Q: Do you still go fishing when it’s raining?
A: When I think about wet weather fishing what comes to mind is BIG! Big water, big flies, and the potential for big fish. When the spring rains have the creeks and rivers running full and discolored I leave the midges and the wee dry flies at home and pull out the heavy artillery. Size 8 and 10 weighted, rubber legged nymphs, size 2 and 4 flashy streamers, the big boys, the heavy hitters. These are flies that trout will typically shun under normal water conditions, but in wet weather will often gobble greedily! During normal flows the fish have more time to examine your offerings, make a decision, and often refuse the fly. When the water is romping and dingy, food decisions must be made quickly, otherwise the next meal may be a long time coming. The trout’s vision is reduced under these conditions so the rubber legs and flash come into play. Get their attention and force them into a quick decision! These are not flies to be fished on light leaders! Think 3x to 1x. If that fish is going to eat a #2 wooly bugger it’s not going to be put off by a stiff leader, and your gonna need that stout mono in the fast water. And lead, your gonna need lead, lots of it sometimes. You must get the fly into the strike zone. Quickly! Otherwise the fly will float harmlessly over your quarry who is blissfully unaware of its presence. Weight your leader with what you think is enough extra weight, then cast your rig into some slower water where you can see how fast it sinks. You may be surprised at how much weight it takes to sink that fly in a hurry. As far as casting goes, forget about those tight loops! It ain’t happening with that gob-o-stuff your trying to throw! I find that a sort of truncated backcast that turns into a roll cast works pretty well. Practice makes passable, if not perfect.
Safety is an important consideration during high water as well. Those places where you waded comfortably last week may be an accident waiting to happen when the stream is swollen with run-off. A wading staff is a handy tool to have. The collapsible kind don’t take up much room on your wading belt and cad be retrieved quickly when needed. Don’t forget your wading jacket, even if it’s not raining at the moment, stuff it in your vest, because in wet, cold weather, hypothermia can become an issue very quickly. Which is why I always carry a “space blanket” in my fishing vest. This inexpensive item can be a life saver if you or a companion take a dunking in inclement weather. I wrapped up my buddy Dougie in one of these on a camping trip some years back, and he swears it saved his life!
So grab your big flies, your rain gear, and your gumption, and go fish in the rain. May your wading boots never dry.
Charlie Downs ~ CWO Professional Guide and Bamboo Fly Rod Maker