Most of the time when we think of fishing this time of year in runoff- or rain-induced high water we think of fishing big dark nymphs or maybe an occasional streamer. However, don’t rule out the possibility of dry flies.
Once on my home river I arrived to find that the river was almost at its peak. The willows lining the banks were a foot under water. I found one spot to get near the river and put on a heavy nymph rig. After watching it zip by me on four or five casts I had all but decided to go when I spotted a splashy rise upstream against the bank where grass usually grows. I watched as a large brown again hammered what looked to be a big stonefly. I started checking the willows and yep, there they were, big salmonflies creeping up the brush in preparation for their awkward egg laying flights. I proceeded to tie on the largest orange stimulator I had and that day hooked about 9 or 10 big fat browns along the edge of the flooded brush. I think about half of them ran out into the raging current and broke me off but man was that fun.
If you’re out this month and you encounter high water, don’t rule out throwing some large attractor dry fly patterns along calmer edges, especially if the water is reasonably clear. Many of the West’s larger stonefly species, including salmonflies and some giant golden stones, hatch during runoff and can be like king size candy bars to hungry trout. I like Stimulators, PMXs, Salmonfly patterns, and even big foam patterns for this kind of fishing.
I’m not suggesting that this tactic be your bread and butter in high water but keep it in mind and you just might turn some toads.
Good Luck and Tight Lines!
Fly Fishing Professional, Guide, and Author
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Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help encourage and assist the average angler to get out and find new places to fish.
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