Fly Fishing Highwater – Tips & Tricks

Spring in Utah is officially here. Time to put away the skis and break out the fly-fishing gear. After a record-breaking winter, local rivers like the Weber, Provo, and Green are set to experience high water “runoff” conditions for the next few weeks. But, when faced with high flows and off-color water, it can certainly be intimidating.  Fishing during runoff is still possible. So, if you are excited to get out on the water, but are feeling a bit out of your league, enjoy our take on Fly Fishing Highwater – Tips & Tricks!

Fishing Tips for High Water Success: 

  • Finding the right type of water is the most important aspect of finding success during spring fishing conditions. First off, look for slower moving water, fish will stack up in pockets of slow water along the bank, behind rocks, tailouts, and eddies. Try to find areas where softer water is moving slowly downstream. This will give you a simpler drift and will allow your flies to get down to the bottom third of the water column. 
  • Springtime is the time to leave the delicate rods and light tippets at home. Time to break out the 5 – 7wt weight rods, and 0 – 3x tippets. Fish are more prone to eat larger flies this time of year due to the simple fact that they can see the larger bugs a lot easier in runoff conditions. In addition, it is much easier to land a fish in a strong current when using a heavier leader and tippet. Lastly, a larger rod with more backbone is going to allow you to wrangle a fish in much quicker. Time to leave the 4 weight at home. It will have it’s day. 
  •  Don’t be afraid to throw a streamer.  High water is the perfect time to break out the streamer box and look for some aggressive fish that are not afraid of a bigger meal. Remember, fish are holding in slower water, or pushed up towards the banks with these heavier currents. Consider using a heavier sinking line coupled with some larger bodied flies with a darker profile. Unlike other times of year when streamer fishing is all about covering water, use this time to slowly and deliberately fish those high value sections well. Big fish can confidently move around the river during high water due to the added color in the river system. The one thing to remember about streamer fishing is this, streamer fishing isn’t a numbers game, the fish that you do put in the net will most likely be a lot larger and more aggressive than most. Have fun, be patient, and trust the process. It will pay off! 
  • Know going in that you are bound to lose some flies, and that is okay. Most of the time, the right “right type of water” outlined above is going to be loaded with rocks, branches, and snags that create pockets of slower water for fish to hang out in. To catch the fish in these “juicy areas” you need to put your flies close to those obstacles to give yourself a decent shot at hooking a fish. So, remember, fish stronger leaders, tippets, and bigger flies. Don’t be too upset if they break off. Spring fishing is a game of risk v. reward. Often, if you take the risk, you will be rewarded.
  • ALWAYS wear a wading belt with your waders. These belts are designed to be worn cinched as tight as you can without being uncomfortable with your waders. A proper fitting wading belt will help keep water out if you do take an unfortunate swim. 
  • DURING RUNOFF – The water will be too high and dangerous to even think about wading. Please exercise extreme caution. Use common sense, respect the river and the current, if it looks like it is moving too fast, it is. Try to find locations where you don’t even need to enter the water. Fish from shore if you can. 


Lastly, check in with your local fly shop prior to hitting the water to get up to date river conditions, flow schedules, and fishing conditions. Doing your homework prior to your fishing adventure can go a long way and potentially prevent some on the water headaches. Enjoy the sunshine, spring fishing, and stay safe out on the water.