Written by: brian mcgeehan, Montana Angler

An angler lands a nice trout while surrounded by high, muddy water.
All photos by Montana Angler

Montana River runoff is highest in late May and early June, when runoff from the overlying fast-melting snow is greatest. While many fly anglers flock to headstreams and underwater waters this time of year, Montana’s great freestone rivers still have some truly exceptional fishing opportunities in the runoff season. The high, brown water not only deters the faint-hearted and reduces fishing pressure to a minimum, but it also concentrates the trout, forcing them to concentrate in areas of slower currents to conserve energy. In these conditions, nymph fishing can be exceptionally productive, especially as the higher water drives away flocks of aquatic insects – including large stoneflies – which fuels the trout’s appetite. Here are three tips for nymph fishing during the drain.

1686585435 901 3 tips for nymphing during the drain | AdayAwayFishingAdventures.com
Get more fish in the net during the drain with the tips below.

1. Fish flat

Most trout will take refuge on the banks as the river rushes by, not only to take a break from the current but also because the blotchy water gives a sense of security and allows them to sit shallower and closer to shore as usual. The main sites will therefore all be within a foot or two of shore during the runoff. On the inside edge of large bends in the river, fish can also crowd together as the current tends to be pushed toward the outside edge.

2. Use big flies

Because small nymphs are harder to spot in the fast, discolored currents, trout resort to larger food sources. You can increase your catch rates by oversizing your fly selection and using large, attention-grabbing patterns such as B. use Rubber-legged stonefly nymph. Another effective nymphing strategy is to dead-drift streamer patterns—such as zonker–as a point fly in a tandem rig with a worm pattern lag behind.

1686585435 568 3 tips for nymphing during the drain | AdayAwayFishingAdventures.com
The Smith River often looks muddy in May and June but still has 6 to 24 inches of clarity which is good enough for great fishing.

3. Shorten your leader

When fishing close to the bank, accuracy matters, but traditional pre-cut tapered hooklinks (even the 7.5 foot hooklengths) are simply too long and thin to fish large, heavy nymphs with precision. Instead, our guides prefer using a 4-foot section of the 15-pound Maxima down to a hooklink ring to which they attach a foot of heavier (0x-2x) fluorocarbon hooklink tip, as the higher abrasion resistance is useful when routinely fly-casting along from shores covered with bushes.

Brian McGeehan owns and operates Montana Angler in Bozeman, MT.