July 3 – The heavy rains that fell last week put the lake level on Moosehead over the top. As a result water had to be dumped and flows went to 3400 cfs, making it almost nearly impossible to wade. This amount of water does have its positive effects though. In general salmon love big water and whenever flows are increased drastically, in any river with a population of salmon in the lake below, new fish will enter the river. With water temps still in the low to mid-60’s the East Outlet just got a fresh run of fish and the continued high water should keep them coming.
Yesterday we saw all the new fish first hand. There were bright silver 16-18″ salmon all over the river.
When water flow is high you need to look at the river from a entirely different angle. It’s big, intimidating, and completely changed from the last time you saw it at a much lower level. The pools you know aren’t there anymore. It’s now a flush of water and your not going to wade to any of your favorite spots.
The fish are still there but where? They don’t want to battle all that big water so they’ll move to the edges and find slower, less hospitable water. We call this spots High Water Holes, when fish are in spots you would never see them during lower flows. They aren’t the big pools and runs you are used to. Fish are now holding along smaller less obvious eddy lines below a small point of land or bend in the river. They aren’t hard to find. You just have to look at the river differently and move your focus away from the big water and traditional spots. Just look down the sides of the river and you’ll begin to pick them out. They are now holding in the quieter water along the eddy line where there is now 2-3 feet of water.
Fresh fish are also very different creatures than fish that have been in the river during all the hatches. The resident fish have been dining on insects for some time and won’t chase a streamer like they did before the hatches started. You’ll still catch these guys on tiny caddis and nymphs. Fresh fish have been making a living chasing smelt in the lake and now they are in the river with the same game in mind. They’ll find the bugs in due time but when they are new to the river they need streamers.
If you want to find out if fresh fish are around put the sink-tip line back on and swing your favorite streamer. New fish are eager to chase streamers and less likely to sip a dry fly. We proved it yesterday and caught the bulk of the fish swinging streamers. They were chrome silver, fresh from Indian Pond, hit like a freight train and jumped eye high. It was the best day we have had for bigger fish in quite a while.
Remember always be over cautious of high water. It can be dangerous wading but if you look to the edges for newly flooded High Water Holes you can stay in safe water and sniff out plenty of fish.
Have a great 4th of July weekend.