High Water Strategies for Steelhead 5 Tips for Success

High Water Tactics for Steelhead
Fishing during high water can be very productive. Working the edges, focus on softer water where fish will rest after navigating upstream in the heavy flow of strong currents found during high water.

High Water Strategies for Steelhead – 5 Tips to Success

Employing high water strategies for steelhead can change the game from hopeless to homerun!  Here are 5 Tips for Success.

It was a rough week with extremely high flows and difficult conditions. After the freezing rain, snow and general nastiness from the previous week we were pummeled with loads of rain and snow melt. That’s the nature of winter steelheading in the NW. The weather and river conditions are not always ideal and often to be successful we have to adapt and revise our plans. Here are some tips we found to work this past week.

High Water Strategies for Steelhead: The River is muddy now what?

Often times with heavy rains rivers blow out and become unfishable during winter; this does not have to end your fishing trip. We find that there are sometimes good alternatives by looking higher in the river system. There are often tributaries that blow out the lower river but clearer water can be found upstream from them.

With Murky Water, what water clarity is clear enough to fish in? If you can see your boots in knee deep water you can probably catch steelhead. If you can just barely see your boots in mid-thigh to waist deep water that’s ideal!

High Water Strategies for Steelhead:  High water and Heavy Flows- can my fly even get down near the fish?

This is a big challenge with the high flows of winter; especially in smaller rivers or canyon sections where the river cannot spread out on large gravel bars. In these situations we’ve found having the right tools makes the difference. We’ve been using GAMECHANGER fly lines by RIO to help get the fly deeper in heavy flows. Add on a T14 sink tip and a weighted fly and you are in business.

High Water Strategies for Steelhead: Start CLOSE!

The good spots are close to the bank. I must have said it a hundred times last week- Start Close! When the water is high the softer water that steelhead like to hold in is often right next to the bank. One angler this last week hooked up on the 3rd cast. It’s also very important to swing the fly all the way across in these high flows. Let the fly dangle for a moment before you start into the next cast.

High Water Strategies for Steelhead: Watch the Gauge

Keep tabs on water levels of your favorite river.  Watch the predicted rainfall amounts and learn to see how that affects your river.  You’ll get a feel for the factors that impact your river like rainfall, snowmelt and freezing levels and how that translates to water conditions.  Many river graphs will give you a forecast for the water levels in addition to the current level.  These are only a rough guide and are often wrong.  There are a number of different services for water levels.  Here is our favorite for the Clackamas River.

High Water Strategies for Steelhead: Master the Swing

It’s incredibly important to manage your swing speed when water levels are high.  If your fly is swinging too fast your fly is likely very close to the surface and ineffective.  With heavy flows be sure to slow down your swing allowing the fly and sink tip to drop deeper.  Your goal is to get the fly half the depth of the water.  To master your swing check out our 90 minute video “Winter Spey Strategies” available in dvd or streaming.  Another great resource is our new ebook, “5 Steps to Winter Spey Success” these both provide excellent strategies for winter success.

The forecast for the next 10 days looks like it will help with falling river conditions. Should be good!

Who is Water Time Outfitters?  Water Time Outfitters is a team of guides who offer guided fly fishing and classes on Oregon’s finest waters.  When anglers plan a fishing trip they need to know they’re spending time and money on a great experience.  We aim to surpass their expectations with expert, fun-loving guides and exceptional hospitality, so our guests can focus on their love of fly fishing, maximize their success and take home memories that last a lifetime. See more at: www.Watertimeoutfitters.com

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