If the river you were planning on fishing today is ‘out’, you can either go fishing or not go fishing. Only one of these decisions is going to leave you with a chance of catching fish.
Even after you’ve made the (right) call to head out anyhow, you still have two options. You can go through the motions, and just be happy that you’re on the water instead of organizing your hall closet or putting the new cover sheet on the TPS report. Or, you can fish hard, keep the faith and dramatically increase your chances of having a productive day.
Keep the Faith
The water might not look good, but the fish are still in there! They might not all be ‘happy’, and they might not be in their traditional lies, but there are still plenty of critters in there that will eat a fly if you put it in front of them.
Get yourself in the zone. Look for soft water. Stay just as focused as you would on a day that seems picture-perfect, and you might be surprised at who climbs on to the end of your line.
Listen closely to the stories from the experienced anglers that you respect. A disproportionate number just might start out with “the river was rising but we headed out anyway” or “it was blowing so hard I could barely get a cast to turn over”. Lots of fish get caught on ‘bad’ days.
The Silver Lining
Fishing an ‘out’ river gives you the chance to use three things that don’t always work in ‘normal’ conditions.
- Giant flies. Go ahead and tie on the proverbial ‘dead sparrow on a hook’! The fish need to see it to eat it, and it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to spook anybody in conditions like this.
- Light tips. High and dirty water typically pushes fish higher in the water column – no need to dredge here.
- Shorter casts. Lots and lots and lots of fish have been caught in tough conditions right against the bank. You might not feel as cool as you do hooking fish at 90 feet, but fishing short can be a ton of fun, and your shoulders won’t hurt at the end of the day either.
If the river’s at a dangerous flood stage, we recommend that you spend your day on the couch. Otherwise, go fishing, and more importantly keep your head in the game and keep the faith!
Thanks to Eric Neufeld for passing on this little reminder.