High Water Fishing Techniques
We are in the middle of run off in many areas of the country right now. I do a lot of walk and wade trips. First and foremost, you want to make sure you do it safely. For me it means two things, no trout is worth heightened risk taking. Always carry a wading staff.
Fishing water during run off takes knowledge and experience to apply the right runoff/high river water fishing . If you are looking to improve your skills, here are some of the techniques that are worth knowing:
Understanding High Water
A large push of water with a large increase in CFS (cubic feet per second) generally puts fish down. When water drops, fish begin to get more active. Not all CFS are the same. You need to know your rivers. On the Clark Fork in Montana, 10,000 CFS near St. Regis is nothing. On Rock Creek near Missoula, that down right a deadly flow.
Incoming streams clear and drop quicker than the actual river, so consider checking around the feeders. Fish will target these creeks to spawn, so watch the Redds. We discourage fishing the Redds at RiverBum, so if you see fish actively spawning, its best to move on to another area.
That said, fish will stage before feeder creeks pre-spawn. Water can get off colored during run off, so bright and flashy can be your friend in these conditions. I’ve had tremendous success streamer fishing this time of the year, as well as bouncing nymphs on the bottom.
When the water is high, an upstream cast can be effective. Fish will stay tight to the bank and on structure to conserve energy and get out of the strongest flows. They will also seeks out back eddies. The water is well oxygenated at this time of year, and a back eddy can hold some big fish. This is a prime are to get out of the strong currents and opportunistically feed. Back eddies lose their holding ability when the water warms and they have lower oxygen content. But in the spring, the water is well oxygenated.
Take a look into a bounce rig. We have written about this set up several times. During high flows, trout will be on the bottom avoiding the current. You have to get down there and quickly. Perdigon patterns are great for this style of fishing. Structure on an inside bend next to a bank is a hook up waiting to happen!
Be Safe! The number one rule in fly fishing during high water is make it home.