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High Water Alternatives

As I sat down to write this piece, the streams were running high and muddy from the past few days of rain. I suspect that by the opening day of trout season, there will still be some high, discolored water. Of course, those who were on the streams on opening day will be able to confirm my suspicions. High water isn’t all bad, but muddy or discolored water can make for some more difficult fishing success.

When I survey those early days of trout fishing, if I suspect that high, muddy water will be a problem, I consider some alternatives.

For starters, if rain has produced discolored and higher water levels, I tend to migrate to the smaller streams where the effects of heavy rains will dissipate more quickly. The smaller mountain streams are also not as likely to get as muddy as the larger streams since the mountain streams are usually surrounded by wooded forests.

Many of our larger trout streams will have plowed fields along the way, and highways will drain muddy water into our favorite fishing holes.

If you find yourself fishing the high-flowing, discolored water, you may still be able to take some trout, but you may want to alter your approach.

I would tend to concentrate my casting along nearby undercut banks and out of the way of the heavy, fast-moving currents. Trout will often move into more stable water along undercut banks or behind large rocks closer to the edges of the stream.

If I’m going to cast out into the more open moving water, I tend to work the edges of the fast current and with enough weight to get my presentation near the bottom. I would also tend to go with more colorful presentations.

Certainly, flashy in-line spinners will still produce, and bright pink, yellow, or chartreuse baits will likely get some attention.

If I’m fly fishing, I tend to go with something like a bright-colored mop-fly with a gold bead head. I’ll add several split shots to get down near the bottom and work the edges near undercut banks. Bright-colored egg patterns have also been produced for me under those discolored water conditions.

If the above suggestions are not productive due to poor water conditions all is not lost — there are other alternatives.

You can hit a local lake that’s stocked with trout; lakes are usually slower to show the effects of heavy rains, and sometimes they are not affected at all.

I personally don’t care much for trout fishing in lakes, but I’ll still head to a lake if I find the streams less attractive —it’s not trout that I’m after but rather the crappies and maybe some perch or bluegills.

It’s not much of an adjustment to go from trout to crappies since the same ultralight spinning tackle is what’s needed. About the only thing different is what’s at the business end, and for the crappies, I tend to go with a one-sixteenth or one-thirty-second once jig head tipped with a soft plastic grub about an inch and a half long. White is a good all-around approach, but I will use brighter colors in discolored water. I’ve fished for crappies with this rig on a lake when I picked up several trout, as well — it works for both.

By the way, if you do end up substituting a day on the lake for crappies instead of a trout stream, you have the added bonus of some great eating fish. I know you can eat trout, but I much prefer crappies and panfish to trout. Crappie fillets dipped in egg batter, rolled in cracker mill, and fried to a golden brown sure helps you forget about not being able to fish in the high, muddy streams.