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Dealing with High Water during Trout Season

Trout Fishing in High Water, Murky Water, and Difficult Conditions

The weather during this spring of 2019 has been relentless. Torrential downpours have been common which is bad news for trout fisherman. Big and popular trout streams have been high and muddy all too much this spring. It seems like as soon as they finally get back down to a fishable level, more rain comes and cranks them right back up again. What is the best option when your favorite creek is blown out and looks like chocolate milk? Find another option. The answer is really that simple. At least it sounds simple, but can sometimes be a challenge to execute. Here are some tips to use for finding places to trout fish when it seems like the high water will never go away.

Check the smaller streams

In many areas of Pennsylvania, we are fortunate to have lots of options when it comes to trout streams. We have plenty of big and wide streams that are the first ones to be blown out with heavy rain. We have medium-sized streams ranging from ten to twenty feet in width. And then we have the small native trout streams. Many trout fisherman do not know about how many opportunities we have on small, Class A trout streams. The PA Fish and Boat Commission website can be used to find these streams. Many times streams this small will be in decent shape within hours after a heavy rain. During a spring and early summer like the one we’re having, these small streams can be a great way to get on trout when all other creeks are unfishable. Another bonus of fishing them soon after rain is the fact that the water will usually be slightly off-color. Trying to go undetected from these spooky native trout when the water is crystal clear can be a big challenge. Water that is slightly off-color, but not muddy, is the best situation for these small streams.  

Use water gauges and online stream reports 

A very useful tool to use when trying to find out water levels of streams is the US Army Corps of Engineers. They have several water gauges set up on streams used to measure the water level. Search the stream conditions for the creek you are looking for and you will find the USGS water gauge for that creek if there is one on it. This is an extremely useful tool for finding the live conditions of a stream. It will often display the gauge height in feet, the water discharge in cubic feet per second, the recent precipitation, and water temperature.  

Use experience to find the “water-resistant streams” 

When a big rain comes through and blows out creeks, there are those that seem like they take forever to go back down in water level. On the other hand, there are some that will go back down relatively quickly, and some that will be less likely to get blown out in the first place. This is where previous knowledge comes in to play. The more you have trout fished in the past the better. With experience comes a good knowledge of these creeks that seems to drop back down in water level the quickest or the ones that seem to be less likely to be high in the first place. Fisherman looking to fish for stocked fish on something bigger than small native streams should look for medium-sized streams that have a minimal amount of feeder streams dumping extra water in.  

Expand your search 

When creeks nearby are high and muddy fishermen need to be willing to expand their search to farther distances to find fishable water. This spring some storms and rain showers have been extremely spotty. It might have down-poured at your local stream five minutes away but been completely dry at another spot twenty minutes down the road. That situation has been quite common in recent weeks. Just because your local stream is blown out doesn’t mean everything within driving distance is. 

Flies and bait to use in high and off-color water:

Worden Original Rooster 1 3/4″ 1/24 oz Tail Spinner with Treble Hook

Berkley PowerBait Trout Bait

Jackson Nymph Fly Gold Ribbed Hares Ear Beadhead

Best Weather Conditions for Trout Fishing

Weather Conditions and Trout Fishing 101

Before your next trout fishing outing, be sure to take a look at the weather conditions and see what’s expected. Many fishermen will get excited when they see what looks like pleasant weather for being outside. Fairly warm temperatures, a little bit of sunshine, no rain, and the list could go on. If you want to catch more trout let’s learn a little bit more about how the weather conditions will affect trout, how they feed, and how that translates to your success.

Let’s get right to it. Those bright sunny days are not the good ones for trout fishing, at least most of the time. Cloudy with light rain is the absolute best weather conditions you can ask for when heading to the stream. When the weather looks as if you might get wet, that’s not a bad thing. The best days I have trout fishing every spring are on days just like this. I can remember back to a handful of days in recent years where myself and group have just absolutely slammed trout with rain coming down and had the creek to ourselves. Too much heavy rain could end up in creeks being blown out in the preceding days, but if the water is in good shape the day you want to fish and you have cloud cover with some light rain, you could be in for a treat.  

You might be thinking to yourself cloudy and rainy days are very common in the spring. The answer might be yes, but the amount of days that are fishable in these conditions might be few and far between depending on the year. Yes, we have had tons of rain this spring, but that has given us blown out creeks all too often. That high and muddy water has taken away so many of our days to fish just to begin with. Of the days where the water has been in good shape, if we have clouds and rain it has usually meanthunderstorms along with them. Obviously, out fishing on the stream is no place to be in a thunderstorm. f you think about how many days the water has been in good shape, with cloudy and rainy weather but with no thunderstorms, it might not be quite as many days as you had anticipated.  

trout-fishing-weather-conditions_pic1

Let’s take a look at why these different weather conditions can affect the trout fishing so drastically. The reasons that a bright and sunny day are tough are fairly obvious. In sunny conditions trout can see us much easier as well as our fishing line, tippet, leader, or fly line. The sun also exposes them to predators from above. All those things considered, trout are usually much more spooky and less likely to feed as heavily on days like this. On the other hand, cloudy days make fish feel safer. They aren’t as worried about other predators and they are much more likely to feed well. They won’t be able to see your line, tippet, or leader nearly as easily either, making them much easier to fool. Another interesting thing to think about is that many fishermen believe fish can detect a drop in barometric pressure which is usually associated with bad weather on the way. This makes trout want to feed heavily now before the creek gets blown out after a few days of raining in a row. All these things combined can make for spectacular days of trout fishing in these weather conditions.  

When fishing on the sunny days, the best times to catch trout are going to be the first hours of the morning and the last hours of the evening. During ideal cloudy and rainy days, I have many times experienced all day feeding from trout. There have been days I can remember, when fly fishing, that trout have fed literally all day long on the surface eating mayflies. These concepts are usually true, but not there can always be outliers. It doesn’t mean you can’t have great days catching fish all day long in the sun, and it doesn’t mean you’ll always have a great day when its cloudy and raining. I have experienced both scenarios. But in general, this is the way it seems to go for the majority of the time. If creeks are in good shape, keep an eye on the weather forecast to look for these conditions. When the opportunity comes, grab a raincoat, your fishing rod, and get out there for some fun! 

Huk Packable Rain Jacket

Frogg Toggs Women’s UltraLite Rain Suit