Return to the Tioughnioga
The Tioughnioga River (Iroquoian – pronouced “tee-uhf-nee-O-guh”) is approximately 70 miles long and is a major tributary to the Chenango River. I have fished the lower section, just upstream from where it enters the Chenango, and have found it to be a good smallmouth bass fishery. It also holds some nice walleye and the NY state record for Tiger Musky – a 35 lb 8 oz fish taken in 1990.
The Tioughnioga is my go-to smallmouth river in the Spring and a great back-up choice whenever water levels are elevated on the larger rivers of the Southern Tier. Such was the case on Saturday. The Susquehanna was (and still is!) relatively high and murky, and I figured the Chenango wouldn’t be much better. So I headed to a favorite stretch…
I entered the river at the top of a long deep pool, one I refer to in my fishing log as “the Schoolhouse Pool”. Here the river runs quietly over grapefruit to basketball size boulders, deepening along the far bank. This pool is loaded with crayfish; wading along the shallow end can send dozens scurrying from rock to rock. Usually where there are crayfish, there are bass and I’ve caught some very nice bass here in the 15″ – 17″ range.
If the hydrology gods are in a good mood and the Spring has a spate of dry weather, I have done very well swinging a Murray’s Madtom streamer with a sink tip line at the head of the pool. For the last 2 years this has given me my biggest Tioughnioga bass – I’m guessing females by their girth – and I’m also guessing that they hold here before moving up into a side stream to spawn.
I usually start at the Schoolhouse Pool whenever I fish the Tioughnioga and my Saturday trip was no different. The water had a slight stain to it, but the level was good and the river temp was a relatively cool 68 degrees F. I worked the pool top to bottom with a popper and had three missed takes. Since the sun was coming up and lighting the pool thoroughly, I figured the bass would be moving back to shaded areas or heading deep in the cover of riffles, so I decided to head upstream to a favorite nymphing run.
I call this run the Lone House pool because, well, there’s one older home nestled up to the steep hillside just at the head of the pool. Here the river runs strong through a deep cut, then broadens out and slows. Like much of the lower Tioughnioga, there are lots of rocks, and some very big ones. Although the far rocky shore is exposed to sun in the morning, working the slicks and eddies with a popper or streamer later in the day can be very effective as I believe the bass move out of the deep water and hold along the bank in the shade. When the sun is out in full, however, its mainly a nymphing game.
Harry Murray of Murray’s Fly Shop in Edinburg Virginia is one of the greatest smallmouth bass fly fishermen I’ve read and studied. He writes about a dead drift nymphing technique that I have been using with good success. In heavier water, as was the case this day, I use a sink tip line and one of his weighted nymphs. The technique calls for an upstream approach, casting directly ahead or slightly off to one side and then keeping a tight line to the nymph as it tumbles and bumps the river bottom on its way back. Although I have not perfected feeling subtle strikes, there’s no way to miss the good takes as the lines instantly tightens and a lift of the rod sets the hook.
Nymphing dead drift as I waded up the pool got me into fish. All total, I landed 5 solid bass and lost another 3. One fish had a large crayfish hanging out of his mouth, yet still took a nymph, but all of these fish had obviously been feeding based on their extended waistlines.
I fished the run and basked in the warm sun. Around noon I decided to call it quits and waded downstream back towards Schoolhouse Pool. Life is good – tight lines…