Ah, prime tourist season in the West. The raft hatch is in full swing; the guides are churnin’ and burnin’ those low (mostly) clear waters in the dwindling days of summer with flocks of ride-along anglers, en masse. If you’re keen on tailwater fishing … especially if you row your own … or just want to get away from the armada mayhem, I have two words of advice: Fish downstream.
Personally, I’m high on the solitude factor, so I’ll always trade hookup volume for some river space. And, by fishing downstream of the “prime” water, you often get shots at bigger fish (especially browns) though, admittedly, they’re fewer and farther between.
Yesterday, for example, I fished the Byington-Lorenzo section of the South Fork in Idaho with Charlie Meyers and Matt Woodard. The wind was hoofin’ but we coaxed some classic eats by using Rainey’s Grand Hopper patterns, and landed a good number of fat cuts and browns.
My favorite “downstream” options: Putting in at the 13-mile access on the Bighorn in Montana, and chasing the alligator browns, especially in the fall; The Gunnison in Colorado, from Pleasure Park down to Austin, during hopper season (right now); The Yellowstone below/downstream from Livingston in spring; the Missouri River, around Cascade, Montana, where you can drift hoppers right in the middle of the current; The Colorado, from Glenwood down to Silt (throw streamers against the banks to turn big fish in the morning); and, of course, the “C” section of the Green in Utah. Sure, the shuttle logistics are a drag when you fish the C, but this is where guide Terry Collier caught “Old Moe,” his 17-pound brown.
Anyone can play bobber games in the aquarium. But if you’re serious about your fishing and your sanity, you’ll go with the flow … down low.