Wednesday, March 16, 2011

High water is good!

The snow is pretty much all gone by now. It has taken weeks for it to melt. And with some recent rain thrown in for good measure, the streams have pushed beyond their banks. But in the past few days, that is all starting to change. Even though the water is high, a bit muddy, and still just barely over the high water mark, it is starting to clear up a bit. We now have a good foot of visibility, and that makes for good fishing!

For us Great Lakes tributary fly fishermen, high water can be a blessing and a curse. It provides the much needed pulse of water that is crucial to bring in fresh steelhead from the lake, move those hold over browns that have been locked in all winter, and jump start the whole life cycle of the stream into full gear once again. The bad part is waiting for the streams to drop to acceptable levels so we can take advantage of the blessing part of this whole thing - the great fishing!

I know I have talked about fishing high water before in past blogs, but it never hurts to go over it again, especially when it's the season for it!

Here are a few really good tactics that I have learned over the years of fishing in high stained water.

1 - Fishing the seams between fast and slow water is a great place to start. These places are found behind large rocks or boulders, around bends in the stream, near the bank, and my favorite - trees and large limbs that have fallen into the stream. These places provide rest for fish that are trying to stay out of the fast water, and will syphon food right to waiting fish.

2 - Depending on water clarity, many fish will hold right off the bank. So wading and walking carefully while navigating the stream can be crucial. And making sure you send at least a good half dozen casts right off the bank, would probably be a good idea.

3 - Break it down! High water can make the stream two to three times larger than it normally is. Breaking it down into sections will help you fish it better. And taking note of the types of water to fish in the first tactic are a great place to start.

4 - Switch it up! I try and bring two rods with me when I can. One rigged with a large streamer and the other with a nymph or egg pattern. Or if I am fishing with a friend, I will fish a different pattern than what they are fishing. This does two things. First - it helps to narrow down what the fish want to eat (that is if they are picky.) Second - It helps cover the water better. Some fish will be very aggressive and will move to take a swung streamer, but there are often other fish in that same pool or run that may only take an egg pattern that is dead drifted in front of them.

5 - Make sure to use the appropriate gear. Fishing high stained water means you can get away with using heavier tippet, bigger rod weights, and larger flies. I have seen guys who snap a huge fish off because they still had 6 lb. tippet on from their last fishing outing...not good! Remember the streams are flowing at a faster rate with much more water. The fish know this and use it to their advantage!

Another thing to keep in mind when fishing high stained water is that what you see on top, is not necessarily what goes on at the bottom of the stream. The faster top part of the water column will carry much of the fine sediment and debris, making it look muddy and unfishable at times. It can be a whole different story near the bottom of the stream where stones and rocks of all sizes break up the current and slow it down. The bottom of the stream may be much more visible than the top, allowing fish to see your fly better.


GFP said...

Nice looking fish Brian! Also nice to hear a breakdown of the sediment being more towards the top of the water. Gotta keep that in mind.

bfly said...

Thanks Mike! I'll see you this weekend in Utica.


Very thought out post...I will remember some of these observations. Thanks!
I will be fishing in high water this weekend.