Spring fishing on Montana's Clark Fork River

During the season, and especially during the spring, river flows can fluctuate and water clarity can change dramatically due to snowmelt, rain, and other weather events.  Sure, there is a point where conditions make a river unfishable.  But often a little color is no big deal and in some cases can actually make the fishing better.  

Nymphing is often the best bet when water clarity is marginal or flows are high.  Here are five tips for nymphing fishing in off colored water that will improve your chances of getting into a few fish.

1. Short leash the banks.  Off colored water generally comes with a pulse in flows.  During high water trout often seek cover closer to banks where visibility is also better.  By covering water tighter to the banks you will increase your odds of finding trout that are more likely to eat.  How short is short?  I like to set my indicator about 4 feet from the top fly and adjust weight accordingly.  

2. Find and fish structure.  Again, off colored water is generally married to a pulse in flows.  Fish will seek cover when their habitat changes dramatically.  Look for boulder gardens, woody debris, old car bodies, rusted mattress box springs, Cupie doll heads, and anything else that will provide trout with cover during periods of off colored water.

3.  Don't be afraid to jig nymphs from time to time.  Trout can't see as well in off colored water.  Erratic movement from a potential food source will often attract attention and elicit a strike.  Use the tip of your rod to make your bugs jump about six to eight inches through the water column especially toward to end of the drift.

4. Fish black, dark, dense patterns.  Dark colored bugs show up better when water clarity changes for the worse. Suspended particles  in the water column can reflect light.  Black, darker and more dense flies offer better profiles then slim, lighter colored flies and even flashbacks for that matter.

5.  Super size bugs.  Upsizing patterns by a size, or even two, can help.  Since fish can't see as well during periods of off colored water, give them something they can see easier.  Stick with tried and true patterns but don't be afraid to fish bigger sizes.

Nymphing is often the most productive way to fish off colored water.  Give these five nymphing strategies a try the next time you face less than perfect conditions and you'll have more success.

Give a shout anytime if you need more information on this technique or if any information on Montana fly fishing opportunities.  406-295-4872



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