Shades of Spring

by: Landon Mayer

Landon Mayer

The transition into spring is one of my favorite times of year. While the landscape begins to show life, rivers and lakes begin to display the brilliant markings of the trout that call them home. That moment when you spot the lipstick red side of a quality bow or the yellow belly of a large brown will make any angler a believer of the thrill of the color hunt. 

While sometimes you will spot a trout whose color is on full display, a majority of the target will be hidden making you quickly realize how well the color of the trout blends into the river bottom. It is not uncommon for the appliance of color to look like a smudge or just a hint of color. In addition to only getting this hint of color the visual can also last for just a split second. This is why it is important to scan a zone you believe trout are holding for at least 60 seconds. This will help you identify the fish and know where to make the delivery so it is seen by the target. Let’s take a close look at the following tips that will help you locate color on your next trout hunt. 

Body Parts

The first and most important things to look for are the most visible parts of the trout’s body; they are closer to the surface and thus easier to detect. I always hunt for the top of the tail or the dorsal fin. Another advantage in locating these body parts, especially the tail, is that they move when the trout holds its position against the current or swims as if in a still water. In dark water or locations with contrasting colors of water, the white of the trout’s mouth is a big giveaway to the fish’s location and a sign that it is actively feeding. I have found over the years that I sometimes see brighter colors of orange or pink inside the fish’s mouth. This is most common in large trout that have a high-protein diet, which changes the pigmentation of a trout’s body and the inside of its mouth. Instead of relying on body color to see fish, I look for mouth color of trout that are either feeding or so big that the inside of the lower jaw is exposed even when the trout attempts to close its mouth.

Pectoral fins are another giveaway of holding trout. Because much of the trout’s belly color extends down into the pectoral fins, these objects are often exposed. Some of the best times to hunt trout are early and late in the day; these times supply great angled light that will penetrate the translucent fins, giving away the hidden target.

The Line Down

A majority of the trout’s markings are from the lateral line down. Whether it is a red strip of a rainbow, the orange fins of a cutthroat, or the yellow belly of a brown, they are all designed to help the fish camouflage into their surroundings. 

This is important to know as an angler because when you are positioned above the water surface you view the trout from an angle near 45 degrees down. The refraction of light below the waters surface will lift that angle to 30 degrees or so. This makes the trout’s back more visible not the underside. 

Back Support

The top any trout’s body is designed to blend in with the river bottom, unlike the brightly colored undercarriage. It is common that the dark shades of blue, green, and browns will stand out in the river especially when it contrasts against a light portion of the river bottom. 

In the spring locating the dark targets of blue and green will help you not only locate more trout, you can also identify what species the trout is from the blue back of a rainbow, the green back of a brown, and a brown back of a cutthroat. Imagine a picture of a trout with a dark outline and detailed markings and color along the body. Now erase the outline and replace the detailed color and markings with watercolors of light blue or green. This is the subtle visual you want to keep in mind when looking for the silhouette of the trout below the surface. A silhouette is a rough, distorted, ghostly image that typically displays a light pastel shade of the trout’s body color. 

I think of the term “ghostly image” because every time I see a picture or video of a ghost, it has similar features: a light white color and a hazy image without an outline.

These shaded objects are great for anglers that are color blind. Instead of seeing the color you are seeing the shade of the color whether it is bold, or soft. 


Tight Lines,

Landon Mayer