Wouldn’t you guess it – the week of inventory, when we’re all cooped up in the shop counting ourselves into insanity, the weather and water conditions are looking favorable for streamer pulling. The temperature will hardly get above freezing over the next week, and the recent rains have added a little water to the reservoir, so the system is poised and ready to continue delivering the big water releases that get big fish up and feeding. At the least, expect a big push in the morning hours, and potentially a second push in the evening.
As always, be aware that big, sudden changes in flow can leave the water thick with debris, which is annoying to try and fish through. There are different thoughts on whether to fish in front of or behind this trashy “crest,” as we sometimes call it, but I think I can say with safety that either option is better than trying to fish through the thick of it. This situation can be avoided by putting in just behind the crest of the rise, or simply holding back until the river starts to clear under you. If there is already sufficient flow in the river ahead of the crest, then you can try the “run and gun” strategy of using a motor to stay just ahead of the crest, but this approach requires more intimate knowledge of the river to make efficient use of your limited time in each spot.
Regardless of your strategy, probably the most important aspects of your approach while hunting big fish are focus and persistence. Remember, opportunities at truly big trout don’t come often even in the best of conditions, and they can come just as easily when you’re not paying attention as when you are.
Midges, scuds, and sowbugs are the ticket in terms of small bugs for indicator fishing. Wotton Super and/or Whitetail midges, Wotton Sowbugs, Rubies and Root Beers, Camel midges, Zebra midges, Hunchback scuds are all good. When presenting these in deeper or faster water, trail them behind a Sunday Special, Y2K, or Devil Jig for weight. Good streamers to try on higher flows include Lynch’s DD, Schmidt’s Double Deceiver, Fat Heads, and Galloup’s Sex Dungeons.
Small dark bodied midges and olive or tan scuds are a must. Egg patterns are usually good in the shoals all winter. Dally’s Tailwater Soft Hackle or Ron McQuay’s Anna Ks are good on the swing in the tailouts, as are little black wooly buggers. On high flows try weighted streamers like FS Sculpin Bunnies, Winkle’s Snot Rocket, or Galloup’s Boogieman.