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4 Tips for Fly Fishing During Spring Runoff

Tanner Smith / May 26, 2023

We asked for snow, and we got it! While this is great news for our reservoirs and late summer fishing conditions, it can certainly present obstacles during runoff. High water can be intimidating and, at times, even pointless to fish. However, there are some benefits to fishing in high water, and a few simple adjustments can make all the difference in the world.

Here are a couple of tips that will help you fish during high water:

1. Avoid Wading

This might sound somewhat counterintuitive, but it will make your life so much easier when fishing in high water. Fish don't like high water any more than we do, so they will be looking to escape major river currents and push out to soft edges. Look for water that is moving at a slow walking pace. Whether the water is muddy or slightly off-color, believe me when I say the fish will be in these zones.

Use Enough Weight

This can't be emphasized enough. Having an adequate amount of weight in high water will be the difference between catching fish and not catching fish. The way I decide on weight is all based on the pace of my drift. If my bobber is just cruising through the drift, I am going to add weight until my bobber is moving through the drift at the above-mentioned slow walking pace.

Adjust your depth

Chances are you have fished these places before. With the higher water, adjusting the depth is going to be almost as important as having enough weight. There isn't much more that needs to be said on this topic. Just make sure your rig has the depth to get down to the fish with the increased flows.

Use Big Flies and Big Tippet

This might be the most frustrating thing people struggle with in big flows. It is the Front Range mindset that fish don't eat big flies. Pat's rubber legs, cranefly larvae, leeches, and worms should be your best friends during high water, and I am not talking about using a size 16 San Juan Worm. On big freestones, these bugs should be in size ranges of 4-12. On our tailwaters in high flows, I am still going to be using these bugs in a size range of 8-12. Size up your tippet as well. This time of year, I am using 2x-3x Fluorocarbon for the majority of my rigs.

By following these tips, you can successfully navigate and fish during high water conditions. Remember to seek out soft edges, add sufficient weight, adjust depth, and use larger flies. See you on the water.

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