Fly Fishing Tailwaters - Part 1 - Technique

The best technique for successful nymphing in any tailwater, but the Missouri in particular, is to first understand the habitat. Water velocity below dams is slowed. Runoff will only shut down the fishery in those extreme years where the dams are full and water flows heavily over the spillways and through the waste gates. It's then that extreme high water is seen, and even that doesn't have the scouring effect that occurs each spring on freestone rivers.

Tailwaters often have pampered substrates where aquatic grasses and weeds are free to grow unhindered by fierce spring runoffs that tend to purge vegetation once a year. The Missouri is such a tailwater, and that's why many see it as a spring creek on steroids. These grasses further moderate the water's velocity. This Blue Ribbon section of the Missouri has very little visible, above the surface, structure and so the normal runs and pools are harder to detect. If what you mostly fish are freestone rivers with lots of rocks and logs, it makes reading this river look like cracking computer program code. Fortunately, with a little information and some practice, this code is easier to understand. The structure is there, it just looks different-it looks like aquatic grasses. These grasses break the speed of the current, provide protection from predators, and are casino buffets of trout food. For the most part, in this section of the river, when you get away from the weed beds, you get away from the trout and into the whitefish.

All photos and text Trapper Badovinac. Any use without written permission from the author is illegal.
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