Last week I took a trip up to Summit County for a family gathering along the Blue River. We spread some ashes of my dear mother in law at the family cabin next to the river. It was ceremoniously nice and simple. Once all reverence was made we were on our own.
I always look at how high "the Blue" is flowing using some references to unscientifically estimate the flows. It was certainly higher, faster and wider than it was the last time I was up. Not what I would quite call “blown out” but, getting there? I have waded this river in this condition in the past and it's not my cup of tea when it gets like this. Something about slipping and being carried downstream for yards at a time doesn’t sound like fun. To each his own. I leave those waters to the western fly fishermen and the guide rafters.
Instead, I took a ride up the road (actually, the interstate) and dropped into a favorite exit. The stream there was what I would define as “SERIOUSLY BLOWN OUT!” (photo above for reference) I know many anglers who would not even consider stopping here "until things calmed the hell down." But I knew something they didn’t or hadn’t considered.
ATTENTION EXPERIENCED RUNOFF ANGLERS:
Please note that you probably already know some of these options already. I write for the novice and beginner as well so please be patient. I do not wish to belabor information you already know. So.. Skim ahead if you need to or refresh your memory as needed. I promise there are some potential insights you may not have considered near the end of this post.
Here are the most common places suggested for fishing during runoff season.
Fishing the banks
Everyone will tell you to fish the banks. This may or may not be possible or easy to do for some. To fish the banks well enough I feel you need to shift your mind to thinking about the river as turning into three channels. One big fast raging channel in the middle and two smaller streams running on either side. Fish those imaginary side streams. When you see the banks as being the skinny streams next to the raging water, you will quickly see the spots and pockets along the banks where fish will settle in and wait out the surge.
Of course, tail-waters are always recommended for fishing during the dark days of blow-out season. Tail-waters do not follow the rules of run off even though they are affected by them. I reference again the Blue River. This photo is what it looks like normally when I go up and wade out to fish.
As we look at this second picture for comparison we see that the river is slightly higher than before. Notice the concrete block, mid-river in the first photo is all but covered in the second photo. The water is quite deep and deceptively fast in the foreground. I have fallen several times in this area. Quite fish-able, but deep and swift through there.
With tail-waters we have to see the bigger picture of the river. The reality is that the dam was letting out a lot of water even though the reservoir was actually very low. The authorities that handle water management were emptying out the reservoir to prepare for and make room for the coming runoff that hadn’t hit yet. So, in the process of flood prevention also created a man-made blow out. This is good sometimes and bad others. You have to know and watch your tail-water locations to know what is up and if they are really the best bet.
The small lake outlets
A small lake will usually have a small stream that pours from it. I have several of these places in my mind map of places to go and fish. These streams very often if not most often have fish in them who enjoy the aeration of the water. The same is true of the other end of a lake where the water is flowing into it.
EXPERIENCED RUN-OFF ANGLERS YOU CAN PICK UP FROM HERE.
Now I will disclose some of the places I have not seen written about in the subject in my own limited reading on the topic. I present to you my own observations from that single stop along a very raging and blown out stream.
The "REST AREA" for Fish
On this stream there were a few very large areas where the water came to a rest just at a bend. Out of a combination of geologic and hydraulic design, a pooled area was formed and became what I imagine fish to see as a welcomed "rest stop". These spots also create places that food will accumulate and fish will thrive. fish the seam here and any foam that might have formed.
The overflow stream that creates an Island
I could not find a decent photo in my collection to use as an example here but I think you know the situation. You will see several places along a stream that have a “overflow” route they take once it rises. These stream overflow channels often create islands in the river and a slower stream will flow on one side. Fish will stop and live in these areas. Every river has them and you pay attention, you will know where they are going to be when the big waters come. (When I find a good photo I will update this.)
These alternatives are viable places to fish. They are there if you look for them This one highway exit that most people leave alone this time of year had more than a dozen places I could get a line wet and get enjoyable results.
It only takes a little forethought and noticing of features during the best of fishing to speculate where some good places will potentially be during run off. I really recommend you keep a notebook. I have a pretty good memory for some places like this one, but for sure my memory will change just as the waters do.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a cuddly dog, and a very lucky cat. Dennis is an avid minimalist, wood craftsman, curious tinkerer and learner and most notably a deeply focused tenkara angler.