1)When The Rivers Raise Up…Size Up!
Leave the size 22 flies, 6x tippet and 4 weight rod at home. With our rivers running high and off color you should size up your entire rig to ensure a successful day on the water. Pairing a 5 or 6wt rod to a reel with a smooth, powerful drag system will help you fight and land more fish in the fast currents. To prevent breaking off your rig on hidden snags size up your leader and tippet to 3-4x. This will also help in keeping those fish from making a downstream run and landing them quickly in the nearest soft water. Split shot should be larger-than-normal to get your flies down into the trout’s feeding zone. I prefer starting with two N.0 Super Doux placed about 6” above my lead fly. Finally, choose larger flies that will be seen by feeding trout in the lo-vis water. There are tons of worms, scuds and leeches in the rivers now and trout are capitalizing on this like an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. A big tan San Juan Worm trailed by a size 16 Two Bit Hooker is sure to get their attention.
2)Fish Soft Water With Confidence
When approaching a river in runoff flows, it is crucial to remember that the fish you caught there last summer, fall and winter didn’t all get washed downstream…they just found the nearest soft water to hang out in. Trout will be stacked this time of year in any water that gives them a break from fighting against the current all day. Whether it is the foam line and back eddy of a newly formed rapid or the first two feet of river off of a willow-lined bank, angler’s should keep an eye out for that “walking speed” water. Although it may not be as exciting or predictable as sight fishing to a big brown trout in crystal clear water, you may be surprised what your first drift through this kind of soft water connects you with.
In an age of GoPros, energy drinks and flat-brimmed hats, sometimes it is good to remember that fly fishing is not an “extreme sport.” No matter how many times you may have fished a certain stretch of river, when flows come up and water clarity is compromised there should be extra precautions taken. It may seem like a no-brainer, but be careful when stepping into the river where you can’t see the bottom. What may have been a ankle-deep gravel bar a month ago could very well be over your waist at this point. If you are thinking about wading into or across the current, don’t push your luck. No matter how tempting the water on the far bank looks I guarantee it is not worth taking a swim for. The foot-trapping dangers of submerged boulders and logs are very real! Daily rain storms can mean very slick and muddy trails in places like Cheeseman Canyon so leave the studded boots at home and watch your step on those large rock cliffs. In case you missed it, Trouts Outfitting/Communications Manager Kyle Wilkinson recently wrote a great article on 7 Tips For Wading Safely...click HERE to check it out!
4)Sometimes It’s a Team Effort
Apart from good company and someone to split carrying the beer with, there are some real advantages to fishing with a friend during runoff. The above-mentioned sketchy wading can be made a little more manageable when two people work together to find the safest approach. Also, landing fish can become a team effort with one angler moving downstream in anticipation of a quick net job should the fish decide to make a run into the current. This will alleviate the stress of fighting through half-submerged willows and potentially slipping off a hidden drop-off into dangerous water while you chase that trout down river. And if one of you is catching more fish than the other…well, it’s up to you whether or not you share the secret fly.
5)Bring Your Simms Snake-Proof Boots…
I realize this has nothing to do with actually catching fish during high water, but based off my recent trip to Cheesman Canyon I had to throw this in. The high water will be forcing you to take routes up and down the river that are not the norm. Two things are almost a guarantee with this- 1. You'll be making your own trail through the willows from time to time and 2. There's a good chance you may be scrambling around/up and over some large rocks/boulders (otherwise known as a perfect place for snakes to sit and sun themselves) In all seriousness, it’s a snake farm out there right now folks. All of our favorite slithering reptiles have felt the warmer temperatures and moisture and are now out and about after the long winter. Use caution when walking the trails or scrambling along the bank and if you do see a snake give it plenty of space. It may be wise to do a little research on the species of snakes in Colorado so you can quickly identify a Bull Snake from it’s more deadly cousin - the Rattler. And if you fish with a dog, always keep note of where the closest animal hospital is to your fishing destination in case of an incident. And no, Simms does not make snake-proof boots.....