The week ahead in fly fishing: September 19th

This week marks the official start of fall, September 22nd to be exact. And Mother Nature seems to recognize it. Trees are starting to take on hues of fall – the hillsides are dotted by a few maples that are beginning to show their scarlet colors. Goldenrod in the fields is in full bloom and oaks are starting to drop their acorns. The other day I made my way down to a river, strolling through an adjacent field. I kicked up grasshoppers, enjoying the afternoon warmth, with every stride.


Looking downriver at dusk on the beautiful Tioughnioga

Fly shop talk: Here’s a little bit more about the autumnal equinox, courtesy of The Weather Channel:

During the autumnal equinox, day and night are balanced to about 12 hours each all over the world. Instead of the Earth tilting away from or toward the sun, its axis of rotation becomes perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of the Earth and the sun.

“This change in the tilt causes the change in seasons with the northern hemisphere moving from the warmth of summer to the chill of winter,” said digital meteorologist Linda Lam. “This process includes a shift in the overall location of the jet stream which plays an important role in weather conditions.”

From that point on, daylight in the Northern Hemisphere gradually becomes shorter up until the winter solstice. This is the opposite of what occurs in the Southern Hemisphere, where daylight won’t grow any longer.

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

Great Lakes / Finger Lakes tributaries: It’s time to add this fishing category to my report. Right now the Douglaston Salmon Run is reporting movement of small pods of salmon up the run. These fish are staging in the estuary and are either moving up the river or even turning around, most likely due to the warmer water. River flows are around 400 CFS with a temp in the mid 60’s.

Catskill rivers: 

The West Branch Angler reports that all of the fishermen who haven’t been able to wade the West Branch of the Delaware River will be happy with the new flow. The Cannonsville Reservoir release was cut over the weekend and flows have dropped from well over 1,000 CFS to 500 CFS. We will still have the same bugs and the fish will be a more likely to come to the surface with the lower water. The flying ants in size 18-24 will be around for a while as well as a few Isonychia and Cahills. The Delaware River Club reports recent rains have not done much for river flows. Most people seemed to be throwing streamers over the weekend but there has been a decent mix of olives, cahills, and some isonychias hatching.


Here’s what’s hatching:

  • Slate Drake – 12-2xl- 14- Isonychia bicolor
    Sulphur – #16-20 – E dorothea
    Light Cahill – #14 – 16 –
    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 gives the following lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake:  Fishing continues to be good to very good for lake trout.  Bonus salmonoids are occasionally in the mix. I would expect good largemouth bass fishing here as well as perch action.
  • Owasco Lake:  Expect fair to good trout action here with shots at bonus rainbows, browns and smallmouths. Smallmouth bass fishing should be good and pike fishing should be picking up.
  • Seneca Lake:  Expect poor to fair lake trout action and fair to good action on the other salmonids.  I expect pike fishing to pick up as the lake cools.
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Smallmouth bass fishing is very good to excellent.  Bonus perch are around as well as the usual rockbass.
  • Otisco Lake: Bass fishing has reportedly been good with some Tiger Muskies in the mix.

Ponds: Still not much new to report here as long as warm days and cool nights continue in the forecast. Fishing will be best in the late afternoon and early evening. Bass and sunfish remain active and willing partners to fly fishermen under current conditions. 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 drop, making for easy wading and great fly fishing. At current levels, even the Susquehanna can be forded in many locations and a lot of out-of-the-way pools, runs, and riffles can be accessed safely.


The Susquehanna River hit a new low for the year – 500 CFS…

The smallmouth bite remains very good thanks to cooling water temps which seem to be strengthening the fall bite. I recently recorded temps as low as the upper 60’s on the Tioughnioga, but in general, water temps will range form the upper 60’s to mid 70’s.

The rivers are loaded with bait and water clarity remains excellent. Early morning and late afternoon to sun-down are the best times to hit the rivers. 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, slower water, and eddies.

And while fishing for smallmouth bass, be prepared to encounter other warmwater species…


Channel catfish, like this nice specimen, will aggressively take a fly…

Fishing streamers and large nymphs in the deeper pools and around structure can often times drum up a good mix of river species. Channel catfish, walleye, northern pike, carp, fallfish, and musky can all be in the mix on any given day on the warmwater rivers.

The rivers can still be wet waded comfortably, but be aware that wet wading in sandy or muddy river bottom areas can expose one to leeches. I was recently reminded of this, finding a rather large one attached to my lower leg! Leeches are generally not harmful – clean the bite area thoroughly with soap and water and hydrogen peroxide and don’t be surprised if the wound bleeds for a while. Leeches will actually secrete an anticoagulant enzyme when they bite. And while getting bitten is not a great thing, the fact that leeches are around should serve as a reminder that the use of a leech pattern fly can be deadly for most warmwater river species. Walleyes, in particular, can’t resist leechy-looking flies in olive, brown, and black.

Fly fishing events: After a summer break, area fly fishing clubs and chapters are getting back to business. Here’s a summary of what’s in store for the week:

  • The Al Hazzard chapter of TU will hold their first monthly meeting of the fall on Tuesday, September 20th at 7 pm at the Vestal Library. Speaker, to be announced.
  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF will hold their first monthly meeting after the summer break on Thursday, September 22 at 7 pm, with a fly tying demonstration at 6:30 pm. The meeting will be held at the Endicott Library. The guest speaker will be Bill Kessler, a devoted Atlantic Salmon fisherman who has fished from a couple hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle in Russia, to Scotland, Ireland, and his “local” fisheries on the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec and in New Brunswick.  Bill will describe the Atlantic’s life cycle, habitat, and will describe various methods of fishing for salmon, using both wet and dry flies.  He will discuss the equipment — flies, lines, rods and reels as well as describe both single and double hand casting techniques and when to use them. Bill will bring samples of the equipment and flies and will regale us with stories of his most memorable experiences. As usual, the meeting is open to the general public at no fee.
  • The BC Flyfishers will be auctioning their prized 100th Anniversary Cortland Fly Rod, starting with the September 22nd general meeting. Read more about this unique and valuable fly rod, here.
  • The Twin Tier Five Rivers chapter of IFFF will hold its next general meeting on October 3rd. Former Cornell professor Dr. Tony Ingraffrea will be visiting to talk about fishing Alaska. While some know Dr. Ingraffrea from his talks about fracking and the Marcellus Shale, he also has had the pleasure of fishing in Alaska many times, and on Oct. 3rd he plans to discuss those many trips, along with tips for making your own trip of a lifetime to the last frontier the best it can be.

The week ahead weather: WBNG’s week-ahead weather forecast is as follows:

According to WBNG’s Nathan Hopper, there’s another cold front currently situated in the Upper Midwest and is separate from the front that rolled through over the weekend. After the cold front pushes through, the chance for showers will stick with us on Monday, though things will progressively dry out through Monday. Tuesday looks to be more seasonable with the sun out and the humidity to a more comfortable level. High pressure then takes over and the sun will remain with us through the end of the week, as mostly clear conditions prevail. Temperatures will hang out just above average for the week, with highs in the low- to mid-70s.

Looking out a little longer term, forecasters are saying that cold fronts will be more common across the Northeast through the rest of September. This roller coaster-type weather pattern is typical for autumn months and will only increase in frequency and magnitude through November. However, one can expect warmer temperatures to win out over the cooler temperatures through the rest of the month.


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