Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Tiny nymphs in high water?

The Breeches over it's banks and
running over an island
Central PA has been getting an awful lot of rain this summer.  My daughter’s college, on the banks of the Yellow Breeches, has been warning students to stay away from the river, and this weekend I saw why!  While there was no foaming white water like you see in the spring in the mountains, one can’t help but feel small at the site of a heavy mass of water moving along in such a way as to overrun anything in its path. Not a place to wade into if you had any sense about you.  About the only option to do a little fishing after a quick visit was to try "The run" over in Boiling Springs.

The run is typically an intimate tributary of the Yellow Breeches where water from a spring feed pond flows down a short run to join the main stem of the river.  The Cumberland Country Trout Unlimited chapter has been doing habitat improvement work there and their efforts have created a lovely stretch of water.   I had hoped that the protected nature of the run would render it more fish-able under the conditions but even here there was more water moving through than I’ve seen since I started visiting after my daughter first started college.  I had the place entirely to myself which probably tells you more about the conditions that anything else since this is a heavily fished area.  The water was as crystal clear as it typically is so I thought it was worth fishing for the couple hours before heading home.

Small victories
On spot that I typically find a good number of fish had too much water moving through for the fish to find any refuge.  I tried a couple tiny nymphs and added plenty of shot to slow things down.  I had one brief hookup before moving on to find someplace where the current was more moderate.

Most of the fish I’ve caught in the run have taken a #20 nymph or midge so it was a little odd fishing such small flies with enough small shot to keep them where they needed to be but I did manage to hook a rainbow and a feisty brown that popped off at the net.   I’ve certainly had better mornings in the run, but I was still pleased to have hooked a few fish under the circumstances.  I guess you can fish tiny nymphs in high water!


  1. Well done, Mark, connecting with fish in that strong flow. Pennsylvania has been getting pounded with rain lately, including tornadoes last night. Sounds like even the spring creeks are running high. Amazing the trout can see those tiny nymphs in high flow.

    Locally, I took a vacation day to fish the Farmington with my brother tomorrow, but the river is tough for me to wade in normal flows, let alone after a lot of rain here as well. Aggressive wader and fisherman that he is, my brother is still going. As for me, my vacation day will be on the Swift River. I seek fly fishing to relax, not fight hard flows trying to stay top side.

    Best, Sam

    1. Sam - When fishing in high water you need to be careful. Its best to fish in places you know well. There are places on the Farmington that are fishable when the flows are up. However, I do remember trying to fish an area unfamiliar to me in flows over 1000 cfs. It was very unsettling as I was getting pushed downstream and I could not get my feet planted well enough to stop. I won't be doing that again!