Driftless Trout Anglers

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#1 Posted : Sunday, March 25, 2018 4:01:44 PM(UTC)
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Will be fishing the Vernon County area this week! I’m wondering if wearing bright colored clothing matters for this area? I ask because I’m generally a fan of bright oranges and blues, so much of my fishing clothing features is this color scheme. I know moving slowly and coming from down stream are most important. And, last time I fished this area around Labor Day during bright sunlight I couldn’t even get within the periphery of fish without them seeing me. So my thought is 1) don’t false cast above the area of stream I’m fishing mainly because the spray puts the fish down, 2) move very slowly, 3) cast from directly down stream so I’m not in the perimeter, and 4) long, 10-12 foot 6x leaders.

William Schlafer  
#2 Posted : Sunday, March 25, 2018 6:57:02 PM(UTC)
William Schlafer
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Exposing your profile against a bright sky is certain to send Trout scattering. If you can blend in with the terrain and background, that will definitely help. Get low, move slowly and avoid walking along high banks. When the water is clear and the sun is bright, you really have to take care not to put your shadow on the water. Trout will detect this from long distances. Sometimes all it takes is the flash of a shadow on the water from your fly line to tip them off.

I don't believe fish see color like humans do, but it's possible they might be spooked by a large object in an unfamiliar or unusual color, such as pink, lime green or bright orange moving along the bank. I always dress with neutral colors: light tan, drab green or brown.


Edited by user Sunday, March 25, 2018 7:04:56 PM(UTC)  | Reason: damned typos!

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MN Mountain Man  
#3 Posted : Sunday, March 25, 2018 9:15:54 PM(UTC)
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I agree with Bill. It's probably more about your profile against the sky, shadow on the water, fly line on the water, or ripples created by wading that spook 'em. The more careful I am when approaching the stream (stay low, light steps) and the longer leaders and lighter tippets I use the better luck I've had on smaller, crystal clear streams on sunny days.

With that said I caught plenty of fish (stockers and wild browns) wearing a blaze orange sweatshirt and hat last fall!

#4 Posted : Sunday, March 25, 2018 9:56:00 PM(UTC)
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Pretty sure they respond to movement over anything. it's why you can move more around them if directly behind than coming from a front angle.

For whatever reason I've gotten closer to fish from the water than the bank. It's not like deer, cattle, horses, whatever are doing anything any different.
#5 Posted : Monday, March 26, 2018 1:09:10 AM(UTC)
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I also agree with Bill :)

On colors, the reflective qualities of a garment will make you highly visible. When the sun hits bright shiny garments it will cast sunlight deflection as well as create shadows. In the case of bright colors, personally I always were a insect proof camo shit, camo hat and waders.

Here is a nice common sense article excerpt.
Human Eyes:
In order to understand how colors are perceived by trout, we must first understand how color is seen by us humans. Color is a physiological effect which is a sensation that occurs as the brain responds to neural signals arriving from the retina of the eye. The retina has "rods" and "cones" that are two types of receptors. The rods register the presence of light in black and white (monochrome) while the cones register the colors. Note that there is no such thing as colored light, but only light of different wavelengths.

There are three sub-types of cone receptors in the retina of the human eye. Each interprets a different wavelength and sends its own signal to the brain: red, green, or blue. This is the same way the RGB leads feed color to a computer display. Combinations of these signals offer variations of the complete spectrum of colors. We see a rainbow as a graduation of colors because the wavelengths overlap. The ratio of these signal strengths determine the shade of color.

Each object has some chemical characteristics that absorb most wavelengths of visible light and reflect only a narrow band. This narrow band is perceived as color by the mechanism of the eye. Remember, we are not seeing a colored object, but an object that reflects light in different wavelengths.

The three types of cones in the human eye each contain a photo-sensitive pigment that has the capacity to absorb a range of light wavelengths. Each cone is characterized by the wavelength at which maximum or peak absorption occurs. The three are as follows:
erythrolabe; peak absorption at 565nm; red
chlorolabe; peak absorption at 535nm; green
cyanolabe; peak absorption at 440nm; blue
Light wavelength is measured in nanometers and the visible spectrum ranges from 700nm (red) to 400nm (blue-violet).

Trout Eyes:
Trout, on the other hand, have four receptors, and the four peaks are 600nm, 535nm, 440nm, 355nm.
The second and third conform to the green and blue cones in humans. The first is similar to the human red, but its sensitivity range includes longer wavelengths than humans. The fourth is outside the band of wavelengths visible to humans and is referred to as "ultra-violet". However, the fourth class of cones disappears by the time a trout is two years old.

It is thought the small fauna which feeds the immature trout, reflects the UV radiation and therefore the small fauna are more visible to the trout. It is also suggested that UV cones reappear annually in mature trout in time for spawning runs. It is also speculated that these UV cones are used to track polarized light as a means of navigating to the spawning locations.

It is interesting to note that the long wave (red) cone response of the trout is peaked at a point where the human’s response of the "red" receptor is diminishing. This means that where humans see a dark reddish color, the trout sees a much brighter color and in a lower visible light condition. Researchers tell us that the trout's ability to discern small differences in shade is highest in blue, second but much lower in red and lowest in green. Therefore shades of green will be less important than the contrast of the body or thorax.

Trout Environment:
Although trout have color vision similar to humans, there are major differences due to the available light in their environment. Their vision is limited by the quality of light which enters the underwater world. The advantage of their 4-cone system can be realized only if the full spectrum of sunlight from infra-red to ultraviolet is available to them.

In clear water, the short blue to ultraviolet wavelengths are dispersed causing the background appear blue. This is what occurs in the atmosphere causing the sky to appear blue and even bluer over water. Therefore when a trout sees the shiny scales of a fish, the image of the fish is blurred at short distances and invisible at longer distances.

Directional sunlight passing through water will tend toward red and becoming redder with increased distance just as it does in the atmosphere at sunrise and sunset. Hence, the old adage “Red at nite, sailors take delight, red at morning, sailors take warning”. However, water absorbs long light wavelengths; therefore, the energy of the longer wavelengths, corresponding to the red end of the spectrum, is absorbed and converted to heat. At longer range, the absorption of the long wavelengths and blurring of the image due to scattering become significant. For example, a red object seen through 12 feet of water has no wavelengths and will appear black. Note that the reflection of light diminishes very quickly as distance increases, so at 6 feet, there may be very little color perceived. Near the surface, reached by the full sun, at close range, it is reflected brighter red than seen by humans.

However if the object is white and capable of reflecting all incident wavelengths, it would remain visible at longer ranges. So what! The flash of mirror like reflection from a shiny surface such as tinsel or the scales of a fish will be seen over a much greater distance than body color of your fly.

It is clear that trout do indeed have the mechanism for full color vision and in a somewhat wider range as well. Red is brighter to the trout but the color diminishes quickly with distance while white will be visible over greater distances. Impurities in the water make color less important but white will be seen more readily. Water impurities, like minerals or staining, can selectively filter out various wavelengths of light. These impurities tend to remove the ultraviolet and blue wavelengths in a short distance and allow long wavelengths to penetrate the farthest but again not as far as clear water. To summarize, the color vision of the trout is limited to relatively clear, shallow water and at short distances.

What about fluorescent colors?
Fluorescence occurs where a surface has the property of absorbing ultraviolet radiation and converting its energy to be reflected as a longer wavelength within the visible range of the eye. This converted reflection is added to the reflection of normally visible light wavelengths, causing it to appear more intense than one would expect to be possible. Divers have noted that in tainted water fluorescent red, orange, and yellow are the most visible, and in clear water any fluorescent paint will do. At long distances or in deeper water, fluorescent yellow and green are more visible. Note that UV penetrates deeper than the visible blue wavelengths, so all fluorescent colors are visible to the UV limit, which is beyond the depth at which their natural color becomes invisible.

Effects of Low Light:
However, in tea stained water often found in trout streams, the opposite is true. The UV wavelengths are filtered out first, but the distance affecting the red wavelengths is not affected by the stained water. Therefore, fluorescence is useless in stained water a short distance below the surface. However, near the surface where it receives UV rays, the red and orange fluorescence will be visible at a greater distance than the shorter wavelength colors of blue and green.

An important feature of the trout's vision is that the rods and cones physically swap places at the start and end of daylight. In the evening the cones that need high light levels to operate and that provide the color response are withdrawn into the surface of the retina and the rods tend to rule. At dawn the reverse action occurs. This change is not instantaneous, but occurs over a period of time. Therefore, as night approaches, the color response in trout diminishes until at night a trout has no color response at all. Under these conditions, black and white is likely to be the most effective combination. Tinsel may have some value if the moonlight is significant.

1. Trout do indeed have color vision, but it is limited to relatively clear, shallow, water and short distances, so at close range, the trout can see the full detail of color.
2. Trout can discern differences in shades with the highest in blue, then red and then green shades.
3. The color red appears brighter than it does to humans, but quickly becomes black at greater distance.
4. The ability to detect color is greatly impaired and completely eliminated within 12 feet.
5. Impurities in the water or stained water makes colors less significant, but under these conditions, white will remain the best.
6. In the low light conditions of dawn or dusk, trout can not distinguish color. Black, then, becomes the most visible.
7. In clear water, fluorescent colors are more visible with red, orange and yellow being the most visible. In deeper waters, fluorescent yellow and green stand out the most. However, in stained water fluorescent is useless.

For the trout nerds...
Russell B. Rader1,2, Timberley Belish1,3, Michael K. Young1,4, and John Rothlisberger5
ABSTRACT.—We compared the maximum scotopic visual sensitivity of 4 species of trout from twilight (mesotopic) to
fully dark-adapted vision. Scotopic vision is the minimum number of photons to which a fully dark-adapted animal will
show a behavioral response. A comparison of visual sensitivity under controlled laboratory conditions showed that brown
trout (Salmo trutta) and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) had maximum scotopic thresholds (1.1 × 10–4 μmol ⋅ m–2s–1,
~0.005 lux) 2 times lower than rainbow trout (Oncorhyncus mykiss) and Snake River cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus
clarki bouvieri), which did not differ from each other (2.1 × 10–4 μmol ⋅ m–2s–1, ~0.01 lux). A literature review tended to
corroborate these results in that brown trout and brook trout were reported to be more active during the night and at
twilight than cutthroat trout and rainbow trout. We also measured light intensity within open versus shaded reaches
during the day, dusk, and night in 3 Rocky Mountain streams. The scotopic sensitivity of brown trout and brook trout
was sufficient to allow foraging during all twilight periods and under average nighttime light intensities in open and
shaded reaches, whereas the scotopic sensitivity of rainbow trout and cutthroat trout may restrict their foraging to relatively
bright nocturnal conditions (twilight or a moonlit night). Native cutthroat trout restoration efforts may have
greater success in open versus shaded stream reaches in the Rocky Mountains and elsewhere.
#6 Posted : Monday, March 26, 2018 5:26:01 AM(UTC)
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If you put your shadow on the water, it doesn't make a lick of difference what color you're wearing. I've worn blaze orange articles while fishing clear water and the fish didn't seem to care. I've worn black and dark green and the fish didn't seem to care. Keep your profile out of their line of sight and you're fine.

Edited by user Monday, March 26, 2018 5:28:42 AM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

#7 Posted : Monday, March 26, 2018 2:18:26 PM(UTC)
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You mentioned seeing fish scatter. This to me should tip you off. The vast majority of the time unless you walk in ultra stealth mode the fish are going to see you before you see them. If you see them they more than likely can see/have seen you first. Another thing to remember is that sound travels through a solid and a liquid much better than through the air. You foot steps matter.
#8 Posted : Monday, March 26, 2018 10:23:54 PM(UTC)
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I find that the color is far less important than how you approach - if the fish can see the color you're wearing, they can already see you, and you're already screwed. wearing camo or neutral colors certainly doesn't hurt, but if you're already crawling and using max stealth, i cant imagine that it really matters. the fish either sees you moving or it doesn't. if you're not belly crawling or walking super quietly and slowly, I don't think it's worth thinking about what color you're wearing. but if you're trying to sneak up on that one beast you know lives in a tiny gin clear stream, any tiny advantage is worth wearing dull/camo colors - unless it's hunting season Razz

STFanatic's point about footsteps is also very key - especially when fish are in summer lies, like under cut banks, walking on the banks is to be avoided when possible. That will give you away before you're even in casting range. Best to be in the water, downstream of the fish, whenever you can. vibrations propagate better through water (and even moreso through solids) - the speed of sound in water is 4-5x faster than through the air - the denser the medium, the faster the wave propagates! Wading upstream against the current minimizes the creation of sound waves in the first place, and since the fish are almost always facing upstream (this can be tricky in eddys and seams, but you get the gist), also allows you to approach them in their blind spot.

and speaking of wave propagation...another thing to keep in mind is angles of refraction - due to the density difference between air and water, the fish appears to you to be higher in the water column than they actually are.


there is also a blind spot for them - the lower the angle between you and the water, the less visible you are to the fish. add that to the list of reasons why bank fishing is less stealthy than wading.


Edited by user Monday, March 26, 2018 10:25:46 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

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