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Simon Robinson Talks fishing in Coloured Water

Published: 14th December 2015 | Author: Simon Robinson


When you are fishing for winter grayling you often have to put up with less than perfect conditions, rain or snowmelt often means you will be fishing in rivers which are high and coloured. At times like this it is tempting to just give the fishing a miss and sit back in the comfort of your home tying flies or watching television. Personally I still try to get out whenever I can and often see coloured water as a challenge to face head on.

Firstly when I say coloured water I must stress I am not referring to rivers which are in full flood but rivers which are still at a fishable level and safe to wade with caution if required. I would however recommend a wading stick and buoyancy aide if you are fishing a large or unknown river in high water conditions.

In these situations of reduced visibility fish can still be caught provided you make the required adjustments to your tackle, flies and approach.

Firstly look at tackle, you are likely to be fishing with bigger and heavier flies so it make sense to increase the AFTM rating of your rod, I usually fish with 10ft 3 weight rods when nymphing in clear water but in coloured water I have no hesitation in creasing to a 4 or even a 5 weight rod, particularly on the larger rivers.


Also the tippet can be increased, you are likely to snag on the bottom more when fishing heavy flies and with reduced visibility and larger flies there is no benefit in fishing light leaders. Therefore I would suggest you increase tippets to something in the region of 0.16 – 0.18mm in diameter. You could argue that you can fish even heavier leaders but in reality it is almost impossible to break a tippet of 0.18mm with today’s modern nymphing rods.

With regard to flies, you need to move away  from the standard clear water hares ear and Pheasant tail patterns as they are just not visible to fish in these conditions. As a rule of thumb you need to increase the sizes and stick with flies that are either black or bright, or both.

Pink is always a great winter colour for grayling so a Fulling Mill shrimp pink is a great choice as is a Fulling Mill KJ Red Tag. Bright coloured beds are also worth a go, particularly flies with a bright orange tungsten such as Fulling Mill SR Orange Bead Mary.

Simon Robinson Fulling Mill Flies

These should be fished on a French leader for best results. Making sure that you have short section of bright leader material between leader and tippet to register takes. I prefer the French leader setup in coloured water as I like to swing and dangle the flies to make them more visible to the fish, this is difficult to do with a trio/indicator set ups as the surface dry fly or indicator catches the current. The French leader also allows you to bounce flies along the bottom and get them moving slower than the surface current giving the fish more chance to spot them and make a move to take. The takes are often very positive in coloured water as the fish makes its mind up at short notice and takes aggressively with confidence before losing site of its meal, another reason for increasing tippet diameter!

Finally fish in appropriate places, don’t waste time fishing the fastest water n the heads of the runs as you may do in clear low water, fish will often be close to the banks and in the slower areas, these areas not only hold more fish but as the water is slower, they also give them more chance of seeing yours flies. My advise would be to spend time in the best areas only rather than trying to fish every inch of the river as you may when the fish area active in clear water. It may take 10 or 12 casts in the same area for a fish to even see your flies, so give them the chance.

It really does give you a sense of achievement to catch a few fish in a river that at first glance seemed unfishable so give it a go, you may just be surprised… Good luck!

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