Runoff season is here. The Yellowstone hit 15,000 cfs this morning, and all the local rivers are experiencing some kind of high water. In some cases like the Madison system the high water is still pretty fishable. In other places like the Gallatin and the Yellowstone, it’s chocolate milk.
Runoff can be a bummer. A lot of our good local water isn’t fishing. But don’t fret, there are still lots of places to go. If you do your research you can almost always find clear water. The Missouri is only two and a half hours away too… If you do find yourself fishing in high, dirty water in the coming weeks, here’s a couple tips to help you out.
Fish the Banks
The high water pushes a lot of fish to the bank. There are a couple reasons for this. The water is a lot calmer and fish don’t have to fight the current on the edges. Also, the water is usually a little clearer on the banks. It may not be much, but even a couple inches of visibility makes a big difference. Approach the river with caution as you can spook fish out from the bank if you walk right up to it. Work the banks as you’re fishing. If you feel like your flies are too close, fish closer.
Dark Water, Dark Flies
When the water is off color darker flies tend to have a better profile. The dark profile helps fish find them and eat them easier. Olive, Black, Dark Brown and Copper are all good colors. Dark with a little bit of flash makes a good combo.
Fish It Slow
Streamers are a great fly choice for runoff. They’re big and noisy and push a lot of water. All of that helps fish notice and find your fly in the dirty water. But if you fish it too fast and rip it through the water (and let’s be honest, we all want to do it with streamers) odds are it won’t fish too well. Fish the fly slow. Strip it and let it sit. Twitch it. Let them find it, then crush it.
An advantage of fishing a big dark nymph is that it gets seen easily. Fish will take notice and come check it out. If you have a shiny, flashy dropper it will get seen as the fish come to investigate the big fly. These smaller nymphs are pretty hard to see in the dirty water from a distance, but when a fish gets close enough they’ll take notice. Often times the dropper will get eaten before the lead fly.
Runoff is here for a couple more weeks at least. The warmer weather that’s in the forecast isn’t going to slow things down. It’s not worth not fishing, just adjust your game and you can do well.