We’re experiencing some high water conditions lately, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change soon. With this being said, the fish are still down there, and they’re still eating. Here’s a few techniques to target fish in higher, lower visibility water conditions!
Our Black Hills streams don’t usually get unfishable levels of water – not like the larger rivers further west will. There’s always places to fish in the hills! Many people are intimidated by higher water, faster current, and not being able to recognize the holding water as easily. Rather than just putting away your gear until the water comes down, learn a few tricks to fish this type of water, and you’ll have a ton of water to yourself!
The single most important thing to fishing runoff conditions is using enough weight! Split shot, tacky weight, sink tips, tungsten flies, whatever floats your boat. If you’re not hitting bottom every few casts, chances are you’re not deep enough. The fish are going to be closer to the bottom of the river than they normally would be in normal conditions, so you’re going to have to get even closer to them than you would normally have to. Even in our small streams, using two, or even three large split shot isn’t out of the question at all.
Flies – big flies catch fish, for a number of reasons. In high water, they can’t see an 18 or a 20. I use lots of big Czech nymphs, Tungsten San Juan worms, and even wooly buggers under an indicator. Don’t be afraid to try something larger, flashier, and more in your face than you would conventionally want to use. Also, streamers are a great option to use when the water is up. Big, articulated nasty flies on a RIO Versileader are great for targeting larger fish! This tactic has been producing exceptionally well for me lately.
Don’t be afraid to fish higher water, because there’s still plenty of fish to be had for the people that aren’t afraid of a little dirty, higher flows.