Few things deter anglers more than water that is stained from recent rainfall or snowmelt. In fact, some anglers would probably much prefer water that is raging high than off-color. It’s a matter of comfort for most of us, and when we can’t see the bottom to know the depth and what the stream bed looks like, it’s intimidating. Low and clear might be a formidable fishing condition, but it’s at least one that we can navigate and try to find fish in. Off-color usually means a short fishing trip and no trout in the net, but there are ways to combat this and still muscle out a solid day on the water even when it looks like chocolate milk!
Find The Tributaries
When the main stems of streams are still coming up and clarity is getting worse, anglers should find those tributary streams that clear up sooner.
Not only will these smaller watersheds runoff quicker, but by fishing main sections of streams above the tributary, you are effectively cutting the runoff (and clarity issues) down. As a general rule of thumb, the more off-color the water is, the further upstream you should go. Get above those tributaries, or fish them!
Fish Deep and Flashy
The upper water columns are usually filled with the debris during rain events resulting in off-color water.
That’s easy to see as twigs, branches, and leaves come drifting by in the current. Anglers can combat this by getting their flies down deep and using flashy patterns. Flies with plenty of flash work especially well in these situations. Rainbow warriors, wooly buggers, and certain stoneflies work fantastic when the water is off-color. By fishing them in a multi-nymph rig anglers can effectively cover the bottom of deeper holes and runs where trout will be hunkered down waiting for the water to clear.
Fish Water You Know
Of all the challenges facing anglers in off-color water, perhaps none are as daunting as the inability to accurately gauge water depth. Runs and drop-offs are indistinguishable in poor condition, but this hardship can be lessened by fishing water you know. Those little pockets of depth and deeper channels will be known in even the murkiest of water. This can help save time probing from spot to spot finding appropriate depth and make it so that every cast is in the fish zone.
One of the joys about fishing water that is off-color is other anglers are quick to pack it in and head back home to try again another day. Stretches that are usually crowded become devoid of pressure, leaving the best runs to the hardy folks willing to battle less-than-ideal conditions. Those who follow these tips will be well on their way to enjoying some of the most overlooked trout fishing that’s ever-present during the spring and early summer months!