You have just arrived at the trout stream only to find that a recent heavy rain has left the stream high and muddy. Your first instinct is to turn around and go home because the fishing will be tough, but fishing high water is not impossible.
When a trout stream is high and the water is colored, the trout are still out there, it just takes a different approach to catch them.
When heavy rains raise water levels and increase the current strength, trout seek safe places away from the main current. Often these locations are behind large rocks or downed trees, or in eddies, or in quiet areas near the seam of the main current.
Trout are perpetually seeking to conserve energy, but this is especially true during high-water conditions. It is not uncommon for trout to congregate in the safest areas after a heavy rain, which can make them fairly easy to locate.
Lots of food
While some trout anglers believe that high water will shut down feeding activity, in many cases, it actually triggers higher feeding activity. Heavy rain washes terrestrial insects into the stream and heavy currents carry higher numbers of aquatic insects.
This increase in the amount of available food in the water does not go unnoticed by trout. They take advantage of this opportunity by feeding heavily on the bounty of food items. This activity can result in a big payoff for anglers who are persistent.
When the water is high and colored, it is more difficult for trout to see food in the water because their visibility is significantly reduced. To increase the odds of fish seeing your fly, go big. Larger nymphs, streamers and terrestrials will be easier for the fish to see in the dirty water. A cricket, grasshopper, or worm pattern can be especially deadly, as are large nymph or streamer patterns.
When light conditions are low in the stream, due to dirty water, the darker colors will be more visible to the trout. Try flies that are black, brown or grey.
While much of the trout fishing season revolves around the hatches that are occurring, high-water conditions force anglers to change their approach. Instead of focusing on hatches, consider what insects or other critters the rain is washing toward the trout.
Bottom is the best
When a stream is high and colored, the clearest water is at the lowest level of the water column, which is where the fish will be doing most of their feeding. This means you want to keep your bait near the bottom. Use bead-head or weighted flies, or add some split shot to your line to keep your fly in the bottom level of the water column.
Avoid small flies or dry flies, because the trout are unlikely to see them.