4 Tips For High Water Trout Fishing

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

These tips will help you catch fish when the river is up.

Anglers in parts of the west are looking at high water for the foreseeable future. High water can be a fly anglers friend. A swollen river might spoil your dreams of big trout sipping mayflies in the film but if you adapt to the conditions you can still enjoy good fishing and the chance at a real trophy. Here are 4 tips to help you be successful during this season’s high water.

Head upstream

While the lower sections of larger rivers may be pretty stained, you can almost always find fishable conditions further upstream. If visibility is too poor on your larger rivers, it might be time do do some blue lining and check out those headwater streams where conditions are better.

Look for points of refuge

High water forces fish to stack up in places where the current is not so strong. Eddies and inside bends where the water is slower can be very productive. You can sometimes catch a handful of fish out of small pockets you’d walk past at normal flows. Structure becomes even more important in heavy water. Pay extra attention to blowdowns and submerged boulders.

Match the hatch that isn’t

Knowing which hatches usually occur at the time you’re fishing can help you select flies. The adults may not be present but the nymphs are likely active and waiting for their chance to emerge. Fortunately, high water usually occurs around the time you’d expect some of the larger stoneflies. Large, rubber-legged nymphs are a good start in high and stained water. Worm patterns are always a good choice as the naturals are plentiful during high water events.

Fish Streamers

Not a silver bullet, but always worth a try. High water can make big predatory fish bold. You’re likely to find a trophy fish feeding in the middle of the day when the river is raging. Target the soft pockets and inside bends. Use flashy patterns or patterns with high contrast. If the water is high and fairly clear, white is often a good choice.

Don’t let high water keep you off the river. You may find it makes trout bolder and easier to target. Just be aware that high water can be dangerous. Sections of river you wade often and are comfortable with at normal flows can be bad news when they are high. Boating can be tricky too, so have fun but be safe.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “4 Tips For High Water Trout Fishing

  1. You forgot to mention the 5th tip – don’t tell other dudes how good the fishing can be on high water. For busy wadeable rivers its one of the last refuges left for solitude.

  2. great article i use streamers most of the time i know this is a low percentage game but you can increase your odds by using a small nymph as a trailer off of the streamer. i have picked up a lot of nice trout by stripping in the streamer and nymph together do not know why this works but it does a lot of the time. just a way to increase your chances of catching a nice trout

  3. I’m considering going on a fishing trip with my brother and while he’s experienced, I’ve never done it before. I didn’t know that it could actually help to go upstream in order to find more fishable conditions. It’s something to keep in mind because these tips coupled with some good gear could make it much easier to learn with my brother rather than be left in the dust.

  4. Thanks for a great set of Trout Tips! We love on the Rogue river in Michigan and always fantastic to learn new ideas from Pros like you,
    Thanks again!

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