Beautiful Rainbow caught in off-color water. Black Stonefly
It's not often in winter that you have the opportunity to fish off color water. Usually, rivers will stay low and clear until runoff begins. When unusually warm temperatures like we have seen this spring cause rain instead of snow, low elevation snow melt can add some color to the water. While some may read into "off-color water" as a bad thing, many will argue that off color water is ideal for fishing, especially in the winter.
I am one of those people.
Ice jams upstream of the shop on the Gallatin are starting to break up, low elevation snow is melting and rain has been adding color to the Gallatin for the last week. The fishing has been outstanding. Here are three more reasons why I love fishing off-color water when given the chance.
1.) The river doesn't have much insect activity in the winter months, so when lower elevation snow melts, it brings much-needed nutrients/food with it. With more food in the system, fish are more willing to eat and will, in theory, be a bit less selective because there is a diverse selection of food available. Darker fly patterns have the best silhouette and are most visible to fish in such water.
2.) It is easy to spook fish in clear water, especially during a river's low winter flows. Added color decreases the fish's range of vision and makes you more difficult to spot. While anglers should always be aware of how they approach the river, the added color may allow your sloppy approach to go unnoticed.
3) The river will be empty. There have been many days where anglers stopping in the shop say the Gallatin looks too dirty to fish so they are driving to cleaner water (The Madison). While I do my best to reassure them that fishing will be great, the river stays empty except for the few who stayed to fish. Their end of day reports need no words as they are often told by a big grin when they stop in to reload their fly boxes. Once word gets out it may not be so empty anymore.
Get out and go fishing, whether the water is clear or colored up. You aren't going to catch anything sitting at your computer!