Highwater Fishing

Sean Visintainer - 06/16/22

Fly fishing North Idaho.

No boat, no problem

Flows have been bank-to-bank on the Spokane River this spring. I went and checked things out last Friday and despite the river being very high, it was looking pretty good.

There are some big misconceptions I feel about high water fishing. We consistently hear that when the rivers are high they are unfishable, or only fishable with a boat. Sure there is a point when the rivers are unfishable due to extreme flows/flooding, or levels spiked very quickly and rivers are unsafe. But realistically our rivers (Spokane, NF Coeur d'Alene, and St. Joe Rivers) are often more fishable than not during highwater. "High, but fishable" is the term I often use when writing reports.

So let's clear the air a bit about comments we hear at the shop...

"You guys only fish with rafts/boats so you can fish high water easier."
Absolutely not true. I know myself personally, I probably only floated a total of 10-12 days in the past 2.5 years. Shocking right?! I enjoy boat fishing, done it a thousand times, but I also think wade fishing is great and has a different pace to it. Kenyon, Jesse, and Mike also wade fish 90% of the time on their days off. Boats can make covering water easier and we of course endorse owning a boat because it does open up more, but it's not the end-all-be-all. If a boat isn't in the budget, no problem, lots of foot fishing opportunities are there for those that look.

"The water is high and not wadeable"
Why in the hell do you want to get in the river when it's high is my question?! The fish are near the BANKS! FISH THE BANKS!! LITERALLY STAND ON THE BANK AND FISH THE BANK IN FRONT OF YOU. Stand on dry land where it's safe and make a short cast. It's a great way to become a better caster, practicing accurate casts hitting small targets along the shoreline.

"My favorite water isn't fishable"
Well... time to find some new high-water favorite water! Use the opportunity to discover new water or locations. At least for me, part of the allure to fly fishing is exploration and the adventure of checking out new water.

"The rivers are blown out, or have been blown out"
Yes, that could be true for the current time. However, flows can change quickly. In our area the flows can drop and become fishable sooner rather than later. One week might be outta shape and the next there is a window of opportunity.

By all means though, be smart and cautious about high water fishing. Stay safe and stay informed on our Fishing Reports Page.

Highwater fishing will challenge you, but will also help you become a more well rounded angler.

Check out this past blog about Fishing the Margins that contains valuable information on what to look for during highwater.

Fly fishing the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho