Throughout a calendar year we spend a lot of time guiding on many different rivers with wildly opposite characteristics. The micro runs of Haida Gwaii to the marathon runs of the Skeena all make for new and interesting challenges. It is easy to fish a river once and point out the “A” water where you can watch your undulating fly walk through at a perfect speed. However life just isn’t always so simple.
Rivers are always rising or dropping, and this can really change the features of a run no matter how big or small the river is. Another monkey wrench thrown in is that the currents underneath the surface can be very different from what you see or feel on the surface.
After you guide on a stretch of water for years you inedvidibly end up watching people fish runs at all water levels. You may think you have it down to a science, however watching someone can be misleading. For a guide to really know what is going on, he or she needs to actually swing a fly through themselves. Like a blind man feeling brail, this is a very important aspect to reading a river.
Runs can be very deceiving. I have passed over runs on Haida Gwaii at high water levels many times because they looked to fast. Than when I finally stepped in myself at the exact level I had been ignoring my steelhead senses spiked and shortly after hooked a fish. I realized I had been scared off a run for no reason and it probably cost me some fish.
To become intimate with a stretch of water you really need to step in and fish all the water at all the levels and examine the swings. The water can be extremely deceiving to the eye. We all know steelhead hold in water we may not consider ideal, and there are plenty of sucker runs that look uber productive but never kick.
On the Skeena river you have a very massive current system. Jet boating by runs gives you little understanding of what the water is actually doing. Even stopping and looking at the current doesn’t give you the proper perspective. You need to feel the fly swing. This is very important on large rivers as most of the fish tend to be in close in shallow water. The swing over the right depth and speed is of the utmost important. Too slow and froggy or too fast and you are wasting valuable time.
Although you may want to stick with what you know to save time, if you really want to get to be productive on a stretch of water, fish runs even when you think they look a bit too fast, or a bit too slow. It only takes a few minutes to step in and feel the swing of your fly. It will pay off big time down the road.