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Outdoors: Trout fishing is still viable despite low water conditions

By: J.D. Richey
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With the trout season opener just last week, it was abundantly clear that we’re in for a very low water summer.
 
Obviously we didn’t have much of a winter, so therefore, there won’t be much runoff this year. While low-water conditions can make for tough trout fishing, there are ways to tip the odds in your favor.
 
When chasing skinny water trout, the number one thing you can do to improve your chances of success is to fish during lowlight periods of the day. In this case, the early bird truly does get the worm. 
 
Fish the crack of dawn and then give it a rest during the afternoon and then hit it again as the sun starts going behind the trees in the evening.
Another thing that is mandatory under these conditions is to scale all your offerings down — way down.
 
When the water is low and clear, the fish tend to be more on the spooky side. Therefore you have a much better chance of getting bit if you smaller, less intrusive lures and bait.
 
For example, on the creek that you normally fish, a size No. 4 or 5 panther Martin spinner is typically the best bet. Go instead with a No. 01 or 2. On waters where you would normally fish a mini crawler, try going with a smaller hook and a red worm.
 
I have also found that in low water, some of the best trout getters of all are tiny marabou jigs. Muted, earthy tones like brown, olive and purple seem to best represent aquatic invertebrates that the trout focus on in the summer months. 
 
I like the 1/64 of an ounce and 1/80 of an ounce sizes. These tiny baits have lots of pulsating action but are not offensive to wary fish. I fish them with a slight hop, hop, pause, hop, hop, pause type of retrieve.
 
Tiny spoons are also valuable tools in the late summer months of a dry year and match tiny sucker fry and other small fish that the trout find appealing. 
Of course, when fishing the stealthy tactics required by low water, you have to bring the size of your rod and line down too. I mostly run straight 2- and 4-pound fluorocarbon on tiny creeks and then bump up to the 4- to 8-pound range on larger streams and lakes. 
 
The light line you need to cast pint-size offerings also means you have to use a soft rod. A light tip has plenty of “give” to it, which acts like a shock absorber that keeps you from breaking fish off all the time. It doesn’t take much to pop 2-pound, so a stiff stick just won’t do here.
 
In low water, trout will tend to gravitate to a couple of specific locations in a creek — the fast, choppy water at the head of a run and the deepest, darkest holes. I’ve also found that trout of all varieties can act a lot like bass (or even lingcod) when the water is air clear and flowing just above a trickle. When their preferred holding zones aren’t available to them, the fish will camp out under rocks and boulders and then will dart out for a quick meal. I’ve had some amazing days targeting the dark cuts under big rocks when guys fishing traditional areas weren’t getting bit.
 
One other thing to note that is very important: You need to be very stealthy when coming up on a spot you want to fish. Approach from the downstream side whenever possible. Crouch down and try not to throw a shadow on the water and wear dark colored clothing to match the background of the area you are fishing.
 
Hope these tips give you the confidence to get out there on the water this year! Despite the fact that we don’t have a lot of water, you can still find some pretty solid trout fishing.