For many of us, we don’t have the luxury of waiting until the perfect weather creates ideal conditions on a favorite trout stream. 

Winter seems eternal for the trout angler anxiously awaiting the return to warm weather and hungry trout.  While there’s certainly nothing wrong with throwing tiny midges for selective, sluggish fish during the cold months it’s the spring that everyone gets really excited about.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature often has other plans and high water dominates March and April, causing more frustrations for anglers desperate to get their fix. All is not lost, however!  Fishing in these conditions becomes an exercise in knowing where to go to find trout when the conditions are working against you.

Fish the Edges

The life of a trout is all about consuming vs. conserving calories.  High water also means swift currents and fighting against that torrent takes a lot of energy for a fish.  When the streams swell, trout will push to the edges of that current, sometimes right off the banks, to escape the rushing water.  It’s not terribly uncommon to not even have to wade during these high water events because the fish will be holding between the bank and the middle current in the softer areas that offer some sort of respite. 

Get Upstream of Tributaries 

Figuring out high water becomes a game in understanding entire watersheds.  A burst of rain upstream of one significant tributary can blow out the entire main stem downstream of the confluence.  A good rule-of-thumb is to keep working higher upstream into a drainage to get above as many tributaries as you can.  With each tributary avoided, that’s that much less water entering the stream you want to fish, and that can help lessen the blow after a snow melt or heavy rain. 

Find the Pools

Much like fishing the edges, finding a deep pool can really help anglers catch fish during high water.  Riffles and runs that fish well at normal flows will all of a sudden be raging rapids, but deeper pools can hold some semblance of normalcy in response to the increase in water flow.  Areas that might have once had little current will now have some, but it’s still a better bet than trying to navigate the heavy moving water that’s not only difficult on the trout, but potentially treacherous to wade in.  Fish will flock to these slow water refuges and it’s possible to have a banner day just by locating one of these places that will hold fish during high water. 

We deal with all sorts of water conditions during the course of a trout season.  Each carries its own set of challenges to be sure, but there are also opportunities to be had.  The high water of early spring seems daunting, but it can congregate fish as there are fewer areas for them to physically hold. That can mean some truly great days of catching for the angler who knows where to look when Mother Nature throws  a curveball and your favorite stream is on the verge of being blown out!