What to Do When the Rivers Are Too High to Fish

High water can be one of the most annoying things to anglers because most of the time it seems like it always happens when you have the free time to get out on the water and go fishing, but it doesn’t mean you can’t use that time productively and still scratch your fly fishing itch!

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Hit the Vise and Tie Some Flies

When the conditions are keeping you inside, one of our favorite ways to pass the time is to work on refilling our fly boxes so we’re ready to fish hard when the conditions swing back into our favor. Maybe its a couple of new patterns you want to learn, or maybe you just need to replace some of your favorite flies that have been donated to the river bottom or that were taken by a big fish. Grab some buddies and maybe a few cold beverages and make a day of it!

If you want to start tying your own flies, check out our tying kits, or sign up for a fly tying subscription and learn a new pattern each month!

Fish Spring Creeks, Tailwaters or Tributaries

When the main branch of your river is blown out, start looking for smaller waters or other creeks that are regulated either by springs or by a dam that creates a tailwater. Since these waters typically have a consistent water level, it’s more than likely that they will still be flowing at very fishable levels. Sometimes I even prefer to fish spring creeks when they are a little high and off color, which will allow you to sneak up much closer to the usually spooky fish and give you the edge you need to hook into a big, wild spring creek fish.

Marginal waters and tributaries are also a great spot to start looking for fish if the mainstream is way too high. Often times, fish will stack in the clearer water hunting for food and escaping from the swift currents of the high water.

Give Your Gear Some TLC

No matter how hard we try, our gear is always in need of some tender, loving care. Maybe you need to repair that pinprick leak in your waders you keep saying you’re going to get to. Or perhaps your fly lines are looking a little grimy and not shooting as they should. Take the time you have will the creeks are high to clean and lubricate your lines, and give your reels a little bath (you don’t want to lose a big fish to a gummed up drag). Not only will your gear thank you, but you will greatly extend its life and save yourself some time, money and frustration the next time you’re out on the water.

Head to the Salt Water

If you can swing it, the ocean is a great way to escape from high rivers and flooded creek banks. Here the fish are almost always around somewhere and are far less impacted by heavy rains and high flows. This time of year the coasts are alive with life no matter which side of the country you are in. Grab some saltwater flies, a heavy leader and send it!

Rip Big Streamers Through the High Water Anyway

Many species of predatory fish love to use high water to sneak up on unsuspecting prey or use the increase in flows to move around in the system while predators above the surface will have trouble seeing them. Often in my area, the biggest brown trout and smallmouth bass are caught while the water is up. Grab some big streamers and a sink tip leader and get to fishing, you will be surprised how willing big fish will be to crush big streamers while their guards are down.

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