What a difference a year makes. Last year we were striving to see the South Branch at 50 cfs. In the last five years, we've had historic low flows down to 17 cfs. Today it is once again over 300 cfs and leveling off. Other area rivers like the Musconetcong and the Pequest started out high and have just kept going. We've had four major storms in two weeks including one that took the river to just over 2000 cfs. This last surprise snow storm, our first of the year, left six- eight inches of snow. While the snow should melt quickly, we are ready for some quieter weather which we should see starting this weekend and carrying through much of Thanksgiving Week.
Techniques for fishing high water vary from Infamous Pink Worms to a stick of dynamite but I prefer fishing streamers in falling water, that is water which is now receding back to a normal base flow. When the South Branch drops below 250 cfs, I may start nymphing again but it is hard to beat streamers if you are looking for active feeders in high water. Zonkers, Classic Ghosts such as the Grey or Black are definitely options. I prefer Woolly Biggers and Sculpins but the biggest innovation in the last five years for me are the Versi-Leaders from Rio. These leaders sink at varying rates. In high water, use the 7 inches per second (IPS) leader. In lower water, 4 IPS is ideal. There is a welded loop on one end to connect to the fly line's loop. On the other side is a short length of heavy mono line. I like to use a two barrel swivel at this end to run an additional 18-20" length of tippet preferably 3X. If trout are hugging bottom this is a great way to catch their interest. Typically, I start at the head of a pool and work my way downstream a few steps every fourth or fifth cast which is typically a simple roll cast about 45 degrees downstream. If you are using the sinking leader system, let the fly and leader sink for a moment before beginning a slow, short strip retrieve. Methodically working your way downstream is the best way to work all of the water. Takes can come any time during the retrieve. Don't be surprised to see trout hanging in shallow dark water just off a main seam if the water has been high.
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