High Water Techniques and Strategies [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: High Water Techniques and Strategies


Eric
01-13-2006, 07:36 PM
Looks like we're going to have bank-full drifts for some time to come. Got me wondering about successful techniques for high, dirty water fishing, given that this may be an oxymoronic subject.

Fish can be caught in high water -- but, for me it's proven damned difficult. From what I've been able to gather, and from very limited success, seems like you want to fish close to the stream edge with large, intensely colored flies, and try to find those little lay-bys where fish are wont to rest. If you find what looks like a good spot during high water, you might as well give it lots of attention, as in repeated passes, as the fish are likely moving and maybe a taker will show up in the slot.

Also, small streams are better bets, it would seem. They clear quicker and the fish are more accessible, even if the water is off color.

What, though, are the best techniques for high water fishing? Curious minds want to know.

Cheers,

Eric

juro
01-13-2006, 11:16 PM
My first approach would always drive upriver to try to find clean water assuming the fish could get there as well in higher flow. But in many rivers up high means canyons and hard water to swing. Also the runs might just be coming in and there are no fish up top just yet so all the action's down near tidewater.

Thinking back I've had my best success fishing chocolate milk in those little rest areas you mentioned, and usually with a popsicle, a black or purple bunny rat, etc.

On one occasion I hooked 4 good steelhead in the wake of the very boulder I was standing on (about the size of a small car and mostly under water). One of these mid-winter fish was in the 17 # class. My partner could not believe his eyes - I barely had any line out and the fish would pull the rod out of my hands.

On another memorable occasion there was a raging creek putting a slightly lighter shade of brown into the bigger brown torrent and I did well on a red over orange over white popsicle fished slow on a lighter type II tip, letting it languish on the hang down quite a bit.

I have never hooked a fish in the heart of the current when high and colored. I'm sure you could if you set up in the right position so the fly could hit the depth needed.

Moonlight
01-13-2006, 11:28 PM
Bee-ing in the middle of the rain of terror I would interject that there are indeed small streams and even a few "still waters " that should be interviewed during this breif but seemingly lengthy holiday from our normal pursuits!
As Marketic so eloquently put it "Pray for High pressure":)

fredaevans
01-14-2006, 03:41 PM
If possible, fish within 3-4 foot of the bank in under 3 feet of water. Inside a curve even better; current flow (or comparitively lack there of) 'is king.' Bad news is you're 'plunking' with a fly rod.:o

SteelheadKid
01-14-2006, 05:13 PM
This is something I have done before with much success in a local stream. Large weighted bunny leaches or maribou flies (up to 1/10th oz lead eyes) under an indicator (_sometimes_ indicators as big as a #2 cheater are required, usually not though). This allows you to successfully fish 1-5ft from the bank you are standing on. Casting upstream or feeding line downstream.

Although this is not a traditional fly fishing method, it is no different than nymphing.

fredaevans
01-16-2006, 04:25 PM
Before I forget, don't ignore the use of short lengths of bicycle chain for sink tips.:hihi:

KerryS
01-16-2006, 04:56 PM
Large weighted bunny leaches or maribou flies (up to 1/10th oz lead eyes) under an indicator (_sometimes_ indicators as big as a #2 cheater are required, usually not though). This allows you to successfully fish 1-5ft from the bank you are standing on. Casting upstream or feeding line downstream.


Hey Sparky, you got any input on this :chuckle:

NrthFrk16
01-16-2006, 10:13 PM
Hey Sparky, you got any input on this :chuckle:

just search some of my old posts. ;)

juro
01-16-2006, 10:20 PM
Ryan -

I heard you scored tickets to Qwest for Saturday's game! How was that?

NrthFrk16
01-17-2006, 12:34 PM
Ryan -

I heard you scored tickets to Qwest for Saturday's game! How was that?

ticketmaster.com :hihi: ....but they didn't come through for me yesterday for the Game. They were sold out in seconds and a couple thousand bastards were a split second quicker then me at 10 am.

SteelheadKid
01-17-2006, 10:27 PM
just search some of my old posts. ;)

Explain Please.

OC
01-18-2006, 12:29 AM
steelheadkid,

First off welcome to the forum, we always like to see new blood. Most of us here only swing flies in a traditional way. But don't let that stop you from posting. Nrthfrk16 was this kid not so long ago who used to post about chucking lead up stream a whole lot if I remember right. Now we all knew him from his hard work in organizations like the WSC so we would give him a hard time about chucking it up. If you keep on posting here and we get to know you we may give you a hard time too but take it with a grain of salt, we are a hard lot but we have fun. Anyway you will find on this site some of the best steelheaders in the NW. Like I said they are a hard lot but get to know them like Nrthfrk 16 did. He made a lot of friends I would venture to say by observing and posting. I'm pretty sure Nrthfrk only swings flies now unless he is fishing with his snoopy rod. Some say he is going to be famous many of us already think he is. :smokin: He is better known as Sparky now. Look up some of his posts from the past I think you will like them.

OC

Philster
01-18-2006, 09:58 AM
I've only caught one steelhead since the Fall, and that was the week after Christmas. The fish took about 4 feet from shore and the fly was never farther than 8 feet out the whole morning. I can't be specific about the technique for fear of out-declassing anything sparkey EVER posted, but if you are old enough you will recognize the first two lines of this song from a commercial and figure out the technique.

"What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs and makes a *****ity sound?":hihi:

A fast ten foot 8 weight is all you need for this technique. Tippy action is best.

tbuehrens
01-18-2006, 02:07 PM
philster- plunking with a flyrod doesn't count!:devil:

SteelheadKid
01-18-2006, 09:13 PM
I've only caught one steelhead since the Fall, and that was the week after Christmas. The fish took about 4 feet from shore and the fly was never farther than 8 feet out the whole morning. I can't be specific about the technique for fear of out-declassing anything sparkey EVER posted, but if you are old enough you will recognize the first two lines of this song from a commercial and figure out the technique.

"What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs and makes a *****ity sound?":hihi:

A fast ten foot 8 weight is all you need for this technique. Tippy action is best.

I have heard about that technique but never found a place where a fast sinking tip didn't do the job just fine. (I can't believe I know that song)

Actually, I have rarely ever nymphed and usually swing bunny leeches or glo-bugs. However, in some rivers in high water no swinging approach will ever present a fly to the fish properly (I can explain some situations if you like), and in these situations I have employed the tactic I spoke about above.

I find it funny when I speak to fly-fishermen who talk about all the days they stayed at home because the rivers were not in prime shape. These are the same fishermen who find it necessary to limit themselves to one way of presenting a fly. I find no shame in nymphing no fly-fisherman should. I drift fish and float fish from time to time too; however I have find that I am doing it less and less now that I am employing new fly-fishing tactics such as nymphing. I would rather pull out the baitcaster and a handfull of corkies and yarnballs and go drift fish in high raging water than sit at home watching The Weather Channel praying for a dry cold snap to calm and clear up the rivers. But that is just me.

sinktip
01-19-2006, 12:53 PM
Yep, that is just you. :rolleyes:

chromer
01-19-2006, 01:09 PM
To each his own! I guess it depends on whether you enjoy fly fishing with a chance of catching steelhead or just catching steelhead period. Jig n' bobbers is deadly too and plunking with roe. And yuo can bring a lawn chair and thermis.

not for me I can wait but thats just me

KerryS
01-20-2006, 12:34 PM
I find it interesting that with the rivers running high and colored some think swinging is not effective. It is a matter of finding water that allows for swinging a fly. The runs that are fishable during low clear conditions might not be during high dirty water. Some of the best days had on the river were during conditions when most stayed home. Try someplace different. Look for places you where a fish might hole up. A famous run on the Skagit that most only fish during normal conditions can be one of the hottest spots you will ever fish during high dirty water conditions. You will literally be fishing into the willows. I seen one rod broke at this spot during high water by a large fish wrapping it around a 2 inch willow while making a blistering run into the shallows and the fish was hooked on the swing. On this day I would guess the Skagit was running at 40,000 or more cfs at Concrete. Numerous fish were hooked this day with several lost because the high water allowed fish access into the willows and debris normally high and dry. It makes for some exiting fishing. I have heard numerous stories of steelhead caught in the Sauk during what the masses would consider blown river conditions. If I remember correctly one of the stories about the Sauk River in Trey Combís book talks of catching a couple of steelhead at native hole during questionable conditions. Go swing.

Omar
01-20-2006, 02:30 PM
I think that during high flows knowing a river is the key to success. It's when "time on water" really pays off. Several of my best high water spots are places where fish never hold during moderate to low flow periods. It's time to try the places that seem a bit too slow or shallow when you can see into them. Winter fish can be very spooky during low flows. Fish will definately come to the swing in big water. As always it's more about swing speed and angle. I find temperature to be a more limiting factor than flow.

Skilly
01-21-2006, 09:07 AM
A short length wont do down here. You will have to tie the whole bicycle on.:frown:

Skilly

SteelheadKid
01-21-2006, 01:27 PM
Yep, that is just you. :rolleyes:

Ya, some people have that ability to think outside the box and those people often times catch more fish. Oh well, to each his own. I guess the dozen steelhead I have taken in high muddy water this winter using non-traditional tactics (you know, the days you were at home on your knees praying for the rivers to drop) doesn't matter to you. I guess a dancing steelhead on the end of a fly line just doesn't give YOU the same tingly feeling if you have to see a 1/2" indicator jump out of the water too. Just ruins the whole experience, huh? :roll:

Don't get me wrong though. I love to swing flies, and is by far my favorite method and will do it whenever I feel it is possible to present to the fish properly. I do agree that swinging can take fish in most high water situations if used properly. I have caught many fish swinging in one to two feet of visibility, such as in the Sauk river. On most of those days I actually outfished the clear water days on the same river. Makes for a better casting day as well. You can cast lighter grain lines, and lighter flies since the fish are so close in slower shallower water. You don't need to cast a heavy line and heavy weighted fly to get far and deep to the spooked clear water steelhead.

Anyways, I am not here to start a flame war or get on anybody's bad side. When you look at the big pciture, we are all out there to catch fish. :cool:

Muckle Salmon
01-21-2006, 04:03 PM
. When you look at the big pciture, we are all out there to catch fish. :cool:

Been there, done that. Eventually its about fishing, not catching. Hell sometimes I even go out when I know there are no fish around ( its just a nice day). We all like to catch fish but sooner or later you want to do it on your own terms.;) As for outside the box - prob. everybody here is smiling, remembering when they were "thinking outside the box too".

Ramsay

sinktip
01-21-2006, 05:23 PM
Hey Kid,

I guess the dozen steelhead I have taken in high muddy water this winter using non-traditional tactics (you know, the days you were at home on your knees praying for the rivers to drop) doesn't matter to you.

You are dead on, it doesn't matter to me at all. What does matter is that apparently there is a new steelhead god in town and I need to run off to pray some more as I suddenly feel so unworthy. Can a book be far behind? :roll:

All doubts about your bragging aside, no we are not all just out to catch fish. If we were we would be drifting roe. I doubt you can fathom this but perhaps in time you might.

sinktip

Eric
01-21-2006, 08:29 PM
OK, Guys, let's continue to be civil -- we're getting close to war here.

One thing we've got to remember is that our fishing and our fishing techniques are personal things. Nearly all of us are competent anglers -- sometimes we're high rods and sometimes low, but we know the game and play by our own rules. I think as fly anglers, especially those of us who focus on anadromous fish, we enjoy handicaping ourselves in various ways, even though the results may lead to not hooking as many fish as we could if we "resorted" to more lethal methods. We fish as we prefer.

Let's not be competitive about this. If someone catches more fish than me, in the same water, at the same time, using the same techniques, it's frustrating. No kidding. I hope I've learned to deal with it. Once, fishing the old Slaughter Hole on the Sandy, I saw Jim Teeney land 25 steelhead in a short afternoon when I hooked (and lost) only one. Jim wasn't doing anything weird -- he was swinging his nymphs in front of fish he'd spotted, some a good 80 feet out. By watching the fish react, he could hook the short takers, while I was still at the stage where I had to feel the fish before I reacted. Jim is a master angler and he can catch fish like few others. Some anglers are like that and us ordinary mortals will never catch up. Fish for yourself; set your own standards according to your skill, persistence, and ambition; do your best to live up to these standards, and assess the results within this personal frame of reference.

Many times on the Deschutes, novice anglers have outfished me to my total befuddlement. A couple of times, I've wiped the eyes of much more experienced anglers on their own waters. The whole thing evens out over time -- we've got to relax and be humble in our successes, because we know the blank days are sure to follow.

I was (very) low rod on a trip to the Karluk because I refused to believe the fish would not take a swung fly. I tried for four days out of our alloted five and connected with maybe two or three fish while others in the party, using other techniques, scored consistently every day on these most northern steelhead. I finally wound up fishing for dark cohoes because they would hit flies on the swing. I got several steelhead on the last day because the guide, in pity for me, put me on the best run available and set me up with a strike indicator. On the Karluk, on that trip, you either fished with sockeye technique or strike indicators or you went empty handed.

My objection, if I have one, to nymphing for steelhead is that those that practice the technique tend to stand rooted and immobile in the heart of the drift rather than casting and moving down, as the "swingers" do. Nymphers, because of this, have raised much ire on the Deschutes and North Fork Umpqua, as well as other waters, I imagine. Were these nymphers considerate of anglers waiting their turn to fish down, other anglers might not begrudge them their catches.

Bottom line of this sermon: fish as you like; be considerate of the resource and other anglers; be humble; enjoy yourself.

Petri heil,

Eric

fredaevans
01-22-2006, 07:19 AM
Although I haven't had the occation to fish in the past two weeks (everything is blown to the point even the plunkers have given up-no beach for them to even stand on!) high water is the main time my spey rods stay in the garage.

8wt, nymph tip line, 'short' long leader (8-9 foot) and 'jigs' cast is a chuck and duck fashion can get results. Short and close to the beach. With a jig you can even (a form of) 'dapple' by sticking the jig down/around tree roots/back side bush.

juro
01-22-2006, 07:56 AM
Eric we appreciate you bringing balance back to the thread, people do tend to get worked up on internet sites although we enjoy a much more civil environment here than most. Since it seems confrontations are the exception rather than the rule that's proof positive that the moderators are doing an excellent job - thank you!

On topic - then there's the other extreme where the angler (myself for instance) is quite satisfied with the fishing time that occurs during decent (I don't need ideal) conditions and when the conditions reach 'impossible' I will find a way to get some quality casting time even in high muddy flows to exercise my abilities to present the fly when the world is right again.

In other words, I will use this time to work on my Spey casting - offhand casting, new lines I never use much when fishing my favorite large pools, different line and rod combinations, etc. I have even got together with well known casting friends sometimes even in a flooded field to compare notes and exchange thoughts.

To say this kind of thing is not satisfying to you is a great point - for you. However to say that it's not satisfying for me is simply pure shite. I love to work on my casting when the conditions are poor.

Am I the exception or the rule? Well let's see - how much time do golfers spend playing 18 holes, and how much time do they spend driving and putting for practice? I guess the depends on how good they want to be.

How much time do football teams spend practicing, watching film, working out verses playing the game? Well I hope the Seahawks practiced and analyzed hard all week to deliver on tonight's 60 minutes of fury.

With steelhead fishing, the preparation much like the tying of flies, is a very satisfying part of the endeavor for me. It might not be that for everyone, but I don't need to get down on my knees and pray for the river to come back for me because I have so many other things I would only do when the river it out.

How many years of dedicated preparation does a karate student experience for every minute of true fighting? Ideally a lifetime of study and zero fights.

The study and preparation brings balance to my game, and it's all good. Granted my perspective is not going to suit everyone. But I am not trying to push it on anyone, just sharing my view.

.02

KerryS
01-23-2006, 01:33 PM
.........................no we are not all just out to catch fish. If we were we would be drifting roe.
sinktip

:eek: does this really work? Maybe a little egg juice smeared onto a GP and swung would be the way to go. No one would have to know.:razz:

fredaevans
01-24-2006, 04:15 PM
:eek: does this really work? Maybe a little egg juice smeared onto a GP and swung would be the way to go. No one would have to know.:razz:


Kerry THANKS for the first good 'gaffaa' for the day. Had to look up/post to a UK fly board (yesterday) Oregon's deffinitions of a 'fly,' 'bait,' and a 'lure.' Interesting thing is the reg's did not consider an added "scent" to be any of the above.

Soooo, I guess (on the North Umpqua) in fly only waters ... slobber away.:hihi: