What Does It Mean to “Rest the Fish?”

"Resting the fish" is a phrase you may hear from guides or other anglers, or you may notice a fisherman sitting on the bank while fish are rising all around. Resting the fish is a tactic that lets the fish go back to their normal habits after being spooked or becoming aware of an anglers presence. Resting the fish also benefits the angler in that they are able to slow down and become calm after either a botched hookset or too many frantic movements.

When Should I Rest the Fish?

You should rest a pool or rest a pod of rising fish more often than you would think. Just like casting and presenting you flies, resting the spot should be regularly practiced. Once you've spooked a spot, your chances of catching a fish decrease significantly.

  • Rest a spot immediately after you arrive to the location. Use the time to observe the habits and feeding of fish. You're most likely to spook a fish upon your arrival due to the motion and movement you create in getting there.
  • Rest a fish after you've spooked it. This will typically take longer than other situations because you've raised alarm bells and it will take a while for the fish to settle down. It's not a bad idea to go fish another spot and come back later to a location or fish that you've spooked.
  • Rest a fish after you've made a dozen or so presentations to it and it hasn't taken your fly. Resting the fish in this case can simply mean taking your time to change flies or select a lighter tippet.
  • Rest a fish after it has refused your fly. This is a delicate situation because a fish has responded actively to your fly but has refused it. Now the fish will have heightened senses and will be extremely wary and you have a delicate balance where it's more likely to spook on your next cast.

How Do I Rest a Spot or Fish?

  • Simply put, do something else.
  • Eat a sandwich, sit on the bank and bask in the beauty of a location, take a nap, watch the wildlife or just sit there.
  • Do anything other than traipse around in the water or continuing to make casts.
  • Avoid making too much movement and keep your eyes on the water and how the fish are responding. Sometimes fish will go back to feeding pretty quickly, other times it could take much longer for them to settle back down. Either way, take the opportunity to do something other than actively fishing.

Resting the fish will also give you a chance to settle down and remain calm. After seeing a spot boiling with fish rising and feeding, anglers tend to make hasty and inaccurate casts. Adrenaline may be pumping and you may be rushing to get your fly out there. This can be a recipe for a spooked fish, so above all, remain calm and take your time, the fish aren't going anywhere and all it takes is one good cast and a good presentation. Bombing cast after cast on top of the fish is only going to put them down. Resting the fish also means resting yourself.

Shop Fly Fishing Tools