Conquering the Current: Fly Fishing Tips for Spring Runoff

Spring runoff can be daunting for fly fishermen. Muddy water and raging rivers can make it seem like the fish have vanished. But fear not, these challenging conditions can actually be prime time for landing trophy fish! Here are some tips to help you turn the murky mayhem of spring fishing into a memorable angling adventure:

  1. Embrace the Muck: Don’t let the off-putting water deter you. Spring runoff can be a goldmine for big fish that are less wary in murky conditions. Embrace the challenge and target them while other anglers wait for things to clear up.

  2. Seek the Soft Spots: While your usual fishing spots might be transformed into raging rapids, look for calmer areas. Target slow-moving eddies along banks, side channels, or any areas protected from the high flows. These become prime resting and feeding grounds for fish during runoff.

  3. Fish with Flash: Forget about subtle flies. Opt for bright and gaudy colors like black, chartreuse, purple, red, or white. A little sparkle can be a big advantage in murky water. Purple Prince nymphs bounced off the bottom or a red San Juan worm can be deadly. Don’t be afraid to experiment with flashy streamers like Zonkers, Rooster Tails, or Double Bunnies. Adding rattles to your streamers can also give them an extra edge.

  4. Supersize Your Flies: Leave your tiny winter flies behind. During high water, bigger flies with more flash are more likely to grab a fish’s attention and potentially land you a trophy catch. Jumbo streamers, Pat’s Rubber Legs, or big stonefly nymphs are all great options.

  5. Tailwater Treasures: While freestone rivers might be blown out, tailwaters below dams can offer clearer water, especially in the first few miles downstream. The high flows can also get fish moving in the early season, making them a great alternative if your usual spot is unfishable.

  6. Master the Dead Drift: When using large streamers, employ a dead drift technique similar to nymph fishing. Let the streamer drift naturally through the current, then slowly strip and jig it upwards towards the end of the presentation. John Barr’s Meat Whistle is a great streamer for this tactic due to its jig head’s enticing action. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

  7. Time Your Trip: Keep an eye on the weather! Snowmelt often leads to cyclical flow patterns. Peak flows typically occur after hot afternoons and continue through the night and next day. Consider waiting a few days after hot spells or heavy rain to allow the water levels to recede before heading out. Local gauging stations can also help you track flow trends.

  8. Stillwater Success: Think outside the box! Consider high mountain lakes that have just opened up for the season. These still waters often hold hungry fish waiting to be caught. A medium-sinking line will help get your flies down to where the fish are holding and prevent snags during retrieves. Don’t forget to cast parallel to the shore, as these areas are cruise zones for lake trout. While reaching these lakes might require more effort, they can be a productive alternative when your favorite rivers are raging.

By following these tips and embracing the unique challenges of spring runoff, you can turn a seemingly unproductive time into a fly fishing adventure filled with success!

Image/Source: Field&Stream

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