Memorial Day Weekend Report

The holiday weekend provided ample time for two major outdoor activities; landscaping, which consisted of laying down 2 big truckloads of mulch, planting numerous shrubs, trees, and flowers, and, fly fishing. I’ll skip the report on shoveling the equivalent of 2 truckloads of mulch and get to the good stuff, for the local fishing scene is really coming into its own…

Depending first on snowpack and then rain levels, fishing the bigger warmwater rivers can be an iffy thing this part of the year if you wade and fly fish. Last year, for example, I did not get out onto the Susquehanna until September. The bigger the river, the greater the watershed, and the big rivers just take time to settle down when the weather is persistently wet. This year is quite different so far, with “the big 4”, the Tioughnioga, the Chenango, the Chemung, and the Susquehanna, all flowing at wade-able levels (the Susky is a little full yet, but fishable). I fished the Tioughnioga, the lower Susquehanna (Vestal), and the West Branch of the Delaware and found all to be in good to great shape.

Looking upstream on the Tioughnioga...

The Tioughnioga had nice flows and water temps in the low-to-mid 70’s. Clarity was excellent and I was just amazed, while wading, at the sheer number of crayfish the scooted from rock to rock. Some of these crustaceans were small, but there was a good mix of 3″ to 4″ crayfish that were present as well. I fished the Schoolhouse Pool first, swinging a Murray’s #6 Half-breed Marauder down the pool. I worked the far shore down into the deep water and while casting, saw what looked like a plume of mud directly downstream of me. I cast that way, and while stripping my fly back, had a solid thump and raised the rod on a throbbing mass of power that soon took off downstream. This was no bass, though I sensed some head shakes, but there was no jump in this fish’s fight. I tightened my drag down and the fish then ran across the pool and up the other side. Close to the backing, I started regaining line, but then the hook pulled. This was no doubt a big hungry carp. I’ve had a number of hookups with these big brawlers, but have only actually ever landed one, a 15 lber, upstream on this very same river.

I then worked upstream and picked up a small bass, returned back to the schoolhouse pool as the sun set and switched flies to a #6 Murray’s Brown Marauder. I worked downstream swinging my fly on a sink-tip line and soon picked up 2 more small but chunky bass. Then further down the pool I finally hit pay dirt as I swam my fly around a large (pool table-sized) boulder. I picked up 2 very nice bass around the rock and both fought with typical smallmouth bravado.

On Sunday afternoon, I decided to give the lower Susquehanna a try. The river was flowing just slightly on the high side, but clarity was good. Wading downstream, I saw evidence of many bass beds as well as quite a few fallfish nests.

A fallfish spawning bed...

Fallfish scoop out the bottom much like most fish do to make their spawning bed, but after spawning, cover and protect the eggs with a large pile of stones. Their unique spawning beds can be extreme in size – as wide as 3 – 4 feet, and as in the case of the one in the pic above, a foot or more in height above the river bottom.

I worked a #6 Brown Murray’s Marauder once again as my fly of choice on a sink tip line and picked up a fallfish and then a walleye.

Walleyes will eat a fly fished deep...

As I left that evening I did notice smallmouth bass chasing bait in the very shallow area of pool I was fishing and I also kicked a few up from the shallow edges of the river on the trek back to the access.

On Monday, Memorial Day, I visited the West Branch of the Delaware, for a change of venue. The West was flowing on the low side at roughly 300 cfs and had a water temp of 59 degrees. There was some algae in the water which made cleaning flies essential on every other cast.

Balls Eddy

I nymphed the run below the pool and had my best success with a #18 beadhead sulphur nymph and a #16 sulphur emerger as the trailing fly. Hatch activity was as sporadic as the fishing but I did manage to first lose a very nice rainbow, catch two small rainbows, roll a nice brown, and finally land a rainbow towards the early afternoon.

West Branch Rainbow

To summarize the weekend’s fishing, I’d have to say the smallmouth bass post-spawn funk is over and fishing should be good from here on as long as the rivers behave themselves. Crayfish and minnow imitations always work well in the early in the morning or late in the evening. Nymphing with large dark nymphs such as a Murray’s #6 Hellgrammite is also a good way to go once the sun is up and full.

If trout fishing the bigger Catskill waters is your thing, sulphurs are in full swing but do not forget the large slate drake, also known as Isonychia. BWO’s (Blue Wing Olives) are another good choice, particularly if it is overcast or rainy. Last but not least, the ubiquitous caddis is always a good choice. These guys haunt the local streams all year long.

Tight lines…

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