Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Fishing Flooded Rivers

Natch on the flooded Pine River, early spring.

Natch on the flooded Pine River, early spring.

I can’t count the number of times I drove up to the Pine River only to find it so flooded that it was impossible to fish. But here’s the thing – I had to try. When a rain starts the trout slam the buffet and that means any lure tossed into the water. It can last for a day, but if it’s a downpour then it can be a matter of hours before the river is carrying so much mud it seems like Nestles has a chocolate milk factory upstream. When the stream muddies up – the fish are still active but they are at the bottom of the stream and your lure is coasting past them like it’s in an alternate reality.

Stepping into a muddy, flooded river qualifies as entering an alternate reality. You can count on the stream being twice as deep as you expect, plus six inches. If you survive getting in, triangulate your position before taking a further step so when you trip over the submerged bottom log you will have some idea of where you might get back out.  Experienced anglers have a special way to enter flooded rivers that reminds me of a scene from Romancing the Stone and a long muddy slide, though the chances of landing on Kathleen Turner seems pretty remote.

Back to the River. OK, you made it in, now what? Since it is almost impossible for the trout to see your lure, your best bet is to upsize. If you normally throw a two hook minnow bait, grab a #13 three-treble silver or gold minnow. Casting will not be pretty. Lob the lure like it has cooties and try to pinch the line before it reaches its destination.  This will straighten out the lure before it enters the stream which is the best advice in this entire post.  If a three hook lure enters the water at an odd angle, it will most likely catch the fishing line and retrieve sideways or backwards, which doesn’t catch a lot of trout.

Don’t have a #13 dredger? Try the biggest spinner in your tote. Ideally – fat blades with lots of flash. I like a gold color in muddy water, silver if the stream is more stained than muddy.  There is a good chance you will lose the lure but you need to weigh that against catching a big trout, which is very possible. The big fish are not timid if they think they are invisible. Here is a second good tip. Work the banks since the water is shallower at the edge. This bumps your chance of a trout seeing the lure. That said; cast everywhere because a stream bottom will have some shallow spots even mid-stream. Also, don’t be surprised if a trout takes your lure right at the rod tip. That’s when it gets fun.

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2 thoughts on “Fishing Flooded Rivers

  1. Reading your stories makes me want to get out fishing!
    I have had to fish the Pine several times when it was “WAY TOO HIGH”.
    There were trips when chest waders were redundant because I had to fish
    from the bank. I felt like a fisherman out of water! It is dangerous as well.
    Just try to keep your footing on a steep wet bank while leaning out
    over six feet of muddy water going by at break neck speed. For security
    you might want to lean against that dead pricker tree and send up a small
    prayer! Yes, you may be killed but you will probably will have a big fish
    story to tell if you make it out alive. Bob

  2. Bob, I bet you recognize the spot where Natch is standing. We’ve had a couple openers where you could get in there, but moving even a few feet up or downstream was pushing the safety envelope. Fortunately, there’s some good cover straight across the stream from Natch that always holds trout. Are we talking Pine River this year?

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