When you don't have access to a boat, shore fishing is a great alternative. While fundamentally the same, fishing from shore takes some practice getting used to. Shore fishing has its pros and cons, and it can be a lot of fun. Getting up close to the water is exciting but fishing in close quarters requires precise casting and being well aware of your surroundings. I will cover some techniques and go over some lessons that I've learned while fishing from shore.
Packing: What to bring?
When shore fishing it is important to know what type of fish you will be targeting. You can not bring as much gear when you are fishing from shore as you would on a boat. Important things to bring are one rod, maybe two, a condensed tackle box of gear, a net, and if you have them waders. Most shore fishing spots are in confined spaces between trees and bushes or boulders with not much space between you and the water. Packing light is of the utmost importance to maximize shore space around the chosen spot. I've crawled through bushes and ducked under trees and some of the best shore fishing around me is down about 400 stairs. Bringing a fish up those stairs with a full tackle box and three rods would be impossible.
Picking a spot
After deciding what you would like to bring picking an optimal spot key. Unlike fishing from a boat, shore anglers aren't able to cover as much water in as little time, picking a good spot can save hours of picking up and moving after trying spot after spot, turning your venture more into a glorified hike instead of a relaxing fishing trip.
When shore fishing a lake, picking a spot can be pretty straight forward. By reading the water, really look for a change in color indicating a change in depth within casting distance. Being on the windward side can also help as most of the bait fish will have blown towards that shore bringing the predators with them. Look for an area with structure that you can cast around and towards.
When shore fishing a river a bit more goes into what spot you will want to choose. Again look for a drop off within casting range. When shore fishing rivers I look for eddy's and pools created by rocks close to shore. I've seen many large fish hanging out behind these rocks to get a break from the current. River fishing also requires a good read on the current, how fast it is going and where it will bring your lure or bait. You are more prone to snags and hookups when you are fishing a river, because of this you really want to be aware of how structure around you and how it continues under the water. I've lost plenty of lures getting tangled up in trees that at first glance wouldn't have appeared to have reached that far into and under the water.
Where to Cast?
Just like fishing from a boat you want to read the water and figure out where the fish will be hanging out. If you picked your spot well then placing your bait in the right spot shouldn't be a problem.
When shore fishing a lake if you are using live bait and a slip try to cast around the structure or the drop off and wait for the fish to come to you. If you are fishing artificial lures then I recommend casting in a clockwise pattern, starting with casting close to shore on my left and working my way to the shore on my right. This technique allows it to cover the most water and get the bait to all depths and to all the structure around and if there are fish in the vicinity they are bound to hit on one of the casts.
When shore fishing from the river, cast placement should always be upriver from where you are standing. The current will bring the lure down the stream and mimic prey of the fish in the river. A good rule to follow when river fishing, especially fishing in runs and tailouts is to cast to 10 o'clock and then let the lure or bait drift with the current down to 2 o'clock and retrieve. Most strikes will come around 2 o'clock or when you start to bring the lure in. Letting the lure drift into an eddy or a pool will also be a high strike zone.
When fishing slower moving water or pools where the current is slower than in runs can be treated like shore fishing from a lake where you want to begin casting around 9 o'clock and make a circle of casts clockwise into the water.
After a fish hits in the river, try to get the fish out of the current and close to shore when possible, once a big fish gets into the current it can be very hard to get it back into calmer water. You will also be fighting the fish and the current.
Landing the fish
Landing a fish from shore can require a long necked landing net to reach down into the water, or a spot with quick access to shallow water to grab the fish. When looking for a location to fish I always look for a spot where there is quick access to the shallow water to grab and pull the fish from the water.