Salomone: Slowing down without hanging up￼
High water will be here for awhile, so anglers need to be fishing deep
The valley snowmelt crept into motion with recent warm-weather days, but the up and down temperatures that are so common in early springtime make reading the river tough for anglers. The water conditions will swell in the coming weeks, making high, off-colored rivers a factor to master. Knowing those conditions are starting and will be here for the foreseeable future forces anglers to make presentations along the river bottom. Avoiding the frustration that comes from hanging up is a major goal. Navigating through the tumultuous currents with effectiveness is how one deals with the ugly and deep.
Anglers need to approach the river with a little thought. Showing up bank-side and plopping your rig into the river is a hope akin to scratch-off lottery tickets — good luck. Deciphering the river water is a step in the correct direction. Position is key. When safe, anglers wading a few feet into the river can obtain a better position for line management during the drift. Rod posture assists in eliminating drag from opposing currents and reaches holding water with purpose and efficacy.
Rigging for the high water takes some adjustment. Anglers that anticipate fluctuating river depths use gear that allows for easy manipulation. Setting your strike indicator in the parking lot and leaving it in that spot for the day is a sure way to minimize your success rate. Strike indicators like the airlock indicators make adjustments with ease. Moving your indicator to increase or decrease the depth of your presentation dials in your nymphs.
The pocket of water where you started fishing is twice as deep as the water 20 feet away. Without adjusting your nymph rig, anglers will miss fish from poor line management and improper presentation. Choosing an enlarged strike indicator assists in keeping your flies elevated just above the bottom.
There are a few products designed for the purpose of getting your nymphs down in heavy current. The age old lead weight is the most commonly available item and can be found on most shop’s shelves. Other options with the same design but made from more environmentally friendly materials also exist. The key to mixing the two is not to match the size of the sinkers — a tin weight of the same size as a lead weight is significantly lighter — but to scrutinize the weight equivalent listed on the product.
Support Local Journalism
Loon and a few other companies make a soft, pliable putty to provide weight. The putty softens in heat and gets significantly harder when submerged in cold, river water. I’m not sure what kind of alchemy is involved in the creation of weighted putties, but they are a unique alternative to use when working difficult water. I often place a hard-type sinker on my line and apply the soft weight over the sinker. The hard weight holds the putty in place and is easy to adjust by pinching off or adding a small piece of putty. The adjustability of the weight is key to dialing in any nymphing rig.
Achieving a smooth glide through the water is my objective. Too heavy of a weight catches the bottom and hangs up losing flies, leaders and precious time. Enough weight to sink the flies but keep them riding just above the most prevailing bottom depth is a good place for your nymphs. It’s a tactical approach to challenging water that requires management and adjustability.
Flies are going to be key with a lot of food coming into play. Higher water dumps dirty worms into the river and brings naughty flies into action. A San Juan worm is cheap, readily available and easily tied — and it works. A squirmy wormy rules the game with lifelike texture and realistic movement. Eggs, large stoneflies and scuds tumble along in the spate, making easy meals for hungry trout. Dead-drifting a wooly bugger near the bottom results in some jarring springtime eats. The large silhouette provides a bigger target for trout and the design of most buggers swim through the water.
A word of advice when it comes to casting: slow it down. Open up the casting loop to prevent tangles from weighted leaders, heavy flies and cumbersome strike indicators. The roll cast presents heavy nymph rigs correctly and minimizes frustration.
High water will be here for a while. Anglers need to be fishing deep. Minimize the amount of gear lost and wasted time with a rig designed to slow you down but not hang up.