On the Fly column: Be not afraid of off-colored water | PostIndependent.com

On the Fly column: Be not afraid of off-colored water

Will Sands
On the Fly
brown trout
Louis Cahill Photography

As we move into spring the most significant change we will begin to see is the changing of water clarity, especially on the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers. While water clarity certainly affects fishing conditions it sometimes is to the angler’s advantage.

While we are blessed with our local rivers running practically gin clear throughout most of the year, the first signs of discolored water often scare anglers from getting out and getting a line wet. However, as our local water conditions change from gin clear to slightly off color, this change can make for exceptional fishing with some slight adjustments.

The first adjustment that anglers need to make when they approach off-colored water is to distinguish between just off color, or is the water truly blown out and unfishable. A general rule of thumb is green in good, brown is bad. This guide metaphor simply means that if the river has taken on a green color that it is more than fishable, but if it is chocolate brown then it is probably time to head elsewhere.

But before you perceive the river as blown out, you need to determine if there is any visibility at all. This can quite simply be determined by actually wading out into a foot to two feet of water and looking down at your boots. If you can see your boots in two feet of water, it is more than fishable. Also take note of the fact that the clearest water is along the bank, and fish will generally move tighter and closer to the bank. Sometimes it can be as simple as finding out which tributary is carrying the discolored water into the river and then moving above it to find clear water and happy trout.

The next step to taking on off-colored water is increasing the size and brightness of your flies. Larger and brighter flies will be noticed more readily in the off-colored water. Generally speaking, fly patterns such as San Juan worms, Pat’s rubber legs, red copper johns, large prince nymphs and large stonefly patterns will produce well in off-colored water.

So remember, just because things are changing a bit does not mean that it’s time to give up. Always remember that the Fryingpan River will always run gin clear from the base of the dam downstream when everything else in the valley gets too muddy to fish.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at (970) 927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.

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