How to locate trout in a discolored river

This bright, fat rainbow took a Wooly Bugger where receding heavily colored flood waters on the Clark Fork River were met by a clear, highly oxygenated tributary.

Until the Waters Clear

We’re in mid-July, 2011. It’s a year when most of the larger bodied rivers are still flowing chocolate brown with sediment thick in the flow. Many people travel some distance before discovering the waters they came to fish are unreasonable.

So what do you do? Where do you fish? How do you find trout in water like that? I had this challenge coming back from a long drive to Salmon, Idaho via Hamilton, Montana. The Salmon River looked just like the Clark Fork, still high to the bank, running the color of a morning latte. The Bitterroot was clearing and looked fishable but I didn’t have time for a float and most of its banks are on private land.

So I watched for a particular kind of water situation on the Clark Fork as I drove through the mountains toward Coeur d’Alene. I won’t name the inlet tributary (sorry, but over pressure isn’t good), but I can tell you that watching the lay of the land I reasoned where a clear running freestone stream might feed its oxygen rich cold water into the discolored Clark Fork.

I didn’t have much time. But I stashed half an hour allowance to check my theory. I parked my SUV at a point where the walk down across public land to the conjunction of waters wouldn’t take too long and followed the fast flowing freestone to its destiny. I stood on a shallow gravel bar and cast a 2-inch weighted Wooly Bugger on a float-tip 5 weight line. I took this rainbow on the second cast and had two others of similar size on the gravel bar by the end of my allotted time.

Until the waters clear, you’ll have to be innovative. The tributary was a little too strong; but where these streams met was fishable and good trout were there.

~Dwayne Parsons    www.twitter.com/#!/ifishwrite