How to fish low water - Spey Pages
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-16-2009, 01:08 PM Thread Starter
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How to fish low water

Hi, up until the rain yesterday it's been pretty dry here in the pnw. I still consider myself a newby to the flyfishing for steelhead scene and have come across a delemma while fishing in these low conditions that i'd like to hear some opinions on.

When i'm swinging a run I find that it's hard to get the fly to do a complete swing. Either I need to put on weight to try to get the fly into the deep slots (mostly at heads of runs) then it will hang up early in the drift as it hits the side of the run. I'll loose a few flys doing this then switch to a lighter fly that will cover the whole run, but then i dont think i'm getting down deep enough.

low water really seems to be a challenge to try to cover the good water. often its a short deep slot like i said above and tough to get a fly down deep and in a fishable position before it is swept out of the slot by current, thats when i get hangups.

Hoping someone could shed some light on what techniques they use to cover small water.

thank you,


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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-17-2009, 02:33 PM
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Well without actually looking at the water I don't how much help I can be, but I'll take a stab at it. First of all, I'd say don't worry too much about scraping the algae off the bottom. I don't know what river/rivers you're fishing, but over here at least, it's simply not necessary. The other thing I'd suggest is to change the angle of your cast and the amount of tension on the line as it fishes. For example: pick a moderately weighted setup, and cast it across, or up and across. You can take up slack by raising the rod tip and/or stepping down. once the fly is below you, fish it like a normal swing. As the run shallows up, start gradually casting more downstream, and putting more tension on the line to avoid getting hung up. In my experience, changing the angle of your cast and the amount of line tension allows you to fish different water without screwing around with your setup. My memory is a little rusty, but I thought that Lani Waller demonstrates something like this in his videos. Might be worth a look. Hope this helped--AJ

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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-18-2009, 11:01 PM
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the smell of a good ol' skunk

I think i might have a perception about your quandry, but first I need to preface my insights. I was one of a small, 5 man band of brothers of the Angle. We landed into Portland 3/11-3/16 to put our passions to work on well known spots of the lower Sandy and Clakamas for fresh chrome. Having reasonably strong GL/BC experience i felt certainly confident that i could touch a fish on dh swing in 5 days of play. So did my cohorts. 5 guys with four consecutive days fishing and we all BLANKED. The last cast hurt me as much as the challenge of the first one thrilled me. Part of fishing's success is measured by ability to concentrate, find your zone or mantra (MK), and to fish good water well.

report: Beautiful surroundings, love the glacial color of the Clack. the Sandy was as clear as the klor in BC, i even had a small taste of it underestimating the depth of a lazy crossing. cold, clean and definitely refreshing. But hey, it was 60 degrees and high sun from 7-7. Record low level on sandy at 9.2 I was told with temps still cold at 43 degrees. Seemed everyone was waiting for rain. First trip DIY put us into fishing most of the parks which have curfew of 7 or 8. that is entirely limiting, lacking guided knowledge and making us unable to sink our teeth into the 'golden hour' like we usually do. We gave it our best, went through traditional water almost scientifically, top to bottom. Personally, my snags were limited as 11-13 ft t-11 still kept me out of most trouble as long as i had constant tension and didnt dangle forever. I did find my mantra. The flies that I did hang up were direct consequence of awkwardly trying to get into slots around big deep midstream boulders. For that i had to go upstream a decent bit and lost touch with my fly probably half of the potential drift. My streamer playing a teeny nymph role. Still nuttin but a new nail knot to tie. The few fish I did see taken were actually up river below the hatchery by gear guys only floating eggs and some evil looking live shrimp monster of a thing round clearwater creek area. To me, those are dour, sleeping, hatchery fish not worthy of my tenacious swinging recipes so i only fished there for a lil bit, lol.
I wish I had my lil secret indie box of yarn and stoneflies with egg droppers ready to go and prerigged like tarpon leaders. I would have had another effective tool for getting deep in Slow pools and pocket water at will by drag free drifting it. Further, I have somewhere in an old drawer a teeny chuck and duck integrated fly line. Frigging pain in arse to throw SH, but in actuality, my switcher might want to try and heave it in future for these times when fishing conditions are so difficult you really do have to think about alternative techniques to try; if it is a fish to touch that determines your success of a trip.

I stayed with the swing on constant tention, I was down there, just not hanging up. I chose not to alter my plan by introducing the bobber or bait into my arsenal. Having blanked after fishing hard with other crazed fisherman, I remain confident that the conditions recently in your area were indeed harder than usual. LOW x Sunny x Cold and clear is not the formula for high percentage of takes. I bet with the recent rain last few days the fish pushed in and around a little bit and things will be better for you, better for the swing with a featherd fly. I hope this verbose comment about your specific waters of recent past and our poor show offer you some empathy and yet empower you to try whatever way of fishing you like to try and rope in those beautiful and rare WILD fish. If I can learn from my skunkings, even retrospectively by writing here, then the smell of the skunk might finish sweet afterall. Course a skunk smells best with a lil wilke #191 in my freehand briar and lips a bit wet with double cask 16 Aberlour as i get back to the vice for the next trip. Good luck in dialing in to the chrome over your otherwise enviable and beautiful home waters.

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Ted Leeson, The Habit of Rivers

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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-19-2009, 12:24 AM
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I use combinations of some usual stuff. To gain depth, I'll cast more upstream, maybe a stack mend, line feeding, stuff. This can drop a fly deep into slots, dropping the rod tip slowly keeps it there as you ease it through, broadside and down. Or hang the fly and coax the fish up, get in its zone. Play around with it. Often the trickier the spot, the more it helps to be closer to the fly, steering it around, out of danger, to the fish

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Last edited by SSPey; 03-19-2009 at 01:26 AM.
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