How to harness motion in high water while fishing on rising rivers
Vail Valley Anglers
High water is coming and could be here earlier than anticipated. Stumbling through gear stored away since last fall in search of the correct fly is a mediocre approach to success. Prepping your boxes requires minimal effort. When loading up for high water conditions, local anglers can choose between three presentations that use motion in different ways. Choosing your desired style and presenting your flies with the appropriate amount of motion creates repeatable, predictable and productive results even in undesirable conditions.
Trout need to eat in order to survive, and in high water they gravitate to positions in the river where opportunistic feeding is attainable. The three types of presentations I will discuss use motion in high water to entice trout to eat despite the tough water conditions. Streamer fishing, nymphing and deep dredging use motion in different ways to place flies where trout will eat in the deep, off colored water.
Streamers utilize the most motion by creating a swimming, life-like silhouette in murky waters. Trout will strike streamers in ambush-type scenarios. Dead drifting an olive and black Woolly Bugger along the riverbanks will draw aggressive hits from hungry brown trout. Concentrate on slow stripping your streamers near any riverbank structure. Giving your fly time to sink before imparting motion is a component of success.
Short leaders on sinking heads give streamers the best opportunity for success. Popular colors would be olive/white, chartreuse/white and purple/black. Articulated streamers accentuate the swimming action that triggers reaction bites. And, saltwater flies crossover to freshwater by providing excellent large-silhouette baitfish patterns.
Check your knots and hook points regularly when streamer fishing. Over casting, bouncing into boulders and aggressive striping all combine to weaken terminal connections. The weight included when tying streamers can be enough to stress connections to the point of failure.
Nymphing uses motion to present flies at different depths but at the speed and motion of the naturally flowing water. Deep water requires weighted flies and weights to present nymphs at the bottom of the water column where slower currents exist. Trout seek respite from the excessive torrent behind bottom structures or by just hunkering down low.
Large, weighted stonefly nymphs anchor flies in the depths necessary to entice a trout to eat. Once again, opportunistic feeding is the objective. Using the motion of the natural river speed to drift flies at the proper depth ensures that your presentation covers the correct water. Allowing nymphs to swing toward the surface at the end of a drift gives the impression of a naturally rising bug, another benefit of motion. Caddis nymphs in the larva and pupa stage or the great attractor pattern, the Prince Nymph, paired with a stonefly nymph create the perfect tandem nymph rig for high water.
Deep water dredging refers to presenting your flies on the bottom of the river, period. Flies for this presentation include the debatable family of flies, worms and eggs. Neither worms nor eggs have the capacity for motion. Both worms and eggs have a density heavier than water. Which forces both food sources to the bottom of the river, even in high water.
Because they are spring spawners, Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout push eggs into the river system. This creates a slow-motion food source tumbling along in the spate that trout easily exploit. The high water also erodes riverbanks and exposes worms to the mercy of heavy currents. Both worm and egg flies have a high degree of visibility. Paired up with heavy weights, anglers can bounce egg and worm flies along the bottom where both food sources naturally settle. Low and slow is the motion anglers strive to imitate for success when dredging.
Planning ahead for high-water fly-fishing sets anglers up for continued success during undesirable water conditions. Approaching the river with motion as the driving factor for fly selection gives fly-fishers a variety of choices. Anglers obtain extreme motion using streamers, moderate motion using nymphs and slow motion by dredging deep with worm and egg flies. Using motion as the deciding element for selecting an approach to challenging conditions fly anglers can continue to experience success in high, off-colored water.
Michael Salomone can be reached at Vail Valley Anglers, 970-926-0900 or through his website http://www.MichaelSalomone.com.