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Trouts Journal

5 Tips for Fly Fishing Low Water

Ivan Orsic / Oct 26, 2018

In the past week, we have seen flows lowered all along the South Platte, as well as other tailwater fisheries. From the looks of it, the traditional low flows of late fall/winter are here, and as a result we’re going to start seeing spooky and selective trout. Instead of using the same tactics or approaches as you have all summer, this is the time of year to change things up and hone some new skills. So without further adieu, here’s 5 Tips for Fly Fishing Low Water.

1. LIGHTEN UP!

Lighter tippet is a necessity when low and clear flow conditions are present. Drop your tippet down to 5x when you'd normally fish 4x and to 6x when you'd normally fish 5x. I don't have enough fingers to count the number of times I've insisted on fishing 5x and trout have just slid out of the way of my flies. Only to have them eat when I dropped my tippet size down to 6x and presented the same fly. Remember to adjust your drag when you make this move, as well.

2. SIZE DOWN!

This tip is to flies as "LIGHTEN UP" is to tippet. Fish will become more selective when the water isn't flowing as fast and they can damn near see everything that's coming their way. Fishing a smaller bug, especially on some of our favorite technical tailwaters, can be the ticket to fooling wary fish.

3. TREAD LIGHTLY!

With low and clear conditions, it's easier for fish to feel and see you approaching. Instead of rushing to your favorite hole, run, riffle, walk slowly and don't clomp around like a damn elephant. Avoid wearing bright colors and summon your inner samurai and tread lightly into position to cast.

4. LOSE WEIGHT!

While our Regional Store Manager and fellow burly boy, Tanner Smith, might tell me this every day when I think about ordering a pizza, in this instance, I'm talking about your nymph rig. Take a BB off or change from tungsten beaded flies to gold beaded flies...or gold beaded flies to no beaded flies. This will allow you to present your flies in a more natural way and get a longer presentation because you won't be hanging up on the bottom early and often and your flies will be drifting through the feeding lanes longer. This also allows you to delicately present your flies to feeding fish and lessens the chances you'll spook them.

5. BE PATIENT!

During the late fall, warmer days in the winter and early spring, there is always a better chance of dry fly action when flows are lower. Why? It doesn't take as long for the sun to warm up the water and those warming water temperatures can trigger good midge and blue-winged olive hatches. If you stop at a longer, deeper flat and don't see any fish, risers, or action. Give it time, chances are (if the conditions are right), you'll see some bugs hatching and fish rising.

BONUS: TRUST YOUR EYES!

Fish should be easier to spot in these low and clear conditions. Look for gill plates, shadows, the white of feeding trouts mouth, and shape changes that might signal that you, in fact, are seeing a holding and feeding fish. If you are looking to start honing your sight fishing game, now is a great time to start. This is the easiest time to spot fish, take advantage of that and develop a new skill set that will pay off when the higher flows of spring, summer, and early fall come around.

DOUBLE BONUS: LOSE THE INDICATOR!

Stealth is of upmost importance when these low flow conditions are in effect. Whether you size down your normal indicator rig or lose the indicator all together, reducing or eliminating the "PLOP" of your indicator and nymph rig allows you to present your flies to more fish.

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