There is a shade of green that I can’t exactly describe, but when I see it, I smile. It’s the color of trout water. A combination of emerald, olive, and moss greens with complete translucence at your feet that is nearly opaque twenty feet from you. The color darkens to match nearly rhododendron leaves as water depth increases. Each transition in color corresponds with transitions in the channel substrate, flow depth, and flow velocity. Many of the streams I fish for trout have this characteristic hue. 

It can be difficult to identify optimal fish holding water

Carbonate bedrock, composed of primary limestone, underlays large portions of central Pennsylvania, creating groundwater aquifers within fractures in solid rock and accumulations of unconsolidated sand, gravel, and cobbles. In our region, approximately 30% of precipitation infiltrates the soil and navigates minute pathways filling pores and spaces within the buried rock under the ground surface. Calcium carbonate breaks down to become soluble in water, adding dissolved minerals at high concentrations (known as hard water). 

Gravity pulls on water, just like everything else, and leads the water through the aquifers to low points in the valley, where it is expressed into wetlands and streams. The geologic formations and groundwater flow help to keep the water cold and help to give it the trout green color. The additional minerals within the water help to make the water fertile, for increased food sources for aquatic plants, plankton, insects, and fish. 

The best anglers I have fished with all seem to have three similar abilities. They can cast very well, with the fly rod and line nearly always in control. They are versatile in the methods and techniques they can employ to catch fish. Lastly, they read water precisely and can catalog the conditions in which feeding fish are located. They have the physical skills to get the fish what they are eating and the mental aptitude to repeatedly know where they are eating. 

Often, I feel as if I am searching for repeated data points on where feeding fish are located, but my results feel random and inconsistent. Time spent recently on a limestone creek in Pennsylvania presented a new angle to consider. Color. 

Observing the water depth, water velocity, bubble line presence and substrate at locations of feeding fish I catch is a part of my process to catch more fish each time on the water. Confidence in the accuracy of my observations is another matter. Without wading through each section of the stream and taking detailed notes with each caught fish, I lose track of the data quickly and I fail to see trends. However, when focusing on water color changes and hues, I was able to find water types where I repeatedly caught fish.

My first trout of the day was caught below a steeper ridge at the head of a riffle in a seam of softer water, with a shade of green, approximately the 60th percentile of darkness within the reach. I fished through the adjacent seam, with a slightly lighter color to no avail. The next seam over was like the first and I caught another fish.

It didn’t register that color may be an indicator of optimal trout holding depth and velocity for my time on the water until about 20 minutes later. Moving upstream through a long, flatter sloped run I was confident I would get into more fish. It was a reach of darker, deeper water, typically solid water for winter trout fishing. I had no success until I fished a slightly lighter area at the bankside edge of the run. On my first cast I hooked and lost a fish and on my third cast I caught another. 

Orange ovals delineate locations of feeding fish

The remainder of my time on the water, I keyed into fish in and around the “trout” green water, catching several fish and losing a couple more. Keeping it simple and looking for the water color, instead of categorization of multiple conditions helped me focus and catch more fish. I recognize that the positions of feeding fish change frequently and my trout green today may not produce tomorrow. Concentrating on color may be a method to simplify observations and catch more fish.

Keep Mending… 

One Reply to “Improve Fishing Success by Recognition of Color Patterns”

  1. Before I read the end of your blog, I was wondering if the color factor changes with the season! Seems as if it is not constant!
    Very fascinating! Just another way for you to maximize your strategies!
    I am glad you had success!

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