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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lansing

rain, increased flows, and flingin' streamers

Rain. We hate it. We love it. We need it. We love talking about it. Forrest Gump will tell you all about rain. The trout need it and they love it. Right now, I love it.

When your favorite stream hasn’t seen a bump in flow in an extended period of time, the first real rain event that brings increased flows is the time to be standing in the water. Throw the waders and rain gear on. Shove the important stuff in a waterproof pouch and hit the stream. Unless it’s a goliath storm, there’s a good chance this bump in flow won’t last long and neither will the bite. Act quickly because the window of opportunity is small. Brown trout love these small windows and you should too.

Central NY was dry for quite a while until yesterday. The rain we did receive didn’t amount to as much as I would have hoped to see. It worked though. An outing yesterday was very good given that flows were nearly double what they have been in recent weeks. Big trout and small trout alike were active and hunted the sized #baby-bird streamer aggressively in the turbid water.

A big, beautiful Central New York brown trout that was caught fly fishing with streamers.
A nice streamer eating Central New York brown trout.

More water means the trout can slip away from their dark haunts and spread out. Turbidity makes them move even more. Increased flows wash and flush food through the system. Bugs get flushed out of their hiding areas with increased flows. Crayfish that are out and about are now prime targets for prowling fat browns. Baitfish that get carried in the current are sure to be ambushed and eaten. Trout are opportunistic and when increased flows come, trout follow the rising water out to hunt for quick meals.

Go big. While a size 4 bugger is sure to grab some attention, a 4”-5” fat marabou and flash covered thing will draw far more attention. And for trout that are on the hunt for a big quick meal before the water recedes, it’s difficult to resist something that looks like big injured bait or a big leech struggling in the current. This isn’t to say a bugger won’t work, but you’ll see more reactions with the bigger fly.

Throw the fly everywhere. Cover the soft pockets. Cover the fast runs. Swing it from a soft pocket through the quick current and back into another soft pocket. Work it fast and work it slow. Cover water. You’re using a big fly and it’s very visible to fish. If you don’t get thumped in 5 or 6 shots through an area, move on because you probably aren’t going to move anything. Don’t stop they fly until it’s at your feet either. Trout will stalk something into the shallows and then annihilate it at the last second. Don’t give up on the course or swing too quickly.

As streamer season is really just starting to fire up, I’ll have more about fishing streamers in the near future. I’ll cover some of the finer nuances in later posts. It’s hard to fish big streamers without water. Increased flows are the most important thing. When the flows go up, get to the stream. The bite may not last long, especially if it’s a smaller and isolated rain event. We’ll use my outing yesterday as an example. Flows increased quickly with a bit of rain. As the water continued to rise the fish were very active. Within the next two hours, the rain stopped. The water cleared and started to drop. As fast as the trout moved from their hiding places, they retreated back to them very quickly.

A quick safety note… If it’s raining and you head out, don’t get yourself into a pickle by heading someplace you can’t escape if the water continues to rise quickly. Gorges with steep walls funnel water and anglers have been stuck and trapped in areas before. Also, pick your crossings carefully. Someplace you were able to cross and wade an hour or two ago may not be wadeable or crossable now.

When it rains and your favorite streams haven’t seen rain in a while, rig up and go. You won’t be disappointed.

Brian Lansing


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