With all the water we’ve seen lately, you would think this wouldn’t be a good time to be fishing.
While you may not be standing out in the middle of the Ausable in that picturesque pose, there are still fish to be caught in the rivers, even when wading isn’t possible.
A word of caution here, however. When the rivers are running high and you’re fishing the edges, take even more care with your footing. It’s one thing to take a tumble when the water is low and you might get your feet wet; it’s quite another to stumble around in a swirling torrent. So safety is paramount. If you’re not comfortable around the fast-moving water, there are plenty of lakes and ponds with great fishing in the Adirondacks that will more than fit the bill until the rivers and streams recede.
But when the high water pushes all but the hardiest of anglers away, Steve steps up his game and I’ve learned to follow along. “The fish are still there,” he’ll say. And usually, he’s right.
It really becomes a fish-the-pocketwater game, and if you play it right, you won’t even have to get your feet wet.
Even without the floods of this summer, Steve and I fly-fish a surprising number of waters with great success using weighted nymphs. It’s not that I don’t like to float a dry fly over the calm water and watch the fish take it, just like they do on TV. It’s just that rarely happens for me; either it’s the wrong fly or the drift wasn’t good enough. And, too, know that fish feed up to 90 percent of the time underwater. So when the high water rolls down the hill, it’s right up our alley.
The fish don’t like that high water any more than you do and they’ll find refuge along stream edges, in the sheltered eddys and pockets. The food will still come to them, but they won’t have to fight the flood-sized current.
At the same time, the water is likely to be off-color – a great camouflage for you since the fish won’t see you coming.
To nymph this pocketwater (also known as high-stick nymphing), you’ll want an 8.5- to 9-foot (Steve actually uses a 10-foot, 4-weight High Stick Drifter made by St. Croix) rod and an 7.5- or 9-foot leader. You’ll be keeping your rod tip high and some tension on the line, so you don’t want any slack. You’re going to need to feel the fish take the nymph. In terms of tippet 4X or 5X should do.
You’ll likely have to add some weight to the fly to get it down deep enough in the higher water. Darker colored flies work well. And I’ve found you can never really go wrong with a Wooly Bugger, that time-tested streamer responsible for so many catches.
Then, just walk along the bank, dabbling the nymph through the pockets along the side of the stream. The fish are there and chances are they’re going to be hungry, especially since they’ve been forced out of the their regular routines and pockets.
Don’t use the high water as an excuse; use it as an opportunity to enjoy a little time on the stream (bank).