Easy answer really. When fishermen are staring over the side of bridges, we are looking for fish.
Like many trout fishermen, I struggle to cross a bridge without pausing to spend a few minutes looking over the side. There is always something to see.
Bridges offer an excellent vantage point high above the water’s surface, and at times it is the only way to get an aerial view into the middle of a river.
There is a lot more that can be learned when gazing over the side of a bridge than the position of a handful of fish. We are also, or at least I am analyzing the state of the river. How high is the flow, and what is the clarity like? Is the water clear and pristine, or stagnant and smelly?
It can also be interesting to see what other objects are in the rivers, how many cell phones?, Bikes, or shopping trolleys? It is amazing what I have seen thrown over bridges. Quite a sad sight really.
Are there more fish around bridges?
So do trout and other fish gather around bridges? On average is there more fish beneath a bridge than some other similar section of a river?
For starters, fish are certainly easier to see from high on a bridge, giving the impression there is more fish there. But in my opinion, bridges are a bit of a two edge sword when it comes to fish numbers.
How to spot fish from a bridge
When standing on a bridge, fish are not always quickly visible. It normally takes time for our eyes to adjust to the glare of the water below.
When searching for fish from a bridge, I nearly always look for movement first. Once I see one fish, many more often come into view. The longer I spend searching, the more fish I usually see. So just take the time.
Check here for advice on how to spot more trout.
Bridges attract fish
1) The span of the bridge casts a large shadow across the water, and it is well known that fish often prefer to rest in the shade than in direct sunlight. It offers them limited protection against aerial predators such as osprey or kingfishers.
Some predatory fish also patrol the shadow line and take advantage of the shade to ambush fish as they cruise by.
2) Bridge pillars, out in the middle of the current create slack water and turbulence. To a fish such as a trout, a pillar is no different from a large rock, it represents a break in the current, and the slower water it creates is the perfect place for them to feed while out of the strongest of the current.
Pillars also catch a lot of timber and branches, this further increases the suitable fish habitat.
Are bridges a good place to fish?
Bridges naturally attract fish, but I do not consider them a good place to fish. Thinking back, I can not remember catching any memorable fish when fishing from or beneath a bridge.
The reason why I do not rate bridges high, is because so many other fishermen try to catch fish there. The fish, that hang around bridges, more often than not get very heavily pressured. This makes them tricky to catch.
One example of the fishing pressure bridges receive is in my hometown. The powerlines next to one of my local bridges resemble Christmas trees due to all the lost lures and terminal tackle hanging from them. So many people see fish there, then try their luck to catch one, but end up bagging the powerlines instead.
Another downside is that bridges do not always have the best ambiance, with trucks and cars rolling by and the smell of exhaust in the air. It is much more pleasant walking a few hundred yards further upstream away from the noise.
Now, I accept not all bridges are heavily pressured, but the many of them are. Most of the time, when I access a river near a bridge. I like to walk for 5 or 10 minutes before I start fishing. Just get away from the crowds. There is a saying in fishing, that the best fishing normally begins where the riverside trail ends. Fish where others don,t.
Culverts are similiar but different
Culverts and bridges share a lot in common, but culverts are darker and much harder to get inside. They are like watery tunnels, and fish often like to hide inside.
There is a culvert through an embankment in a heavily wooded section of a spring creek where I grew up as a child, there always seem to be two or three, good size trout just hanging out at the entrance of the culvert.
They are so easy to spot standing above, but it is extremely difficult to get a fly to them. They feed in the opening of the culvert, meaning all casts need to be from an upstream direction. They normally spook before the fly hits the water.
I often thought it should be possible to lay on top of the culvert, and dap a fly down on top of them, and let it float into the tunnel, this technique usually fails because the trout are holding surprisingly deep. It is challenging to get the fly to sink fast enough.
Think I might have to revisit that culvert and try my luck one more time.
Landing fish from a bridge can be challenging.
I have seen this many situations play out many times. Someone is enjoying themselves fishing from a bridge, then they get lucky, and their worm is swallowed by a hungry fish.
They then realize they have no idea how they are going to land it. One option is to try and haul it onto the bridge, but that run’s the risk of breaking the line or ripping the hook out. A lot of fish get a quick release that way.
Other times, I see people working as a team. One person stands on the bridge, while their friend runs to get underneath it, they then have to throw or lower the rod down to the person below. It is quite the routine and certainly draws out the fight.
Fishermen who are more prepared, sometimes lower down a net with a rope, or use a gaff to try and pull in the fish that way. Netting or gaffing a fish 50ft below is still going to be a challenge.
It is normally easy to access rivers at a bridge.
Bridges are often one of the easiest places to access a river, after-all the public road is right next to it. So more often than not there is some rough path or access route leading down to the water edge.
When I am exploring a new area, and I am unsure how to access the river. The first place I look is often a bridge.
Click this link for more hints on how to find hidden access tracks.
Is it legal to fish from bridges?
There is nothing inherently illegal to fish from bridges, but many bridges do have restrictions in place that prohibit fishing. So best to check the local laws, and keep an eye out for no fishing signs.
Summary- Fishing around a bridge
Bridges are certainly interesting structures to fish around, and when given the chance. I will always walk across one and stare into the water below, it is always interesting to see what is in the river below.