High water season is here and while it really snuck up on us, by no means do you need to hang up your waders. Despite poor water clarity, trout continue to feed and are particularly eager after a long winter of the ”SlimFast” midge diet. Additionally, the crowds die down, so get out and enjoy it while you can. We understand that fishing run-off can be intimidating, so we’re here to help. The following are our top 7 tips for fishing run-off.
Fish the Soft Water: High flows can be taxing on trout as it requires a lot of energy in order to resist the intense water velocity. Trout prioritize energy conservation and in order to do so, they hold in the slower water near the bank, behind large obstructions, or inside of a big bend. These are the areas you will want to spend most of your time fishing.
Fish Bigger Bugs: During run-off, the quantity and size of bugs flowing down the river increases. Midges and baetis are still present in the water, but don’t stand out and are often missed by trout. Now is the time to whip out the big guns. Think stoneflies, leeches, caddis larva, worms and eggs. The Pat’s Rubber Legs, Golden Stonefly, Electric Caddis, San Juan Worm, Pine Squirrel Leech and Egg Sucking Leech are a few of our favorites.
Bright, Dark and Flashy Patterns Will Go a Long Way: Off-color water during runoff makes it difficult for trout to see. As such, choosing the right color flies can make all the difference. Black, white, purple, red and anything with flash should do the trick. When nymphing, we like to lead with bigger bugs followed by slightly smaller attractor patterns like a Rainbow Warrior, Copper John (red, black or green) or a Flashback Pheasant Tail. Do yourself a favor and stay away from neutral colored flies.
Make Some Waves: Again, it's all about making it easier on the trout and if they can’t see your flies they won’t budge. Choosing flies that will displace/move a lot of water will dramatically improve your odds. Articulated and jig streamer patterns are a great option. The Double Dirty Hippy, Sex Dungeon, Sparkle Minnow (white or black) and Sculpzilla are a few of our favorites.
Fish Deep: Think back to our first tip “Fish the Soft Water”. Trout do their best to conserve energy. By holding in the deepest water column, where water velocity is comparatively low, they expend less energy. As a rule of thumb, if you’re not getting snagged on the riverbed from time to time, you likely need more split shot. Additionally, ensure plenty of tippet (1.5 times the depth of the water) and that your indicator placement is such that it doesn't prevent your flies from dropping to the target lane.
Thingamabobbers are back: Don’t hesitate to break out those obnoxiously big thingamabobbers. While they can make it difficult to cast and often lead to a sloppy presentation, they are more buoyant and will support plenty of weight and bigger flies . That said, you’ll want to pay close attention to your drift as takes will be less noticeable. If you see the slightest abnormality in the way your indicator is floating down the river, set the hook!
Don’t be a Daredevil: Flows are high; trout are holding in the slow pockets and so should you! We have all been in that situation where you are fishing one side of the river and notice how attractive and beautiful the other is. While it’s easy to travel side-to-side most of the year, doing so during runoff is incredibly dangerous. Scout the river and if you have the option, pick the best-looking side and stick with it.