We finally got a break from the drought here in Northern California and our mountain lakes are filling up fast. As exciting as that is to us fisherman, many of us will get skunked when the water is high and muddy.
Here’s a few tips to increase your odds of catching spring trout early in the season.
Fish will stay deep in familiar areas
As the water rises, the temperatures drop and trout are sensitive to temperature. Try going deep at your favorite spots. If you have luck, stay there because the fish are sure to move as the temperatures change. If you get skunked in your usual spots, don’t waste your time because you’ve probably missed them.
When the water rises in lakes and streams, trout tend to move around a lot and prefer the shallows until things settle down. It’s easier for them to find food and it also saves them energy. Try fishing shallow banks that face south. Trout actually like to sun themselves and it helps get them out of their winter coma.
Look for food sources
Think like a fish and observe the surroundings. Inlets and drainages that are normally dry feed lakes and rivers as the snowmelt causes runoff. There’s a lot of food coming in from these inlets. Trout will favor these spots (especially when there’s a gravel bottom) and hunt for food there. They will typically hang out in the calm shallows nearby.
Like all of us, fish like to exert as little energy as possible. During high water, currents are greater (especially in rivers). Find locations where the current is obstructed by boulders or logs. Focus on these natural eddies. There are sure to be fish in there resting. Paradoxically, if you want to have luck, you’ll probably exert a lot of energy working these spots. Keep trying.
When I was a kid, we used to pretend we were Native American hunters. We’d sneak up to riverbanks and lake shores and carefully toss our lines in. There is a lot of wisdom in this technique. Considering that trout will favor the shallows, remember that they can see you very well. If you’re wearing your favorite “hunter orange” sweatshirt while wandering the shoreline, you might as well head back to the truck and make sandwiches for everyone else.
Mix it up
As frustrating as it can be to catch trout early in the season (especially when the water is high), it is a good chance to mix up your techniques. I have found that sometimes I find a combo that works well and I love the challenge. The other thing to consider is that they usually start stocking the lakes in the spring so if you want to catch some planters, you probably will. But if you’re looking for big natives, keep trying different things (including different times). The more time you put in, the better your odds. Whether or not you share your secrets is up to yo
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