I have been hearing from lots of people out there that they really don’t understand how to use the USGS tool, so I wanted to write a quick piece with some tips on using all that data that USGS compiles and how it can give you, the fisherman a definite advantage. The USGS site is a scientific site so we need to remember this is raw data, so it really doesn’t tell us if the fish are biting or not. Take one look at the website and I admit it can be a bit intimidating. It is mighty helpful however in determining optimum flows especially when you spread that data out and look at it from a 30, 60,or 90 day spread. If you watch this spread you can make a better determination of the water conditions. For example if the USGS data tells me that the water is running a little high I would assume it may be cloudy as well, maybe I want to plan to fish nymphs or dry flys along the edges. This tool has now allowed me to arrange any gear needed to do that. Maybe you notice low water trends then you may want to plan on taking your tippet size down as to not spook fish.
Fish are definitely influenced by the water flows and hold in completely different places during water fluctuations. One good example of this that comes to mind is a day in late Mar. 2010 during the high water episode we had on the Farmington River. We had flows on the river of 2000cfs and I spooked a big trout on my walk in, that was 15ft up in the woods in a shallow pool, at the sight of my he immediately exploded through the brush and back into the main river channel. Any information beforehand is information worth having.
When you use these USGS water trends in conjunction with a weather report, now you have even more information and you haven’t even got your feet wet yet. I always like using these tools and knowing what I am getting before I arrive, especially when you may have to travel long distances before fishing. Learn to use this tool and you too will be able to better select your tactics and be PREPARED for the water conditions. Above is a small tutorial I created with a couple of tips on how to better utilize the USGS water flow site. For those of you asking I hope this helps and will hopefully help you to catch more fish. Take care and hope to see you on the water soon!