The week ahead in fly fishing: August 22nd

As I walked my dog this morning I was reminded of the coming of fall. The morning air was much cooler but it was the darkness at 6 am that really did it. Daylight is getting shorter as we move through late summer and towards the autumnal equinox – the time of the year when day and night square up even-steven. After that, we make the slow slide into more dark than day…

Fly shop talk: The latest copy of Fly Fisherman magazine is focused on “fly fishing made easy”. I found it a pretty good read with a lot of articles on fundamentals, although I was not sure what to think of the “fly fishing made easy” theme. The main barrier to getting more blood into the sport is the intimidation many might feel as they try to tackle (no pun intended) the various aspects of fishing with the long rod. I applaud efforts to promote the sport by breaking it down to fundamentals, but it is still not easy.

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.

Thomas Paine

One of the most difficult aspects of fly fishing is, of course, casting. And the magazine covered casting with a very good article, including some terrific pictures of Lefty Kreh demonstrating the art. Perhaps the most important part of the article was left to the last 4 paragraphs on practice: “if you want to become proficient at golf, you go to a driving range. You also practice your putting aside from the regular time you spend golfing. If you bow hunt, you cannot be proficient unless you spend adequate time hitting a target. Fly fishing is no different. To improve, you must practice outside of a real fishing situation.” The article goes on recommending 15 minutes of practice every day over the course of a summer or fall. Practice on the lawn is free of the distractions one faces on the water, like seeing rising fish, or watching fish chase bait. So take 15 minutes on a nice summer evening and practice casting. As the guide’s lament goes, “if only they could cast.”


The absent-minded maestro was racing up New York’s Seventh Avenue to a rehearsal, when a stranger stopped him. “Pardon me,” he said, “can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Yes,” answered the maestro breathlessly. “Practice!”

Here’s the fly fishing report for the week ahead:

Catskill Rivers: Most of the Catskill Rivers got at least a bit of a bump in flows, thanks to the weekend rains. The West Branch of the Delaware spiked the most with flows clearing the 900 CFS mark by Sunday night. All the rivers are dropping and clearing now, and quite quickly at that. The West Branch Angler reports that they are still seeing decent flurries of Sulphurs in the upper West, around Deposit.  The Olives are also pretty solid bugs to have and even on the sunny days you’ll see them mixed in with the Sulphurs.  Isos are also good bugs to have, even if you aren’t seeing any on the water.  A few summer Cahills are also around on most of the river.  It’s trico time on the lower West, upper East and the upper Main if temps are ok, should be a good week for them as the daytime and night temps are going to cool a bit.  Don’t forget a few terrestrials for the picky fish that just won’t take your Sulphur. The Delaware River Club reports that the clarity is good on the West Branch as of today.  The flows are already dropping back to normal and the upper West Branch is in decent wading shape. The lower West is 834 cfs this morning so it is definitely wadeable too and is dropping quickly. There are a lot of tricos in the air this morning but we haven’t seen any on the water yet. The upper West is still seeing a good mix of sulphurs, olives, and golden drakes. Throw in a few isonychias and that should cover the hatches. The rain and cool night have dropped the water temperature a couple of degrees. The lower East Branch and Mainstem will still be too warm to fish but it’s nice to see the temp drop. We will see cooler air temperatures and sunshine over the next few days. Here’s what’s hatching:

  • 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: Most local creeks got another much needed shot of water from Sunday’s rains. They are still very skinny, though. Leave these waters alone as long as dry conditions prevail.

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone reports that Laker action continues to be top-notch on Cayuga Lake. Owasco Lake should be offering some very good fishing now as well.  Here’s 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.
  • 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 was slow the last time I was there. Browns, rainbow and salmon action has been fair to good. Weeds and waterfleas are a nuisance, moreso for trollers.  I will be back out here for more torture soon 😉
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Smallmouth bass fishing should be good to excellent.  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: Ponds got another recharge from the weekend rains. Bass and sunfish remain active and willing partners to fly fishermen under these conditions, and low light early or late is 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 weedlines and lilly pads.

Warmwater rivers: All of the warmwater rivers were at great levels with cooler water and it looks like Sunday’s rains gave them another boost. Look for the lower Susquehanna to rise a decent amount and color up a bit early this week. Direct fishing time on the Tioughnioga and Chenango later in the week. Currently even these smaller rivers are on the rise but will crest first and drop long before the Susquehanna. Another option is the Chemung River which remains on the low side.


The Susquehanna River is on the rise due to Sunday’s rain. Above 3,000 CFS wading can get iffy, so fish other waters unless you have access to a boat.

I was out on the Susquehanna on Saturday evening and was impressed with some pretty decent bait busting action at one pool tailout. I cast a popper above the tailout, worked it across with a few pops, and had a very large bass come completely out of the water for my offering. The bass missed my fly but I immediately threw back to where it had risen and was rewarded with another take. I had the fish on a mere 10 seconds before it pulled free but my experience should be a reminder that: 1) it’s a good time to fish surface or near surface during low light conditions, and 2) if a fish boils your popper and misses, throw it back as quickly as you can as “hot” fish will often give you a second chance. With some exceptions, most fish that feel the hook will not take again, however.

Fly fishing events: Area fly fishing clubs and chapters take the months of July and August off so there is nothing to report here at the moment.

The week ahead weather: A cold front passed through the Southern Tier over the weekend bringing with it much needed precipitation. In fact Binghamton received a record-setting 1.20″ of rainfall. Behind that front has come higher pressure, cooler temps, wind, and lower humidity. This front will bless our area with sunny skies and milder temps for Tuesday and Wednesday. Highs will reach the low 80’s with lows in the lower 60’s. Another cold front will approach late Thursday and into Friday. Expect cloudy conditions for Thursday with a slight chance of some afternoon showers and thunderstorms. There will be a better chance of showers and thunderstorms on Friday. Quiet weather will return this weekend with partly cloudy skies on Saturday and Sunday.

The shortening days and cooler temps should remind all anglers to start prepping for fall / winter fly fishing. It’s a good time to check / repair waders and boots. If you use studded boots, don’t forget to check for missing studs and replace them as necessary. Don’t overlook the laces as well. If not already in use, check your wading staff and do an inventory of fall and winter clothing.


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