Sitting at home with the rain falling brings up the question: is trout fishing in the rain worth it?
Bright sunny days provide excellent conditions for sight fishing, but the trout can be few and far between. It is no secret that trout prefer to keep out of the direct sunlight. There is a small stream which flows past my home. During the day, I rarely see trout in it. Head out at night, with a flash light and chances are I will spot several.
Trout favor dull, overcast or cloudy conditions. Not only is it cooler, it also protects them against predation. Seeing into the water is simply harder for either bird or man. Trout might be predators, but they are also prey.
Is trout fishing better in the rain?
Like all things trout fishing, there are always exceptions. In cold conditions, trout might be more active during the day. But, for most of the fishing season the opposite is true.
The drop in atmospheric pressure which precedes a rainy day can trigger trout to feed. Sometimes, it can even cause a feeding frenzy to occur.
During low summer flows, when the water temperature is high. A chilly rain can bring some reprieve. It drops the temperature and increases the oxygen levels. Both factors causing trout to be more active, and increase their likelihoods of feeding.
When I was a child, one wet day my father drove me to a pool in a local stream. To show me a natural phenomenon. The pool, maybe 80 yards long and 10 across, was swarming with fish life. We counted over 50 eels breaking the surface. It was almost like a tin of worm. In amongst the eel, the trout were also hard at work. Rising up before disappearing down deep. It lasted for two days. I have seen nothing like it since.
If I return to that pool on a normal day, I probably will only see a single fish. Even at night the flashlight, will reveal several eels and a trout or two but they will be holding on the bottom. Despite checking that pool many times on wet days since I have never seen anything quite like it again. I still can not isolate the exact conditions, which caused the feeding frenzy during those rainy days, but it is something I will never forget.
Fishing after rain
Opening weekend, in my hometown means rain. If it was not raining on opening day, it would have rained the day before. I am not one to skip opening day. So rain, shine, wind, hail I will head out for a fish. Sometimes the major rivers will be roaring in flood, but there is always some place to find trout.
This is normally in smaller tributaries. They raise quickly, but they also drop quickly. Meaning they become low enough to fish while the big rivers are still roaring. In this small streams I have had some of the best brown trout fishing of my life.
One spring morning, the stream had a good size fresh in it. The water was full of leaves, trigs and dislodged insects. As I waded upstream, it soon become apparent the trout were taking full advantage of the abundance in food. The usually wary fish were almost hypnotized by the constant flow of food. Was a very productive day.
Another year, opening day coincided with a full force storm. The amount of fishable water was very low. I spent the morning on a small spring creek but conditions were too miserable.
So later that day, I decided to check out a local reservoir. Overs the years, this reservoir slowly filled in with silt and weeds. Destroying what was once a fairly productive trout fishery. Then someone introduced pest fish, which were later destroyed by the environmental agency. In early fall, the local fish and game stocked it with a few surplus brown and rainbow trout. Most of which swam over the dam with the first fall rain.
Anyway, with storm clouds still brewing. I fished the outlet channel first, the only place not smothered with weeds. What greeted me was a dozen trout feeding in the outlet pool. I was able to line up the largest rainbow who readily took my nymph. On release, I noticed a fresh puncture wound in its jaw. I text a local trout addict, and my suspicion was true. He landed it earlier that day.
These trout had a such a strong urge to feed. That they were back on the bite mere hours after being caught.
So far, this article has been very antidote heavy. I apologize and will get to the point.
Fishing after rain, when the rivers are dropping, can be among the most productive times. The reason why is simple, the increased current dislodges and washes an abundance of insect life downstream. The trout are ready to take full advantage of it.
There is also plenty of drowned terrestrial insects, which were washed from their riverside homes. These insects often drift deeper in the water column, so the traditional terrestrial drys might not work.
Do Mayflies Hatch In the rain?
Some of the biggest Mayfly hatches occur during overcast showery conditions. They emerge in great numbers, and the fish know it. While the raises might be hard to distinguish from the raindrops, the river below is full of activity. I am guessing the eel and trout I saw as a kid were feasting on a prolonged hatch event.
Some insects are less active
Not all insects like the rain, and many actually shelter. On overcast rainy days you will unlikely to see damsel flies dancing, while cicadas, crickets, grasshoppers and house flies are all less active.
On the positive, the blood sucking midges and mosquitoes also go into hiding. I find during the rain was the most relaxing time to fish Scottish lochs because of the lack of otherwise relentless midges. The same hold true to New Zealand sandflies. Still best to be prepared, they return in force the moment the weather clears.
Rain in the fall can trigger spawning runs
After a long hot summer, and dry fall. The first serious rains can drop the rivers temperature and trigger the urge to spawn. Large numbers of pre-spawned trout, and salmon can start their push upstream. The increase freshwater concentration flowing out to sea also heralds the return of many sea-run brown trout and steelheads.
The days following a fall fresh can see some seriously productive fishing.
Fishing in floods.
As a general rule, if the river is brown, angry and raging I do not fish it. Trout in such wild conditions struggle to stay alive. Many get crushed by rolling boulders, others are carried miles downstream. In one of my local rivers the rainbows get carried several miles out to sea after large floods. These are not steelheads, just displaced river fish.
I still want to fish a flooded river
If you do want to fish a flood, it is best to avoid the main current. The force of the water is too powerful for the trout to hold there. They seek out eddy’s, backwaters and areas of low floor. They often move towards the edges and shallows.
I have not seen it myself, but a local farmer has seen trout gathering in spring eruption zones during floods. He could see the browns trout resting in the pocket of spring water surrounded by mud. This river only contains a few trout.
What nymphs to use when fishing in the rain?
I suggest fishing the same pattern. The aquatic life is not going to change much simply because there is more flow. If the water is slightly cloudy, consider using a size larger to improve visibility, maybe even go as far as using a bright seed.
The faster flow, might necessitate the use of heavier weighted nymphs so they sink fast enough to reach the strike zone. Sight fishing is going to be difficult, so I highly recommend the use of an indicator.
Most trouts in streams will feed subsurface, so unless you can see the trout rising I will be hesitant to reach for dry flies. The trout are probably feasting on terrestrial which have drowned and floating closer to the bottom.
Streamers and tiny wet flies are an excellent option for cloudy water. I will pick larger bolder patterns,s in dark colors. A black wooly bugger or rabbit fly will be my pick. But olive or dark brown likely also work.
As conditions get even murkier, that is the time to break out the crazy bright colors. Do not be afraid to fish a bright orange or yellow fly. Anything to stand out against the dirt.
Spin fishing for trout in dirty water
Cloudy water is a great time to dust off the spinning gear. Spinners and other metal lures have several advantages over flies in dirty water.
The first, inline spinners give off a lot of vibration. Such a loud lure, is simply easier for the trout to sense against the roar of the river. Many jerkbaits and hard body minnows contain internal rattles, this also helps grabs the trout attention.
Spinners, typically are larger than streamers. Which again assists In visibility. When fishing dirty water, I go straight for a YoZuri Pin Minnow in the brightest, most obnoxious color in my box. I have lost count how many brown trouts I caught on this lure in cloudy water.
Finally, there are more scented options available. The most common are the scented soft plastic lures.
Make sure to check your hooks every few casts, nothing dulls the action of a spinning lure like a tail of slime.
Bait fishing for trout in the rain.
This might just be the best time to bait fish for trout. During the rain, a lot of worms leave their barrows and travel overland. Many end up getting washed into the rivers. Trout and other rivers are unlikely to turn down an easy meal.
Presenting a worm, beneath a float across slow flowing pools is an excellent rainy day option. If fishing a lake, target stream mouths. A lot of worms and bugs get washed into the lake and that is where the trout gather.
What to wear when fishing in the rain?
I recommend wearing full waders and a wading jacket. This full outfit helps keep you dry and more importantly warm. On a warm summer’s day, it might be tempting to leave the waterproof gear at home. I personally get cold after standing in the rain for several hours.
Safety when trout fishing in the rain
We must take care when fishing rivers in the rain. While it might only be light showers where you are. Torrential downpours could be hammering the mountainous headwaters further upstream. A wall of water could be raging downstream to meet you.
Always, have an escape plan in mind. Know how you are going to get out of the river and back to the car quickly If the river starts to raise. Avoid fishing canyons and other steeply walled sections of rivers. In such places water levels raise rapidly and it is possible to get trapped.
Lastly, if there is lighting, think twice before waving that 9ft fly rod around out in the open. Graphite conducts electricity, and your rod might just be the highest point. When I hear thunder approaching, I head back to the car.