Strategies for Streamer Fishing High Water on Tailwaters

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Especially when your wanting to target trophy class fish. Although numbers of trout caught during high water flows usually are lower than fishing during low water flows, the size of your catches generally are much larger. In my opinion, the biggest fish in the river prefer to feed during high water because it’s easy for them to ambush their prey, and they feel camouflaged and protected by the high water flows.

For those of you that fish tailwater’s you probably understand water flows change significantly during generation and non-generation periods. Some tailwaters during minimum flow periods have water releases under 100 cubic feet of water per second (CFS), and when generation is taking place, water flows can be 10-20 times higher. Because of this, it’s very important for anglers fishing high water to outfit themselves correctly, otherwise they may find themselves coming off the water fish-less. Below are some tips and strageties I use on tailwaters when I’m fishing high water conditions.

Tip 1. Leave your 4-5 weight fly rods at home and pack your 7-9 weight fly rods.
Your best bet for going after the big boys during high water flows is fishing streamers. There are some tailwater’s out there where you can still dry fly and nymph fish effectively, but most of the time, if you want to target the largest trout in the river, you’ll want your flies to imitate the larger food sources. Some examples of these food sources are: sculpins, daces, crayfish, and fingerling size trout. These guys are the food choices that trophy class fish prefer to hunt down and forage on during high water flows. Since you’ll be fishing a variety of sinking fly lines and large profile streamer patterns on the water, outfitting yourself with a fly rod in the 7-9 weight range will cut down on your fishing fatigue and allow you to cast much more efficiently. High water streamer fishing is demanding on the fly angler, and ideally, you want to be able to make one or two false casts between presentations.

Tip 2. Spool up these two types of fly lines for high water.
When I’m fishing high water on tailwater’s, I primarily fish two types of fly lines. The first fly line I have rigged is a

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2014 Tarpon Rod Roundup

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It’s tarpon season and if you are headed out in search of silver, you may be considering a new rod. I had the chance recently to try out four excellent eleven weight fly rods that are great for tarpon. The Thomas and Thomas Solar, the Winston B3SX, The Scott S4s two-piece and the Orvis Helios 2. Each has its strengths and individual feel. Hopefully these brief reviews will help you find the rod that’s right for you.

The Thomas and Thomas Solar

The new fast action Solar from T&T is a precision casting machine with a big WOW factor. When I let off my first cast with the Solar (into a stout wind) my buddy on the platform let out a pronounced, “DAMN!” The Solar manages to deliver blistering performance without sacrificing feel. The power is brilliantly balanced from butt to tip. It makes a short presentation with ease and delicacy and it will show you your backing. It’s powerful, accurate and castable. The quality and finish are wonderful, which you would expect from T&T. The Solar is one of, if not the best, saltwater rods I’ve ever cast. Casting it makes you feel like a rockstar and that’s a pretty good way to feel when your chasing the silver king.

The Winston B3sx

The B3SX, Winston’s fast action saltwater offering, is everything everything you would expect from a Winston and yet still surprising. I love Winston rods but, like a lot of people, I thought of them as a trout rod company. When I picked up the B3SX I expected great feel and castability. I didn’t expect a saltwater action that unloads like a canon. The powerful butt of the B3SX gives you distance and authority in the wind and the tip is soft enough for accurate short shots. A great all-around performer and a beautiful rod to look at. Boron rods are tough too, which is a plus in a tarpon rod.

The Scott S4s 2 piece

This has been my go-to poon rod for years. The castability of this rod is

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Introduction by Johnny Spillane

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Nothing could make me happier than to begin my good friend Johnny Spillane.

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Sunday Classic / Pack Your Gear in Half The Space

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Terminal Fishing Packing Checklist
Fly Rods & Tubes
Fly Reels
Leaders & Tippet
Fly Floatant
Nail-Knot Tool
This list goes on and on with what I need to pack for my guide trips and fly fishing travels. It’s astonishing how much room all this gear takes up in your vehicle once you’ve packed it all in, and the list above is only a partial list of what I need for my days out on the water. I still need waders, boots, fishing packs, net, camera, and enough room to transport my clients. Anyway I looked at it, I was in desperate need of finding a better way to organize all my gear. It was taking far too long for me to strategically load and unload my truck every day.

Recently, I ran across and purchased the Orvis Safe Passage, Carry-It-All Rod and Gear Case, and it’s completely blown me away with it’s ability to safely store an insane amount of gear in half the space. Everything I need is right at my finger tips and that keeps me organized and saves me a ton of time rigging up. From one fellow guide to another, since I’ve started using this gear case, I’ve no longer found myself turning around and heading back to the cabin for a critical piece of gear I forgot to pack. Below is a break down of what the Orvis Carry-It-All gear case can handle and I why I love it.

No more Fly Rod Tubes
I know longer lug around multiple fly rods in their metal tubes on a daily basis anymore. They’re difficult to manage in transit and end up rolling around in my vehicle all the way to the river. With this gear case I leave the tubes at home and can safely stow up to six fly rods in their socks with no problems. I love that at the drop of a hat, I can quickly outfit four clients with fly rods for the day, and still have plenty of room to carry two back up rods in case we encounter any foul play during our fishing. Orvis sells two different sizes in this Safe Passage gear case series. I opted to purchase the large size for the extra room, but mostly because it can accommodate up to 11′ rods. That’s a nice feature most rod cases can’t offer, and that’s a plus since I’ve been known to break out switch rods for my big water fishing. Just relocate one velcro divider and you’re ready to load up the long rods.

Keep Your Reels with Your Rods
I used to have a separate reel bag that I toted around with all my fly reels. The need to

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Saturday Shoutout / Don’t Cross Fishbeer

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A long while, but I keep it in my heart. It may not be for you, but if it is you will love it. Matt Dunn is one of my very favorite writers in fly fishing. He’s like Cormac McCarthy with a fly rod. Well sometimes, and others he’s Hunter Thompson. You never really know what to expect from Fishbeer.

This raw and honest tale of loss and anger really blindsided me. It’s been hanging around in the back of my head for a while and I think, maybe if I share it it’ll go away. What you do with it is up to you.


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Rob Smith’s Rusty Enema

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Watch The Tying Video

Rob “The Stash” Smith is back to share one of his favorite redfish flies with us. The Rusty Enema is a proven producer anywhere redfish are found. It’s a great attractor pattern that pushes a lot of water, which is like ringing the dinner bell for redfish in dirty water. Put a couple of these in your box to keep you catching redfish on a regular.

Watch the video to learn how to tie this fly and find out how it gets it’s name.

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The Importance of Changing Flies on the Water

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I’ll usually fish for about thirty minutes with my first rig of the day, and if I’m not getting any hookups, I’ll begin regularly changing my flies out until I find a pattern that works. The willingness to change your flies on the water when your not getting bites, is often the key factor in determining whether you have a good or bad day of fishing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone walk up to me in the parking lot at the end of the day and complain about how the fish weren’t biting. While I, on the other hand, had caught and released dozens of fish in the same section of water. Most of the time that discouraged angler stuck with a few patterns during the day, and didn’t change flies enough times to find out what patterns were really working. How do I know this? I know this because I was that discouraged angler many times early on, in my career.

It can be very obvious to us that changing flies is the answer when we’re able to sight-fish and see fish rejecting our flies. But many times you’ll find yourself fishing in conditions where sight-fishing isn’t an option. A few examples is when your fishing fast moving choppy water, water with significant glare, and stained water conditions. None of these will provide anglers the opportunity to get visual feedback. In these conditions, anglers should change their flies when they’re not getting bites for extended periods of time. If you know your rig is set up correctly (correct tippet size, fly size, split-shot amount, or indicator placement) for the specific water your fishing, and your making good presentations, a light bulb should be going off in your head telling you to change fly patterns if your not getting bites.

Sometimes you’ll find a single pattern will

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