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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tips On Fishing Washington Rivers

Summer in Washington state means a few things.  First, we have light until late in the evening, which means we can escape the drudgery of work at a reasonable hour and fish till we can't see the fly line. Temperatures are warming, the air is sweet, and if part of your brain is dominated by fish and the pursuit thereof (a common affliction), it's gonna be a tough wait for your next day on the water. Here are a couple tips on how to do it safely and productively.

1. Wade Safely

You can't catch any fish if you're floating downstream with them! Whenever the water goes up over your knees (sometimes even at the calf depending on the river bottom), you must be very careful. Place one foot at a time. Wear a wading belt. Use a wading staff. Consider getting a low-volume Personal Floatation Device that inflates instantly with a CO2 cartridge. If you're unstable on your feet, or if you don't know the river you're fishing, consider using wading boots with studs or cleats.

Take it slowly, very slowly. And if you do slip and find yourself in the drink floating downstream like a helpless stonefly, point your feet downstream to push off obstacles as they come at you. Be very, very careful in our waters! It's melted snow, people!

 2. Pick Your Spots

When the river flows are above average, spots that you may have fished at lower levels in previous fishing sessions become inaccessible and possibly dangerous. However, that high bank that you scrambled up last September to get back to the trail? The one with the tree 5 feet above waterline that would break current if the river rises? That might be a good place to check out.
In general, be prepared to look for fishable water. Keep in mind, fishable water may not be the same water you fished last month, or last fall, or even last year at the same time. It's water where the fish can find shelter.

3. Fish The Sides

Fish gotta eat no matter what the water level is. When the river rises, the common tip we is that the fish get pushed to the sides of the river. 

Why fight the current? They'll be behind objects that break the current, on sweeping inside bends with slow water, tucked into corners where the main channel of the river has carved out shelter. Focus your energy on the sides.

4. Swing Streamers

If the big trout and steelhead are seeking shelter where the current is broken, how do you think all the little guys are doing? Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Just trying to find one piece of water that isn't moving like a jet. A salmon smolt, sculpin, or baby trout is no match for runoff flows, and the big guys are keyed into them. High water is a perfect time to throw something big.

5. Have Confidence

The fish are there. They have to eat too. You may have to search over more water, hike a little farther, but if you put some time in, high water can be tamed. Just wait until fall when all your efforts pay off because you monitored the river conditions all summer, and are catching chrome steelhead every trip.  One can only hope!