Hat

A long billed hat will keep the glare off your glasses and make you 10x more likely to spot fish. If you can keep the sun from hitting your sun glasses, you will be astonished at how well you can see into the water. Several companies make extra long billed hats that can make you look like a rockstar in the fish spotting category.

Spotting Fish From a High Vantage Point

This seems obvious so I won’t go into too much detail, but you will be able to see fish better the higher above them you can get. Mark the spot where the fish are sitting by locating an easy to find object near the water, so when you get back down to the fishes level you cast right at them even if you can’t see them from your low position.

Watch for Shadows Not the Fish

Often times the fish are so camouflaged that they can be nearly impossible to see, but one thing they cannot hide is their shadow. It is almost always easier to see the dark moving shadow below the fish than it is to see the fish itself. A fishy shaped shadow on a light colored limestone bottom riverbed will be a dead giveaway.

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