While all the rain and high water have made fishing the more popular rivers difficult, high water can actually be an advantage when fishing some of our smaller mountain streams. A little extra color and depth can help the wild and native trout in these small waters lose some of their cautiousness and feed heavily during a hatch of insects.
It is a great time to take a light fly rod out on a small stream and catch some surface feeding trout. The fish will often feed selectively on one species of insect over all the others on the water, but the fishing can be fantastic. I encountered just such a situation recently and once I deciphered which fly the trout favored, I think I caught or missed every fish that I saw rise to take a bug off the surface.
The water had been low, but a couple days of rain had the small creek I was on flowing high with just enough color that I could still make out some rocks on the bottom. There was a light drizzle coming down when I arrived and I could see several varieties of bugs flying around. There were a couple different types of caddis and a few blue quill and blue wing olive mayflies flying about. Here and there, I saw what I was hoping for, Hendricksons, a rather large mayfly (best imitated by size 12 or 14 hook) coming off sporadically in the gentle glides. It was early and I hoped the hatch would increase the later it became.
Hendricksons are an interesting species of mayfly and different from other species in that the females and males are a different color. The males are a dark grayish color, the females are a light pinkish color, and occasionally the trout will take one sex exclusively over the other, which was the case this day.
When I began I first tried a caddis imitation and got a little interest but no solid takes. The trout did not seem to really want that fly, they just came up to investigate. The fish were really starting to turn on. I could see numerous dimples on the surface as I scanned the water ahead of me as I made my way upstream. Fortunately, the color of the water and the increased flow made it possible for me to wade right up the middle of the stream without spooking the trout. They just continued to rise while I was trying to figure out what insect they were feeding on. Next, I tied on a dark Hendrickson. This got a good response and I did catch quite a few trout, but the fish still seemed a bit reluctant and I probably got as many refusals as I did hits.
The Hendricksons were really popping off now but the weather made it difficult for their wings to dry so they had to ride the currents for some distance before taking flight, making them easy pickings for the fish. There seemed to be an equal number of males and females hatching. After watching a nice pool for a few minutes, I saw that the trout were favoring the females this day.
I could see the mayflies riding the current and the lighter colored females rarely made it very far before a nose poked through the surface and inhaled the bug. I tied on a female pattern and just hammered the trout, almost every good presentation was rewarded with a hit and I lost track of the number of fish I caught.
It is so enjoyable when it all comes together like that. The water conditions made it possible to get into position to make a good presentation and the trout were not near as spooky as they usually are, partly because of the high, off color water and partly because of the abundance of bugs on the surface.
It was one of those days I was glad to have a fly rod in my hands, the conditions were not that comfortable with the drizzle and cool temperatures but the consistent dry fly action more than made me forget about my discomfort and just have fun catching fish.