There goes August… Fall waits anxiously in the shadow of summer now. The cooler mornings still yield to the heat of the day, but you can feel autumn coming. Grasshoppers, crickets, and flying ants are about, adding another dimension to fly fishing. Salmon are starting to trickle into the Great Lakes tribs, creating the usual stir for anglers who look north. And the warmwaters are jumpy with young-of-the-year bait, fleeing hungry smallmouth. Sweet corn is prime – the cornfields bristling with tassles. Yes, fall waits quietly for its time…
Fly shop talk: Finger Lakes guide John Gaulke’s fishing report is posted here as part of my weekly fishing report (with his permission). I have never met John and plan on booking a trip with him to learn about fly fishing our great Finger Lakes at some point but really enjoy his reports as well as his insight on fishing and the environment. John recently posted two interesting items on his website. One was his wisdom on why he fishes. It echoes mine and that is that fishing is all about figuring things out. John says he does not get any big thrill out of heading to Cayuga Lake and seeing how many Lakers he can catch because it’s something he already does very well. His advice is solid: if you want to become a better fisherman, DON’T PRACTICE WHAT YOU ALREADY KNOW. And I will add to that, spend time on figuring out what you do not do well. Or even try different angles on a species you pursue. Ultimately, that will make you a better fisherman.
The other point Gaulke makes is his prediction on the salmon fishing in Lake Ontario and the tribs. He feels 2016 is shaping up to be a very interesting year on Lake Ontario in terms of the King Salmon fishing. In a nutshell, the June – early August fishing was top-notch west of Rochester out to the Oak and beyond. It was spotty east of Rochester. Earlier than that, it was good from the Niagara Bar east. Over the past week, the salmon action has moved east in a big way and the fishing has been outstanding from Oswego out to Mexico. The fish are staging and a few have already showed up in the Salmon River. Yet the fish out west have more or less disappeared! They haven’t moved “inside” yet. And the guys aren’t catching a lot of giants deep. It may be early, but Gaulke is theorizing that wild fish have a knack for finding the bait. The wild fish get on the bait while stocked fish tend to be more homebodies. Gaulke estimates that the wild fish numbers are up there, possibly 50% or more. Could it be that the Kings that found the best bait, the Chinooks that were chowing all summer west of Rochester were mostly wild Salmon River bred fish? And now they’ve moved east? Will the Oak see poor runs and very few “inside fish” this year? Very interesting…
Here’s the fly fishing report for the week ahead:
Catskill Rivers: The West Branch Angler report that the West Branch has dropped a bit as we haven’t had much rain this week. The upper West at Stilesville is flowing at 478 cfs with a temp of 48 and down at Hale Eddy the flow is 611 cfs and 51 degrees. As usual, with these warm nights, you will need to check the temp when fishing any of the other rivers or branches for high water temps. We are still seeing a few Sulphurs on the upper West as that hatch winds down. The 18-22 Blue Winged Olives have been pretty consistent, especially on the cloudy days. A few summer Cahills in the 14-16 range can be seen on most of the river, same goes for the 12 Isonychia. 18-20 Winged Ants have been a good fly to throw at the picky fish in the river and we should start to see some good numbers of flying ants on the water, especially on the lower half of the West as we get closer to September. We have had some decent streamer activity in the mornings or on days when the water is stained. As we move towards fall the streamer bite is likely to get better as the surface activity slows and the browns are moving up for the fall spawn.
The Delaware River Club reports that the best dry fly action is still on the upper West Branch above Hale Eddy. We are still seeing a mix of olives, sulphurs, golden drakes, cahills, and a few isonychias. The hatches have been a bit sporadic and sometimes later in the day but generally patience has paid off. The lower West Branch has had some activity but mostly when the sun drops in the evening. The lower West is the place to be if you want to nymph due to the green slime in Deposit. Nymphing has been best before the sun hits the water but some people are finding productive riffles during the day. Move around if you’re not getting any action.
Slate Drake – 12-2xl- Isonychia bicolor
Sulphur – #16-20 – E dorothea
Light Cahill – #14 – 16 – S. ithaca & canadense
Golden Drake – #12-2xl – Potomanthus
Trico – 22 – 26 – Tricorythodes sp.
Tiny Blue Winged Olive – #22 – 26 – Psuedocloeon spp.
Blue Winged Olive – #18 – 20 – E. lata
Light Blue Winged Olive – #16 – 20 E. attenuatta
Tan Caddis – #16 – 20 – Hydropsyche spp.
Dark Brachycentrus sp. – #14 – 18 – Dark Grannom
Little Black Caddis #18 – 20 – Chimarra sp.
Blue Winged Olives #16 – 18 – Baetis vagans (updated name: Baetis tricaudatus)
Local streams and creeks: Nothing new here. The low, warm water warns, “stay away.” Give the creek trout a break for now.
Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone reports that Laker action continues to be top-notch this week on Cayuga Lake. Bonus browns, salmon and rainbows are making for good mixed bags. Here’ the lake-by-lake report:.
- Cayuga Lake: Fishing here has been excellent for lake trout. The bite has generally been good throughout the day. Bonus rainbows, browns and salmon are showing up with regularity. Weedmats remain common. Congrats go out to Greg for his massive 30″ 14lb. 14oz brown trout! He earned it!
- Owasco Lake: Lake trout action should be good here with shots at bonus rainbows, browns and smallmouths. Smallmouth bass fishing should be good.
- Seneca Lake: Lake trout fishing remains poor to fair at best – at least in the northern portions of the lake from Sampson to Geneva. Browns, rainbow and salmon action has been fair to good. Weeds and waterfleas are a nuisance, moreso for trollers. Round gobies have shown up around Peach Orchard Point and are likely throughout the lake. This was expected with the link via the canal system to Lake Ontario.
- Skaneateles Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is very good. Bonus perch are around as well as the usual rockbass. Lake trout action should be fair to good.
- Otisco Lake: I will likely be back out here around mid-September. Bass fishing has reportedly been good with some Tiger Muskies in the mix.
Ponds: Bass and sunfish remain active and willing partners to fly fishermen under current conditions, with low light early or late being the best time for fishing. Topwater is a good choice and don’t forget the damselfly, grasshopper, cricket, and beetle patterns. Poppers will work well along weed edges, structure, and lilly pads.
Warmwater rivers: The warmwater rivers continue to behave nicely, flowing at easily wadeable levels with slightly cooler water temps. The smallmouth bite is definitely picking up. I’ve now seen numerous instances where bass are blitzing bait. I think the fish may be sensing the coming fall due to cooler water temps. And there’s a lot of bait for the bass to chase; shiners, small chubs, dace, mad toms, sculpin, and crayfish, as well as juvenile bass and fallfish. Early morning and late afternoon to sun-down are the best times to hit the river. Focus on the pool tailouts where smallmouth often set up to chase bait in the shallower water. Key in on structure and in particular, rocks, downfalls, and weedbeds. Streamers are the best bet, however, poppers can also be good, particularly in pools and slower water. Remember that different types of poppers work with different water. “Loud” poppers – those with concave faces – are best in deeper water, where as sliders are best in shallow water. Even aggressive bass will spook if they feel threatened. And keep in mind, as reported last week, that if a bass misses your fly, throw it back immediately as “hot” fish will often give you a second chance.
Fly fishing events: Area fly fishing clubs and chapters will be getting back to “business” now that September is around the corner. More to report next week on the month’s activities.
The week ahead weather: WBNG Meteorologist Nathan Hopper is forecasting a change in our weekend weather. After some clouds move in late Sunday / early Monday, things will clear up and temperatures will be in the upper-70s, however, the chance for showers stays with us Wednesday and Thursday as we will have a moist weather pattern with enough energy to support some shower activity. After the disturbance moves out of the Southern Tier on Thursday, expect cooler weather to come through, making things feel much more seasonable and somewhat fall-like for the end of the week. Highs will be around 70 degrees Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The Labor Day weekend may be a good one, weather-wise.
Following up on my comments in last week’s report, be sure to inspect all your gear before the fall fly fishing really starts getting good. There’s still plenty of time to order any supplies or replacement items or to even send gear out for repair. I recently re-studded my boots and was amazed with the difference in traction in the river. 3/8″ sheet metal screws do a pretty decent job and are a lot cheaper than the OEM replacements. .