Best Lures For Catching Brown Trout In Murky Water

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David fishing a small stream in Wisconsin with rising, murky water.

Despite poor visibility, trout fishermen shouldn’t shy away from murky water. In fact, murky water is my favorite fishing condition. 

Use dark, bright, or flashy lures when fishing for brown trout in murky water. These colors are more visible to trout when the water has poor clarity. 

What Color Lure Is Best In Murky Water? 

Trout can still see various colors in murky water, especially black, yellow, green, and white. Black and white stand out in a dirty background, and on a sunny day, black absorbs more light. Black is my go-to color for dirty water and, in my experience, the most successful option.

Sometimes it’s best to set aside trout anatomy and use common sense in murky conditions. A red fly replicates washed-out worms that trout go wild for! But murky conditions limit the color’s wavelengths, so proximity is key.

The lesson of lure color and murky water? How you fish is as important as what you fish. Here are some tips for fishing stained water.

Murky Water Tactics 

Slow Down 

Murky conditions increase as the water volume increases (typically due to snowmelt or heavy rains). More water means trout have more area to occupy, forcing an angler to slow down. 

Although I prefer a “run n’ gun” style when a river is at its average level, you should be thorough in stained water conditions. Casting in every inch of water will be the difference between dozens of trout and zero trout.

Move Water 

Choose lures that move water or make noise. This can be a streamer bouncing off the stream bottom or a crankbait or spinner that vibrate. Even in muddy conditions, a trout’s lateral line will detect this movement, and the chase will begin!

Size Up 

My favorite part of muddy conditions is fishing with larger equipment, which means heavy lines and larger flies or lures. Don’t be afraid to fish a lure that is heavy and gaudy. 

You can be aggressive and cast into heavy cover when using heavier lines. Even if you get snagged, you can rip a hefty line out of a tangle or hindrance. 

Fish Close

Murky water means trout are less spooked and struggle to detect predators or baitfish. So, don’t be afraid to fish water beneath your feet. 

If you lack bites from a spot that looks heavily populated, move closer. A shorter cast will decrease drag, making your lure appear more natural. 

Use Scent 

Feel free to use scented lures or bait. The scent will clue trout in to a lure’s location when visibility is low. Once, I watched a nearby angler catch a pile of trout while I struggled to hook anything with a spinner. As you can guess, he was tossing worms.

Can Trout See In Muddy Water? 

Muddy water limits a trout’s vision, but that doesn’t stop them from chasing bait. With the help of their lateral line and smell, trout can detect washed-out bait for a feeding frenzy. In fact, I run for the door if I know the water is rising.

How Muddy Is Too Muddy?

Some water is too muddy to fish and not worth the effort. Though there is no hard rule for unfishable water, many anglers use their waders as a gauge. If you can’t see your boots while standing in knee-high water, search for clearer conditions. 

I prefer a method that doesn’t force me to get in the water: If a stream or river looks like chocolate milk, I move on. 

A sturdy Wisconsin brown trout caught by David in muddy conditions
A sturdy Wisconsin brown trout caught by David in muddy conditions

Locating Trout In Muddy Water 

Increased water volume makes finding trout more difficult. To flatten this learning curve, here are a few tips to help you: 

  1. Look For Structure: Trout always seek out structure like boulders, branches, trees, or gravel bars. Anything that slows down a strong current is a trout haven since they preserve a trout’s energy. And, like all other fish, structure means protection from predators.
  1. Find Slow Water: Eddies and pools have a slow current and stockpile trout. Be aware that slow water is often deep, so you’ll need patience, deep casts, and thorough retrieves. 
  1. Familiarize Yourself: Preparation is key, and knowing a stream like the back of your hand is an incredible asset for all water conditions. When the water is low, trout look for deeper areas; when the water is high, trout move into spots that are usually low. As long as you know a river, you will have an idea of trout location, no matter the conditions.

Related Questions 

Is Trout Fishing Better When Cloudy? 

Anglers prefer cloudy, overcast conditions when fishing for trout. A lack of sunlight means a person’s shadow cannot spook nearby trout. Additionally, insects tend to hatch out in cloudy conditions, which creates a trout-feeding frenzy

What Color Lure Should I Use On Cloudy Days? 

Age-old wisdom says to fish dark lures on dark days and bright lures on bright days. I agree that dark lures help on dark days, but don’t be afraid to fish a bright lure too. A bright lure with flash or vibrant colors can stand out in dim conditions. 

What Color Lures Are Best In Clear Water? 

Trout can be particularly picky under clear, bright conditions. If this is the case, fish a natural-colored lure. In my experience, small flies (Sz. 18 Pheasant Tail) or simple spinners (Sz. 2 Silver) are most helpful in clear water. Silver spinners do an adequate job of replicating the silver look of trout and baitfish. 

What Color Attracts Trout The Most? 

Trout prefer a range of attractive colors. The best color to use depends on the water and weather conditions. The ideal colors for trout range from bright, vibrant colors to dark, drab colors. Brown, red, black, pink, chartreuse, olive, and fire tiger are options for catching trout. 

Final Thoughts 

Dark, bright, or flashy lures are best for murky water to catch brown trout. These colors will maximize visibility when a trout has poor vision. 

While many anglers find murky water intimidating, I find stained water elicits a trout-feeding frenzy. As the water rises, it washes out bugs, baitfish, and various invertebrates to hungry trout. 

So if the water level is on the rise, consider skipping work to chase monster brown trout. Just be careful not to show your trophy catch to your boss!

David with a stout brown trout eager to eat in rising water during a spring rain.
David with a stout brown trout eager to eat in rising water during a spring rain
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