How to catch trout in high water

By: J.D. Richey, Journal Outdoors Columnist
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What an odd year it’s been so far … from a trout fishing standpoint, it still seems like it’s spring, with high, off-colored water in many streams. The good news is we should have water in a lot of areas deep into the season, but the downside is catching trout in these conditions can be a bit of a challenge. But it can be done if you alter your tactics. Here’s how you can hook more fish in high water: Cold Water One of the first things to remember about stream fishing right now is the water is still very cold in most cases – and the fish are going to be lethargic. When trout are feeling chilly, they don’t feed as much and move only when absolutely necessary. That means you have to use something large to get their attention. For example, if your favorite creek normally fishes well with a No. 4 Panther Martin spinner, jump up to the No. 6 size. Or go with a large Egg-Sucking Leech instead of the caddis pupae that you traditionally use this time of year. On the bait front, big, meaty nightcrawlers typically out-fish salmon eggs and red worms in high, cold water. Go S-L-O-W You really need to work your offerings extremely slowly under these conditions. Again, a cold trout is an inactive trout and it doesn’t want any part in having to chase its food down. If you’re a spinner tosser, retrieve your lure so that the blade just barley turns. When using streamers, strip them at a snail’s pace, with the occasional small burst. Use a little more weight than normal when drifting bait so that your rig bounces along the bottom at about half the speed of the current. If you happen to be in a spot where you can see the fish, try to put your offering right on their noses. Work the Edges So, now we know to go big and fish slow. Another thing to consider is the distance of your casts. When a stream is rippin’ fast, there’s absolutely no reason to cast out in the middle. The fish will stay well out of the hot water and gravitate towards the softer seams along the bank. When you think about it for a minute, that actually works in your favor because it eliminates about 75-plus percent of the water that you have to cover. In most cases, you won’t have to cast more that a few feet from the bank to find trout when the water’s way high. In heavy current, trout seek refuge by tucking in behind logs and boulders and will also hold in deep, slow-moving pools. Avoid the riffles and other fast-flowing spots that you may find productive later in the season and concentrate on these areas instead. Use Caution! Be careful out there! Bad things can happen quickly in high, cold water. When wading, stick to the edges and don’t try to cross until the flows come down. Also, wear studded felt soles and cinch your wading belt up tight. Or better yet, stay completely out of the water until later in the summer.