Fly fishing is different everywhere you decide to drop a line — not only from stream to stream, but also from month to month. New York regulations, for much of the State, only allow folks to target streams between April 1st through the middle of October with some special fishing exceptions across the state. This year, I spent most of my time targeting rainbow trout and steelhead from opening day on through May.
I have found late spring to be one of the more difficult transitions for a few reasons.
- Reason 1:
Fish generally get smaller and smaller as the water warms up, mainly due to rainbows dropping back to the lakes post spawn.
- Reason 2:
The feeding habits change fast. It can be difficult to match the hatch when water is still hovering around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Reason 3:
The target area changes. Inland spring fed streams remain cool and stable throughout the transition from spring to summer.
Regardless of difficulties and frustrations in transitioning, early season (before water reaches 45 degrees) is some of my favorite fishing. I have found eggs, caddis, and mayfly imitations in natural colors work for me in almost any water I fish during this time. I try not to get too crazy with experimenting unless fish are biting profusely, but the first thing I change if there is a tough bite is the color; tried and true patterns like pheasant tail nymphs (my personal favorite) are always a good option. If that doesn’t work, then I usually go bigger or smaller depending on the conditions.
Ain’t no Cure (For the Summertime Browns)
Getting into the early summer, starting in June and early July, the water levels begin to stabilize at summer levels and waters warm up from high 40s, reaching 60 quickly. All the lake run fish are gone and the inland fishing becomes the main target. Around this time, fish start looking into terrestrial food and spring fed water sources while continuing to pick and choose on aquatic larvae and nymphs.
Slower water is good to fish flies that imitate leeches, crane fly larvae and things like dragonfly or damselfly nymphs. Faster water yields more may, caddis, and stone flies. I try imitations of these that time of year, specifically, how they might be travelling under water depending on my fishing style [gear] and location.
Fish with Confidence!
I used to be shy about targeting fish that were feeding underwater because it is not only challenging but often not as fun as targeting fish feeding just under or on the surface. Let’s face it, fish spend most of their effort on subsurface feeding opportunities and they are not always showing themselves over a rising caddis or mayfly. With challenge comes opportunity. I eventually got over not catching fish when they were eating deep.
About 5 years ago, I started to practice drifting nymphs and egg patterns depending on the season and species of interest. When I figured out how to make the perfect drift, the fish started biting. Sometimes so successfully it wouldn’t matter what flies were thrown, they see it and hammer it. Whatever you decide to throw on, fish it with confidence.
To Fish, or not to Fish? What a Silly Question
The mid-summer [loll] is productive, but success is very dependent on angling pressure, water conditions (color, flow rate, temp, etc…), and the time of day. Some anglers will wait until right after dark and skitter mouse patterns across stream for smallmouth and big browns. Others will fish the morning bite with terrestrials on the surface, drifted really slow at the heads and tails of deep pools. It is all good when you have clear water, but as soon as you get a heavy rain, trying to find the fish can be tough.
With water temps reaching over 60 degrees, the fish have also been struggling with heat stress this year, so targeting them in the streams can stress them to death. It is best to not target trout in high temps, or if you do, handle fish as little as possible to ensure a successful release. This summer has been my first season guiding on the fly and I have had to cancel more trips than have been a go. Cancelling a trip is a tough decision to make; having clients catch fish and safety of streams are tough to ensure when you are looking at blown out conditions.
It is coming into the fall season here in NY and many people flock to Lake Ontario streams for the king salmon run. I am not as excited about it as most; this fishing anomaly [to me] means crowded streams and combat (sometimes literally) fishing. I usually hang up the fly rods and break out the bow for white tails, but this year I have been looking forward to fall fishing more than usual.
I have been spending more time looking at the transitioning inverts, seeing mostly small flies hanging to rocks. There are still lots of terrestrials, one of the most prominent this year have been black crickets. My time will be spent focusing efforts with these types of flies until the cycle runs back to egg patterns. Browns and Atlantics will be running from late October all the way through to early December, flow and temperature depending. For me, much of the good water is within a half hour from either work or home, so it will be easier to focus efforts after work, also when the rain and wind is not right for bow hunting.
With any luck the fishing and hunting will be spectacular this fall. We’ll see you out on the water!