To hunt big browns on the White with big streamers, we prefer high flows. I daresay the bigger the water the better, barring muddy water out of the banks. The closer the water is to the top of the bank, the more necessary it becomes for the browns to seek the slower pockets and protective structure along the banks. The high water takes a wide, deep, fast river and reduces the fishable area down to a thin strip down each bank, making it easier to find the hungry fish. Alas, we can’t always have what we want.
With a rain starved watershed like we have now, we will continue to see moderate to low flows any time the weather is mild. You can nearly look at wind direction to tell what kind of flows to expect. A south wind brings warm air and reduces demand for electric heating, thus the lower flows. A north wind brings cold air and increases demand for electric heating, creating a need to generate power and release more water. A good tailwater angler needs to be prepared to find fish in both situations, because you simply can’t plan on getting what you want.
Finding big fish on streamers when the water isn’t pushing high up the banks can be challenging because the fish are holding across a wide area of the river, and many favorite bank haunts are simply too shallow. The fish are still nearby however, maybe just off the gravel bar, or below that mid river island, or in the deepest part of a fast chute, and they still need to eat. This is where a trained eye and knowledge of the river bottom come into play. It helps to cover more water by making long casts and retrieves over likely areas, but the more you can picture the river bottom, the better you can break down this wide open waterway into those likely areas. Spending time on the river during minimum flow and paying careful attention to the channel edges can pay off big when hunting browns on intermediate flows.
If this is all sounding rather vague, that’s because it is. Hard to know exactly where the big ones are holding at all times in all kinds of water, so form what strategy you can and execute it as best you can. It’s fishing right?
All week long south winds and mild temperatures produced moderate and steady flows which made for excellent nymphing with egg patterns, ruby midges, root beer midges, and the like. Smaller streamers like FS Skulpin Bunnies, Mini Viking Midges, and Lynch’s DD proved effective on 15′ sink tip lines at 3-6ips sink rate. The north wind is howling outside my window as I write this however, and Friday’s water projection shows a nice 4 hour push of big water up to 220mwh. Expect these kinds of flows whenever cold fronts move through, and adjust your gear accordingly. Step up to 25-30′ sink tips at 6-8ips sink rate, and use larger streamers like Schmidt’s Double Deceiver, Galloup’s Flatliner, and CJ’s Sluggo.
Flows are up and down, one unit in the morning, then off until dusk, and on again for a few hours. This leaves a brief wading window through the middle of the day – just long enough to wade in at Ackerman access and work a few riffles with eggs, Root Beer midges, Hunchback scuds, or strip bead head leeches and wooly buggers through deeper pools. Friday’s projection shows the same schedule, but slightly more water resembling a unit and a half. The morning hours of high flows could offer more streamer opportunities much like the White under heavy flow – fast sinking lines and large profile flies. Try Schmidt’s BFH Double Deceiver in olive/yellow to get down and get noticed.