Fishing Mud Lines For Big Fish

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By: Garner Reid

Mud lines are excellent places for fish to hide.

I split my guiding year in half, targeting trout from fall to spring and the rest of the year pursuing summer run striped bass in my local river systems. River run stripers offer their own unique set of challenges for the angler, and definitely for the guide.
When someone gets in my boat for a day of striper fishing, one of the first things I try to explain is where these fish like to hold. I tell them to start out like they are streamer fishing for a big brown trout. When someone is pursuing a new species of fish, like stripers in a river, finding that common thread is the key to angling success.
Just the other week I had the pleasure of guiding a new client who was quite an accomplished angler. Having caught many fish in all the exotic locations that are on my personal bucket list. As we floated down the river it quickly became evident this guy knew how to fish. He was ripping big streamers accurately into all the nasty stuff that a big fish ought to hold in.
This was producing a few nice schoolie sized stripes but nothing huge. Halfway through our float we approached a small feeder creek quartering in at a 45 degree angle to the left of the boat. Heavy rains the night before had the creek dumping chocolate milk into the river. Typically not what a fly fisherman likes to see.
The muddy creek water was thick like oil, being pushed up against the clean water by the current, which carried a defined wall of muddy water down the left side of the river for hundreds of yards.
I rowed the boat into position perpendicular to the creek mouth and dropped anchor, told the guy to make a big cast across the creek mouth and let his fly sink, followed with an aggressive retrieve. A few strips later, WHAM, his rod about flew out of his hand. I knew we had a good one when I got a ‘HOLY SHIT!’ out of him as I netted the fish of the day.
I was surprised when he told me he had never paid any attention to mud lines before. We fished that mud line down until it blended into the rest of the river picking up several more fish along its brown pathway to the takeout.

Why fishing mud lines can be effective:

Predatory fish are the masters of ambush, something all of us anglers know. The key to hooking up with predatory fish whether it be a big brown, musky, or in this case a striper is to locate these ambush areas on the water you are fishing. Sometimes the best ambush areas are places that are commonly overlooked or may not seem inviting from an angler’s perspective.
If you think about it, mud lines are excellent places for fish to hide. First, they offer great protection from any threat coming from above. They also provide great ambush cover. The muddy water acts like a smoke screen, allowing a fish to get their ninja on and pounce on any easy meal that might come by. The smoke screen scenario can also be reversed. Baitfish will congregate in the margins of a mud line for sanctuary from predators.
Always approach these areas with stealth. Just because the water may be muddy doesn’t mean that all of the fish’s senses are subdued. Noise can ruin your opportunity of hooking up. Ease into position and if possible present the fly across and away from where the fish might be holding. Flies that push a lot of water, flash, or rattle often times produce best results on a mud line, especially for warm water fish like bass and stripers.
Mud lines can be found in a ton of different environments, there is a strong possibility that you will encounter a mud line some time, somewhere on your fishing outings. Don’t avoid the mud, embrace it and use it to your advantage next time you find one on the water.

Garner Reid
Gink & Gasoline
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One thought on “Fishing Mud Lines For Big Fish

  1. I’ve had only one opportunity to fish a mudline. It was two summers ago on the Kootenay River. It was a guided trip for bull trout. My guide anchored near the muddy water and had me chuck big streamers into the brown water and stip back. It was very effective as I hooked six and landed five bulls, one of which was 35″.
    As the author pointed out, the mud provided perfect cover.

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