5 Low Water Fishing Tactics

This time of year, in the west especially, water flows tend to be on the lower and slower side with smaller creeks running well below 100CFS (cubic feet per second) and larger rivers ranging from sub-100 to a few hundred CFS (or more, depending on confluence and reservoir discharge conditions). If you’re looking to fish water with slower flows, you might want to consider changing up your chase style.

Here are 5 tactics to try when flows drop, but the draw to the water is strong.

Use smaller flies

As temperatures drop, big hoppers and larger fly hatches start shutting down; alas, the season of big bugs has passed. The good news is that fish are still feeding. Try getting on the water later in the day when the water and air temperatures are a little warmer. If you’re lucky, a small fall Baetis hatch will be in full swing. Tie on a smaller dry fly with a dropper nymph, like a size 18 or 20 blue wing olive pattern (I’ve also fished smaller Griffith gnat with success) and your favorite bead head pattern and give it a go.

Use lighter tippet/leader 

In low water, consider using a longer, smaller weight leader and lighter tippet. Thinner water could also mean spookier fish. Bumping your leader to a 6x will reduce the likelihood of fish spotting your line before your fly. If you rebuild your leader with tippet, be sure to use longer lengths to reduce the number of knots in the line. More knots on your line means more opportunities for fish to see it before your fly.

Load a lighter rod

Put your 5 and 6 weight rods away for a while and setup a 3 or 4 weight option. A rod like our 4 weight Nympster and 3 weight Nymphster EXT are light and agile, yet still able to throw the flies you need to land more fish.

Initiate stealth-mode

In fall conditions like this, those deeper pools you loved so much over the summer are now few and far between. That means you’ll likely be fishing more of the riffles and runs, so stealth is key. Walk low and slow to the water, cast upstream, move from downstream to upstream as you wade and try not to disturb the water too much while doing it. Combined, you’ll increase the likelihood of filling your net.

Keep them wet and release them quickly

Trout, specifically, need a special combination of water temperature and oxygen content to survive. In lower water, fish are a little more stressed since lower flows tend to mean lower oxygen content. When you land a fish, land it in your net, snap your shot and set it on its way. Don’t worry, it’ll thank you.

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2 thoughts on “5 Low Water Fishing Tactics

  1. Zach October 8, 2019 / 8:43 am

    I love reading the tips in this blog, I am fishing primarily on the Flint River in Middle Georgia, and was wondering if you guys knew anything about Shoal Bass that I haven’t already found online, or could point me in the right direction as of what flies to throw.

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