Colin Mitchell, our popular weekly blogger, shares why the colour of the water is just as important as baits and equipment used to net big fish! If you like this blog, click the social media share buttons.

MOST anglers know to look for fish-holding features such as overhanging trees, reeds, deeps, slacks and creases when they select a swim. But how often do you think about the colour of the water when you go fishing?

I don’t just mean wondering if it will be clear or chocolate-coloured because of a flood. Over the years I’ve discovered that more often than not certain baits work in different coloured waters and that different species also respond differently to these conditions.

Obviously, like most things in angling all of these ‘discoveries’ can be thrown out of the window at times but more often than not past experiences can be used to catch more.

At this time of the year water colours are likely to change more than in most any other season – and I don’t mean the actual colour of the river, canal or stillwater. Sometimes it is the apparent colour that is important.

Flood on the Tyne... it's all mine, all mine!

Flood on the Tyne… it’s all mine, all mine!

“If it’s black, they’ll feed”

Let’s take on board something the later River Tees champion Ian Worton once told me. Worto was one of my mentors and a guy I looked up to a lot as I learned some of the basics on a then tidal Tees.

He told me that when the river was ‘black’ – ok it was never really black, it just looked that way (although it was sometimes red, green and yellow thanks to local industry) – the fish would feed well. It was obviously the light conditions that made the water appear black and it was true that the roach, dace and chub loved it that way.

The same applies to a number of other venues I now fish…

So how to catch ’em?

When a water is clear we all know that it can be more difficult to catch fish, but it’s not impossible!

Most species do not like those clear water conditions but they can usually be tempted into feeding with a steady trickle of bait and a careful approach. Casters, worms and bread often catch fish when conditions are like this.


Bread, in all its forms, can be at its best as a bait in clear water.

Bread is obviously a visible bait which used in punch or flake form regularly catches winter fish that do not appear to want to feed on anything else. At times it can be devastating.

Casters often work better than maggot in clear conditions and worms can usually be relied on to bring a bite when both of the others fail.

Reading the changing conditions

When water has a tinge of colour to it – more often than not as heavy colour drops out after a flood or heavy rain – the fishing can be bang on.

That bit of colour blocks out the light that often makes fish reluctant to feed and most species will have a chomp on most baits – probably because these fish have also expended energy fighting against floods, or are no longer sick of dirty extra water (even in stillwaters) pushing through their gills.

Flooded rivers that are not as thick as chocolate can also be a good bet for a few fish, often found lurking in the slower areas or slacks. And these are the times when big baits like lobworms or smelly baits like a chunk of meat or a boilie will score, although there are times when something like double pinkie will be outstanding.

Calcot barbel-3

Many barbel slip up easily in coloured water, and smelly baits find ’em.

Fish to target according to conditions

There are no hard and fast rules but simply put these would be the main target species:

  • Floods or coloured water: Roach, bream and barbel
  • Clear water: Chub, perch and pike
  • Tinge of colour: Anything that swims!

Going back to the apparent colour of water, black is obviously best. Dark brown is possibly the hardest conditions. Green at this time of the year often means there is snow water in the venue and that can be very difficult. White is like clear – a struggle.

Remember: these are apparent colours, what they venue looks like to your eyes – not the actual colour of the water if you scooped some out in a bottle.


Blog Mitch