Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fishing Muddy or High, Off Color Water

Doug Stewart fly fishing in off color water.
Fly fishing for steelhead when the water turns brown or when there is a whiteout is not really desirable, but if you want to fish muddy or off color water, here are some possible solutions to help you do that. 

First, if the river is rising, fish will move away from  the heavier current and move to the edge of the bank. They will also move away from heavy debris and into less turbulent water. Fishing close to the bank of the river can often be very productive. 

A 10-foot, sink-tip line with a short 6-foot leader can work well if you swing the fly down and across the current; however, if you’re limited to just fishing near the bank, high sticking using the dead drifting method can work effectively as well. See my December 18, 2013, post, The Marmot Special: A Winter Attractor Fly, for more information on this method. 

Next, dead drift patterns that have black, red or orange in their composition because in muddy water these colors show up better than others. Patterns that have a black and orange combination--like the Egg Sucking Leech, The Boss and a Dark Max Canyon--are good choices. Hook sizes for these and the following patterns should be on a larger hook, say a No. 2 to 1/0. 

Melting snow flushes glacial silt into rivers and clouds them with a white or light brown tint. Fish can see much better in these conditions, unlike muddy water. And because there isn’t usually a great increase in the water level, fish will usually hold in their normal drifts. However, you must still be very thorough and cover nearly every inch of water because their sight range is much shorter. Good patterns to try in these conditions are The Black Leech, The Stewart and the Red Butt Skunk.

I remember a trip on the Deschutes River when the water turned white due to glacial silt. As I floated downriver, I noticed that a boat was anchored where I wanted to fish and three fly anglers were sitting under an Alder tree. I docked my boat, walked up to them and asked if I could fish one of my favorite runs below them. They quickly advised me that they had covered the water without any luck and suggested that I would be wasting my time. Nonetheless, I stepped into the water and began working a Dark Max down through the run. On the fourth cast my line stopped and I hooked a chromer that put on an acrobatic show of multiple jumps. After I landed it, I thanked them for letting me fish their water and left them with a few Dark Max flies. 

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