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Tips & Tactics for Fly Fishing During Runoff

The following content is part of our Fly of the Month Club. This article is written by Peter Stitcher from Ascent Fly Fishing.

April Showers bring May flowers, but they also can make spring fly fishing a serious challenge! Much of the Western United States received an exceptional amount of snow this past winter, exceeding 150% of the average in many basins, and the rivers are already starting to swell with what is certain to be a long and intense run-off.  With the warmer spring temperatures and the appearance of the first sizable swarms of mayflies, caddis, and stoneflies of the year, the fish are hungry after a long winter and spring fly fishing can be amazing if you are able to adapt to run-off.    

Hug the Edges

The high energy flows of run-off force the trout to look for cover. Some of the best cover to be found in any river is going to be along the shallow edges as the river grinds along the boulders, roots, and logs that line the streambank. It’s not uncommon during run off to find the majority of trout holding within 3-5 feet from the bank of the river, so Hug the Banks with your casts as you fish this Spring.

Go Big or Go Home

Trout need to see your flies if they are going to eat them. Spring rains and melting snow add fresh dirt and debris to the river while the powerful runoff flows flush last season’s silt and algae up into the water column. The result is chocolate milk like water color in which our little flies disappear in the flowing cloud of silt and debris.  To overcome the visibility hurdle we need to exaggerate the size of our flies, tying on fly patterns as much as 2-3 hook sizes larger than the insects we sample on and around the water.

Embrace the Dark Side

The final piece to making your flies visible to feeding trout during runoff is going dark. In the mud-stained flows of run-off, black, dark brown, dark green, and purple fly patterns maintain a sharp crisp profile that makes them pop out to feeding trout.  Embrace the Dark Side and tie on the darkest flies in your box this Spring!

Don’t let runoff keep you away from the river this Spring. The trout are hungry, the fair-weather fly fishers are still at home, and when you see the Ascent Fly Fishing truck next to the river, you are welcome to fish with us!

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