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Fishing Blow-Out Streams
Post 27 Oct 2021, 10:45 • #1 
Sport
Joined: 09/11/17
Posts: 44
Location: Michigan
This summer I was fishing in and around Yellowstone, but I never did get an opportunity to fish the Lamar River, one of my primary objectives. Heavy rains had "blown-out" the Lamar River according to my fishing partner and we skipped this stream to fish other, clearer, waters. Indeed, the river was chocolate colored, but thinking about it after returning home, I am not sure we made the right decision to bypass the murky water. I would like to ask what techniques and flies do forum members use when they encounter muddy or stained water? I assume that dry flies may not work very well, but maybe my assumption is wrong. Comments?


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Post 27 Oct 2021, 11:25 • #2 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 12/05/06
Posts: 1663
Location: US-PA
I really don't enjoy fishing when a stream is blown out, first because of the increased danger, but mainly because the increased flows mean the drifts are shorter which means the routine is constant casting, fast drift, pick up, cast, fast drift, pick up, cast, fast drift, pick up, etc…

It reminds me of drifting shad darts on the Delaware or fishing crank baits, which is equally monotonous for me.

That being said, when I fail to do my due diligence and end up with no other option other than going home, I am usually fishing beadhead nymphs with or without added flash or the opposite, something dark or black for contrast. Streamers are another option or other junk flies like worms and the like.

I never usually bother with dries unless the subsurface stuff doesn’t work, in which case I'll try big dries or terrestrials that make a splat when they hit the water.

YMMV


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Post 27 Oct 2021, 12:18 • #3 
Guide
Joined: 11/23/14
Posts: 184
Location: US-TX
At the height of run-off this past May, I was committed to fishing about 500 ft of river in southern CO that was attached to my vacation rental. The rest of the immediate area was private property. So for 5 days, I pounded that 500 ft. The river was super cold and roaring but it wasn't chocolate. I'm just a mediocre fly fisherman but I can read water and usually catch something.. Any likely looking run or eddy saw my dry/dropper rig numerous times until it hit a trout in the face. At least that's the impression I had. Red SJ Worm seemed to work the best. Also bead head nymphs. Tried streamers too without success. 9 ft graphite T&T used (hence, no report) for the extra reach because I really couldn't wade. So, basically I just learned not to be so quick to decide that nobody is home and move on. Faced with chocolate, I'm sure fish can be caught but I'd probably make the same decision you did. If I was faced with no other options, I could practice mend casts, Leisenring Lifts and other stuff I don't know how to do. Its all fun.


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Post 27 Oct 2021, 12:48 • #4 
Sport
Joined: 09/11/17
Posts: 44
Location: Michigan
Even the purist of the purist Yellowstone guides I know have a least a few "junk" flies in their arsenal. I didn't think to use worm flies in the murky Lamar waters we walked away from, but these worms have saved the day for me on other occasions. I was fishing the crystal-clear Gallatin just outside and inside Yellowstone in September and could not get any interest in the variety of terrestrials, dries and dropper rigs I was throwing against the undercut banks this river features. In frustration I tied on a small San Juan Worm as a dropper on a floating grasshopper rig and from then on I could not do a drift without a strike. I have heard of similar results from using so-called "mop" bead-head flies when nothing else was producing results. I'll have to give the worms a try the next time I encounter muddy water.

Warren


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Post 27 Oct 2021, 13:57 • #5 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 11/06/17
Posts: 2030
Location: South of Joplin
My notion is don't bother. read a book or three catch up on your sleep or work over time.
Fast flows make short or very short presentation, high water puts the angler in increased danger and farther away from possible fish hides, it also appears to cause the fish to rest under structure rather than fight the harsh conditions. I'm sure fish could be caught with enough effort, but, it wouldn't be any fun for me. Much rather fish low water conditions when the fish are concentrated and within easy casting distance.


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Post 27 Oct 2021, 14:15 • #6 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 07/11/14
Posts: 1449
Location: urban Colorado
usually put on an egg-sucking leech which has a nice bright hotspot to get attention.. if one BB shot doesn't get it deep enough, two will..
then work the eddies along the bank. A fat leech swimming in front of their faces gets bit, sometimes..
A worm fly (oxymoron) is also worth a try, under a big old bobber. I don't much care for bobber fishing as a rule but if the choice is no fishing or bobber fishing, well..


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Post 27 Oct 2021, 18:34 • #7 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 05/22/16
Posts: 1233
Location: SJC
I too have had some luck during the springtime with the infamous squirmy wormie :) I tie mine with tungsten beads, though. I guess you could do a multiple fly rig like the euronymph folks, as well.

Image

Image

This last one is from a reservoir in November while packrafting, but a picture of the fly couldn't hurt ...

Image


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Post 27 Oct 2021, 19:52 • #8 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 06/16/05
Posts: 2237
Location: Georgia
I don’t like fishing blown out waters either, and likely would also have gone elsewhere. But, if forced to fish chocolate water, I usually try to find the slack edges and try to put some big terrestrial or top water meal in there, dropper if needed; streamer or something maybe - more likely if I’m familiar with what the underwater structure is.

If I happen to be there when the big rain starts, there should be a window of an hour maybe to tempt good fish with big stuff washing down, again terrestrial, streamer, maybe big nymph.


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Post 27 Oct 2021, 20:27 • #9 
Guide
Joined: 02/22/16
Posts: 231
Location: Livingston MT
The Esopus in the Catskills yesterday above the portal. Lots of rain - one of the reasons we moved to MT.....



Tom


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Post 27 Oct 2021, 20:44 • #10 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 05/19/14
Posts: 3651
Location: USA - Illinois
Oh yuk!

I have never owned/fished a San Juan worm, but may have to add a few.
Bass and Gills would like them, eh?


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Post 27 Oct 2021, 23:26 • #11 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 11/06/17
Posts: 2030
Location: South of Joplin
Depends on what blown out means. Here you don't fish or boat during floods.
If my creek were blown out it would look like Tom's picture except 30-50 yards into those trees. It can go from a 'normal' of ~100CFS to over 29,000CFS in a few hours and stay high for days. If you wanted to cast from the bank on either side to the permanent holding areas you could figure ~165' or so, maybe more, cows and cars have washed away, so bring a sack full of split shot.
Odonata's picture looks like low water to me, I would imagine flood to cover all the scoured rock.

The campground, stream normal 35-100CFS, 2013, this is about a third bigger than an average flood on this creek, but we had more water in 2015 and 2017.


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Post 28 Oct 2021, 00:36 • #12 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2717
Location: Orygun
jhuskey wrote:
I have never owned/fished a San Juan worm, but may have to add a few.
Bass and Gills would like them, eh?


I think everything likes them.

That said, I still rarely fish them....which is weird, since I'll fish all sorts of egg patterns


Regarding blown out streams, like Trev, it really depends on what you mean by "blown out"

If it's like the pic that Trev posted, I'm turning my ass around and going home. Buuuut, if there's 6" of vis, then I'm fishin'. Usually larger streamers, but large nymphs can (and do) work. Color doesn't matter so much as bulk and pushing water. That said, I usually fish black or olive just because that's most of what my streamer box looks like.


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Post 28 Oct 2021, 03:52 • #13 
Guide
Joined: 03/12/15
Posts: 234
Location: US-CT
In CT. we have had blown out rivers and streams ALL year. Totally insane to even try but I heard that one of our west CT. rivers was mobbed last week despite water that was totally too high for safe wading. I guess you can fish the edges where the water is a little slower.
We had another 4 inches of rain this week from an early season noreaster. Fishing is done until next spring.


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Post 28 Oct 2021, 09:00 • #14 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 05/22/16
Posts: 1233
Location: SJC
The squirmy has caught me bass, crappie, and other warmwater fish, but usually when temps are too chilly for topwater flies.

Image

This is actually the "squirminator", a closely-related family :)

Image

Tightlinevideo has nice tying videos for both of these.


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Post 28 Oct 2021, 18:47 • #15 
Global Moderator
Joined: 04/20/07
Posts: 8281
Location: US-ME
I favor the nap. Or maybe a pond or headwater brook if I know fish move up it in response to increased flow. Exceptionally high water in the main stem, only worthwhile if you know the channel and side channels, bottom contour and obstructions/bottom type well from fishing it in low water.


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Post 28 Oct 2021, 22:33 • #16 
Sport
Joined: 08/11/21
Posts: 66
Location: Tucson, AZ
Knew the Esopus well..my high school was along the banks of that river down in Boiceville


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Post 29 Oct 2021, 07:54 • #17 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 10/18/12
Posts: 1536
Location: Bozeman, MT
Only in the back eddies with a Wooley Bugger. :)


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Post 29 Oct 2021, 10:36 • #18 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 06/24/11
Posts: 1006
Location: Belgium
If there is at the option to fish clear running tributaries I would rather do that than fish blown out water......
But to answer the question - it depends on whether you are dealing with meltwater or rainwater.
In the extremely cold meltwater heavy nymphs fished into the fishes mouth are the most likely option - I choose not to fish like this.
During/after heavy rains I have caught fish close to the margins with anything from charteuse clowsers to a large dry version of the black Zulu. Again, it's not much fun......


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Post 29 Oct 2021, 10:47 • #19 
Guide
Joined: 02/06/16
Posts: 202
Location: US-ME
Depends on water. Several rivers I frequent have pools where the higher flow improves the back eddy. In these conditions nicer fish move in and can make for excellent fishing,.. until the big ones get into the main current... Higher flows also push the fish closer to the bank as well. Yet still, I prefer to fish in regular conditions (for the season) as opposed to blown out.


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Post 29 Oct 2021, 14:52 • #20 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 11/06/17
Posts: 2030
Location: South of Joplin
I guess I've never seen an eddy on a blown out stream. Water volume increase tend to bury those.

Karst here in the Ozarks is a little different than granite mountain tops, snow melt usually just soaks in, but, rain percolates through until the system is full then discharges directly into water courses creating flash floods. We have them in all seasons but they are most common from Nov. through Jun. 2" of rain can trigger a flood if the system is saturated, though more often it takes 6+".
Over the last four days we've had ~2.5" of rainfall and over a few hours yesterday and last night the little creek by me went from right at 100CFS to 700CFS and the gage went up ~3', although at our crossing the vertical rise is more like 5' and the county road is impassible. The stream is not fishable at over ~250CFS and has been over 25K CFS (I think, without looking it up) many times. At minimum flow of ~20CFS it's ~15' wide, not very deep, and at (usual) maximum flow it's ~110 yards wide and at a guess ~20+' deep at our "low water bridge". I'm not sure at which point between 250 CFS and 25,000 CFS that it becomes "blown out". At 700 CFS it's quite high but still within the banks right here.
With all these streams being spring fed and mostly gravel or bed rock bottoms, they are very clear normally and if discolored/muddy you can pretty much bet they are overflowing and sucking the mud from the over flowed areas.

When I was growing up in Idaho the "River" was nearly all snow melt, glacier visible from our house 11 months a year, in 5 years of living beside that river I never saw it blown out, although farther from the mountains it would flash flood as tributaries added volume.

So when we talk about stage on our stream or advise others about streams we aren't intimate with, it's one is often not relevant to the other.

I used to fly fish in RI and would stubbornly go in winter when ice formed on the guides and during high water, those high water adventures cost me two fly rods and got me "wet all over" a half dozen times. Yes you can swim with canvas waders full of water, it's the getting out at the bank that's hard. I slipped the galluses off and crawled out of the waders, which is why I'll only wear bootfoot waders. Water weighs nothing in water but gets kinda heavy in air.


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Post 29 Oct 2021, 15:38 • #21 
Guide
Joined: 02/06/16
Posts: 202
Location: US-ME
Only if the pool isn't that deep. Depth and gradient are important variables. Your might be thinking blown out as flooding, which wouldn't be a factor on these rivers, unless the dam gave way. I'm thinking blown out as going from the normal flow to rafting flows or something like that.


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Post 29 Oct 2021, 18:24 • #22 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 11/06/17
Posts: 2030
Location: South of Joplin
I've only seen the term "blown out" used in reference to high water; as used on another forum- "Blown out = Really high and muddy.. not fishable." or "blown out to me means the water rose rapidly making it really murky, fast, and debris in the water."
It's been my thought that it related to "out of it's banks" as we'd say.

I have not encountered the term "rafting flow" and have no idea what that means?


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Post 29 Oct 2021, 20:40 • #23 
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Joined: 04/20/07
Posts: 8281
Location: US-ME
Typically these are scheduled releases for commercial rafting, anywhere from double to triple the mean low flow allowed below the controlling dam. Power demands influence the amount, but it will usually be high enough to give a good ride, and "low enough" to stay within the natural banks, and never so high as to produce extremely dangerous conditions. There is, of course, some danger, but the preferred flows give a perceived-risk thrill to tourists but comfort to the rafting guide. Such high flows aren't maintained for long unless there is an excess of water that has to be dumped anyway, let's say to maintain or establish a lake level above. That would often be during spring runoff or exceptionally heavy rainfall, when neither the fishing or rafting (if running trips at all) would be much good. I don't care for fishing rafting flows unless they are prolonged over several days at a moderate level. Since their schedule is known, it is easier and more productive to fish on the drop after the day's release, or in the morning before the rise.


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Post 30 Oct 2021, 14:52 • #24 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 11/06/17
Posts: 2030
Location: South of Joplin
Thanks Steve. Sounds similar to generation flows, except they can be daily for months. I never would have thought they would manage discharge flows just for floaters.


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Post 03 Nov 2021, 12:33 • #25 
New Member
Joined: 03/13/18
Posts: 20
Location: boston
I'm personally not too keen on fishing chocolate milk, but it can produce for sure. I do prefer using the conventional tackle over fly in these instances as I like to have some sort of vibration to make up for the lack of visibility.

For blown out streams, I find that there's a lot more traveling involved in order to find the smaller pockets of slackwater. The spots that I do find tend to have a higher likely hood of holding fish though.


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