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ORVIS – Spotting Trout in Dirty Water

“ORVIS – Spotting Trout in Dirty Water” is a video by The Orvis Company that aims to teach you effective methods for locating and catching trout in murky or stained rivers. The video emphasizes that fly fishing can still be successful even in less than ideal water conditions, as the higher water levels found in dirty water often concentrate fish into smaller holding areas. By highlighting the benefits of poor water clarity, such as providing cover and protection for trout, the video encourages anglers not to give up on fishing opportunities when faced with less clear waters. It also emphasizes the importance of observation, elevation, and recognizing the distinct characteristics of trout in murky water in order to enhance your chances of success.

The video provides real-life examples of how to spot trout in murky water, focusing on features such as straight lines, smudges, and flowing tails. It offers practical tips on choosing the appropriate fly and dropper setup, as well as the importance of timing and stealth when presenting the fly to feeding fish. By providing valuable insights and techniques, “ORVIS – Spotting Trout in Dirty Water” offers a comprehensive guide to help fly fishermen adapt and succeed in less than perfect fishing conditions.

Spotting Trout in Dirty Water


When it comes to trout fishing, many anglers prefer clear, pristine waters that allow for easy spotting and casting. However, there are times when conditions are less than ideal, and the water becomes murky and dirty. While this may discourage some anglers, those who are skilled at spotting trout in dirty water can have a distinct advantage. In this article, we will explore the advantages of spotting trout in dirty water, the characteristics that make trout more visible in these conditions, techniques for identifying trout in murky water, the importance of elevation in spotting, real-life examples of spotting trout in dirty water, fishing techniques for success, choosing the right fishing gear, and concluding tips for successful fishing in murky conditions.

Advantages of Spotting Trout in Dirty Water

One advantage of spotting trout in dirty water is the higher concentration of water. In clear water, trout have vast areas to roam, making it difficult to locate them. However, when the water becomes murky, trout are often forced to concentrate in smaller areas. This makes it easier to narrow down their location and increases the likelihood of a successful catch.

Furthermore, dirty water provides trout with increased cover and protection from predators. The reduced visibility acts as a natural shield against potential threats, allowing trout to feel more secure and increasing their willingness to strike at a well-presented fly. Additionally, these conditions create opportunities for site fishing. When the water is dirty, you can rely on your visual observations to determine where the trout are holding, rather than solely relying on your knowledge of their typical habitat.

Characteristics of Trout in Murky Water

When trout are in murky water, they possess certain characteristics that make them more visible to the observant angler. To match the environment, trout often have a darker appearance against the water, creating a contrast that can be easily noticed. Additionally, their sway-like movements, caused by the current, also indicate their presence. By carefully observing the water, anglers can spot these movements and identify the potential location of trout.

Another characteristic to look out for is the tail of the trout. Even in dirty water, the tail of a trout can be visible and serve as a clear indicator of their presence. Learning to identify these characteristics and understanding how to distinguish them from other disturbances in the water can greatly increase your chances of spotting trout in murky conditions.

ORVIS - Spotting Trout in Dirty Water

Identifying Trout in Murky Water

Spotting trout in murky water requires keen observation techniques. One effective method is to look for smudge-like appearances in the water. These may be caused by the movement of the trout or their interaction with the environment. By recognizing these smudges, you can narrow down the areas where trout are holding.

Another technique involves distinguishing straight lines in the water. Trout often create these lines as they move against the current. By identifying these straight lines, you can infer the location of the fish. It’s essential to take advantage of elevation for better spotting. By positioning yourself above the water, you can reduce glare and improve the visibility of shapes and colors. This makes it easier to spot trout in the murky conditions, even on cloudy days.

Importance of Elevation

Elevation plays a crucial role in spotting trout in dirty water. When you are at a higher position, you can reduce the glare on the water caused by the sun. This glare can make it challenging to see below the surface, but with elevation, you can mitigate this issue and enhance your visibility of shapes and colors.

Choosing a vegetative backdrop can also aid in spotting trout. The contrast between the trout’s dark appearance and a green backdrop can make them stand out more clearly. Additionally, certain vegetative backdrops, such as overhanging branches or submerged vegetation, can create pockets of calmer water where trout may congregate.

On cloudy days, elevation becomes even more important. In these conditions, the lack of direct sunlight reduces the glare, making it easier to spot trout. By positioning yourself at an optimal elevation, you can maximize your chances of successfully spotting trout in murky water.

Real-Life Spotting of Trout in Dirty Water

Let’s consider a sample scenario of fishing in a murky river. As you approach the river, you notice that the water is discolored and visibility is limited. To spot trout in these conditions, you begin by searching for areas with slower currents, as these are often referred to as “holding areas” for fish. Once you identify such a spot, you focus your attention on the water surface and carefully observe any smudge-like appearances.

After some time, you notice a straight line moving against the current. This movement indicates the presence of a trout. You visually track the fish until you spot its tail breaking the water’s surface. With this valuable information, you can now choose the appropriate fishing gear.

Fishing Techniques in Dirty Water

In dirty water, trout may alter their feeding patterns. While they may still rise to the surface to feed, they are more likely to engage in subsurface feeding. To increase your chances of success, it’s essential to determine the optimal fly patterns that imitate the prey commonly found in murky conditions. Dark-colored flies, such as black or olive, tend to work well in these situations.

Using heavy leader tippets is also recommended to avoid break-offs, as the murky water may hide underwater obstacles. Additionally, placing droppers or nymphs strategically can help increase your chances of catching trout in dirty water. These subsurface presentations can be highly effective, as they mimic the smaller organisms that trout often feed on in these conditions.

Choosing the Right Fishing Gear

When fishing in dirty water, it’s crucial to select the appropriate fishing gear. This starts with choosing the right fly rod and reel. Opt for a rod that allows for precise casting and has sufficient backbone to handle large fish. A reel with a reliable drag system is also important, as trout caught in dirty water may put up a strong fight.

Determining the optimal fly line is another important consideration. A weight-forward floating line is often recommended for dirty water fishing. This line helps with casting accuracy and allows for better control of the fly.

In terms of leader tippets, it’s advisable to opt for heavier materials that can withstand the potential abrasion caused by unseen underwater obstacles. A 4X or 5X leader is a good starting point for most situations.

Finally, choosing the right fly patterns can make a significant difference in your success rate. Dark-colored flies with a contrasting color or flash often work well in dirty water. Streamers, Woolly Buggers, and Muddler Minnows are commonly used patterns that imitate baitfish and larger prey.


Spotting trout in dirty water requires persistence, observation, and careful analysis of their characteristics and behavior in these conditions. While it may seem daunting at first, with practice, you can develop the skills to successfully spot and catch trout even in murky waters. By taking advantage of the advantages provided by dirty water, such as higher water concentration and increased cover for trout, and by employing the proper techniques, fishing gear, and fly patterns, you can greatly increase your chances of success. So the next time the water becomes murky, don’t give up; instead, embrace the challenge and put your knowledge and skills to the test. Happy fishing!

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