With the New York State trout season around the corner many anglers across the state are preparing their fly gear for their first fishing trips of the year. In the Adirondacks our season opener is more at the mercy of mother nature than law. April 1st denotes the legal opening of the trout waters we love and our first days on Adirondack trout streams will almost always be met with swelling rivers.
This year will be no different. As our temperatures rise the snow from the mountains that feed our rivers and streams will turn the clear water high and dirty. This adds an extra challenge to your fishing but certainly isn't a day breaker.
High Water Tactics
Changing your approach to a river and choosing where you fish is key to success in high water conditions. The river you are on and whether you are wading or floating will dictate some of the locations that are accessible. Most of your efforts should be focused on the softer cushion water. Often you’ll find this in eddys, on the insides of corners and on the downstream side of structure.
Some of my favorite water for large trout in the spring is on this insides of deeper corners. These areas offer the habitat trout hold over in during the winter months and when the temperatures begin to rise the softer shallow water on these insides will warm faster. Creating the perfect combination of holding and hunting water.
Eddy's down stream of riffles or fast pocket water are also excellent areas to locate early season trout. Many adirondack rivers have long fast water sections broken up by larger pool. Trout can set up in the softer edges of the slow water and let the river bring the food to them.
On small streams direct your focus toward the deepest pool. During winter low water conditions this is often the only holding area for trout that remain in the stream. When choosing pools my ideal selection would be a small plunge pool if you are lucky enough to find one or have one available. The turbulent water will not only increase oxygen content in the water but also offers cover for the trout.
Streamers can be a key to success during spring runoff if you know how and where to fish them. The water you are fishing will often dictate how you should fish a streamer. With all techniques it is important this time of year to visualize where the fish will be holding and to keep your streamer in that zone for as long as possible. With water temperatures hovering just above freezing in most of our freestones, bait and trout will be moving slow. Trout are looking for the easy meal that doesn't require them to move outside of the soft water.
If you are fishing a weighted flies on a floating line you can't go wrong with simple wooly buggers or a heavy sculpin pattern like Charlie Craven's Gonga.
Fishing Floating or neutrally buoyant flies on a sink tip is also an excellent way to fish streamers this time of year. Classic patterns like Kelly Galoup’s Zoo Cougar are excellent for imitating the smaller baitfish in our rivers at this time. Tommy Lynch's Drunk and Disorderly is another phenomenal pattern to fish on a sinking line.
Nymphing at this time of year is often a game of getting your fly in front of fish and not about matching a hatch to perfection. Some Insects, like stoneflies, will remain in the river year round and make an excellent anchor fly. Using a heavily weighted stonefly pattern, like a pat's rubber legs, followed by an attractor is one place to start with your rig. Depending on your preferences the attractor pattern can vary greatly. I will usually pick a pattern in size #12-#14. Some of my favorites are Lance Egan's Red Dart, Flashback Hares Ear, and Tungsten Trip Savers. You can also use worm patterns and mop flies with great success.