The week ahead in fly fishing: October 17th

Now is the time to get out and wet a line! Fall is arguably one of the best seasons to fly fish. And the icing on the cake: anglers get to experience relatively warm days and the glorious autumn colors.


The Susquehanna River taking on a bit of fall color…

Fly shop talk: The general trout season is now closed so it’s wise to read up on the DEC angling regulations going forward if venturing out for trout. There are some rivers, like the West Branch of the Delaware, where special regulations are in place to allow angling past the normal close on defined areas of the river. There are also some creeks, like Owego Creek, where angling is open anywhere on the creek all year under certain conditions. Having said that, it’s wise to follow the advice of Eric Mastroberti, Ithaca-area guide, who recently posted the following report on his fly fishing website:

This has been one seriously dry year! Streams are still disconcertingly low for mid-October, although with chilly nights and our first frost behind us, at least stream temperatures are in the 50’s generally.

There are only a few streams I’m willing to guide on currently, and those will not be a walk in the park. Expect to work for every fish caught. And every one that has made it through the summer is a champion!

I rather like Eric’s views on; 1) restricting fishing to streams that can still support the pressure, given the drought, and 2) deeming those fish that have survived the summer as champion stock.

All fish should be respected by anglers in the same way that Native American Indians respected the fish and game they killed. There are times when I see anglers act in very disrespectful ways towards our beautiful local fish species. We are, after all, their keepers, yet despite some of the environmental atrocities we have put them through, they persist to live and even thrive.

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

Great Lakes / Finger Lakes tributaries: The Douglaston Salmon Run is reporting that fishing has been excellent to fantastic with anglers catching King salmon and Atlantic salmon. There are also reports of some big Steelhead moving in, thanks to an increase in flows…


With the increase in flows, more fish have been moving into the river.

Whitakers Sport’s Store and Motel reports that anglers staying with them who fished the lower end of the river have been having very good fishing. Anglers who fished the Black Hole, Staircase, Town Pool, Ballpark and Papermill got into mostly kings along with a few cohos. The anglers we spoke with who fished the DSR reported having a great day with a steady movement of kings along with a few cohos and steelhead mixed in. They have also had good reports from anglers who fished the Upper Fly Zone with anglers landing a mix of kings and cohos.

Suggested patterns:

  • Estaz eggs in blue, red, pink, chart. size 6-10.
  • Glo-bugs in chart, orange, pink, oregon cheese. size 6-8
  • Black egg sucking leeches in size 2-6.
  • Black flashback nymph in size 6.
  • Bunny leeches in black or olive. size 6
  • Woolly buggers in grizzly, black or olive. size 4-8.

Remember that the DEC that the Lower Fly Zone is closed to fishing until further notice.

Catskill Rivers: The West Branch Angler reports that the West Branch is still flowing high at 1,200 cfs at Hale Eddy.  Fishing has been pretty good for those who are out throwing streamers.  A few fish have been rising but nothing too exciting on top with the higher flows.  We would expect the release to go down the next day or so but the flow downriver at Montegue is 950 cfs, about half of the minimum required flow down there.  The much needed rain for all of the northeast seems to be avoiding us.  The West Branch is going to be wadeable in some spots at these flows and the mainstem is going to be even more wadeable.  The East Branch is 177 at Fishs’ Eddy which is on the low side but it is very clear and wadeable and the Olives and caddis have been pretty good over there lately.  The Delaware River Club reports that the release from Cannonsville is 1,140 cfs.  The East Branch is still low.  Water temperatures are up a bit on the West Branch.  The release is now coming from a warmer level in the reservoir and we are coming off a much warmer night.  Temps still look good overall throughout the system.  The fish were eating streamers well yesterday.  There is that chalky color to the West Branch from the release that makes the fish feel more comfortable during the daylight.  We are in for quite a warm up over the next few days with air temperatures in the 70’s.

Here’s what’s hatching:

  • Slate Drake – #12 – 14- Isonychia bicolor
    Olive Sulphur – #18 – 20– Heptagenia hebe
    Tiny Blue Winged Olive – #22 – 26 – Psuedocloeon spp.
    Blue Winged Olive – #18 – 20 – E. lata
    Tan Caddis – #16 – 20 – Hydropsyche spp.
    Dark Brachycentrus sp. – #14 – 18 – Dark Grannom
    Blue Winged Olives #16 – 18 – Baetis vagans (updated name: Baetis tricaudatus)

Local streams and creeks: Creeks are still very very low. Cooler nights are making it better for trout that have survived the drought but it’s still best to give the creek trout a break for now.

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone is reporting that water levels are an issue throughout the region. Water temperatures should drop close to a degree a day over the next couple of days.  John expects low-60s by next weekend on the lakes.  Smaller lakes’ surface temperatures should drop even more. Here’s the lake-by-lake report:

  • Owasco Lake:  The water level here is low but launchable without problems thus far. Lake trout action here is good to very good.  Bonus bass, rainbow and brown trout are around. Action for pike, perch and bass is picking up.
  • Seneca Lake:  The water level here is low.  Launching could be a problem in areas. The Watkins Glen pier is producing small smallmouth bass, rock bass and there are perch around too.  Expect pike fishing to pick up as the lake cools.  Trout and salmon fishing should be fair to good in the lower portions of the lake.
  • Cayuga Lake: Lake trout fishing here should be fair to good.  I expect good to excellent action on chain pickerel and largemouth bass on the lake’s north end.  Yellow perch fishing should be picking up.  Bonus salmon, rainbows and browns should be around for laker jiggers.
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Smallmouth bass fishing is fair to good.  Bonus perch are around as well as the usual rockbass.  The water level is very low here but launching at the State Launch is not a problem.
  • Otisco Lake:  Launching is still possible here from what I’ve heard.  Expect decent Tiger Musky action as well as some bass and walleye.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see surface temps here in the upper 50s before long.

Ponds: As we move into cooler weather, fishing will be best in the late afternoon and early evening when water temps are highest. Bass and sunfish will 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: Like most local rivers, streams, and creeks, the warmwater rivers are at new lows for the year. The wading is easy, making for great fly fishing and easy access to a lot of normally out-of-reach pools, runs, and riffles.

The smallmouth bite remains exceptional and even the smaller bass are sporting guts indicative of the “fall feedbag”. Like river flows, water temps are also testing new lows with temps ranging from the high 50’s to the low 60’s, and water clarity is excellent. Early morning and late afternoon to sun-down are the best times to hit the rivers but as the water continues to cool, activity will shift more to when the water is warmest, so don’t rule out early afternoons especially when the skies are cloudy. Streamers, crayfish patterns, and large nymphs in natural colors will work well and now is the time where it often pays to go up in fly size. I prefer natural colors with olive being my go-to color under current water conditions, but black, brown, and dark red/rust are also good choices. Sometimes white and bright colors like yellow or chartreuse can work well.


This smallmouth has evidently been gorging on the abundant bait in the river, but couldn’t help but take just one more bite…

In addition to smallmouth bass, be prepared to encounter a variety of other warmwater species. Now that we have had a few frosts, the walleye bite will only get better. If you hook a walleye remember that these are schooling fish and there will likely be more in the immediate area being fished. 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, northern pike, carp, fallfish, and musky can all be caught on any given day on the warmwater rivers.


Channel catfish will aggressively take big streamers and nymphs. This one hit a #2 olive bugger variant I have dubbed “Presley’s Cat Killer” in honor of Ron Presley, editor of Catfish NOW digital magazine. Cats are hard “down & dirty” fighters, even on stout fly tackle…

Fly fishing events: Here’s a summary of what’s in store for the week:

  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF will hold its next monthly meeting on Thursday, October 20th and will feature Joe Cambridge, local Finger Lakes angler, fly tyer, and author. Joe has presented to the chapter before and makes an excellent and intriguing presentation. Joe will talk about patterns and techniques that have traditionally worked well for the fall fishing in the tributaries of the Finger Lakes. Browns and a late run of rainbows supplement the Landlocked (Atlantic) Salmon fishing here, and some of the browns are very impressive. Joe is a member of IFFF and has authored articles in Fly Fisherman and Fly Tyer and has developed some deadly fly patterns. Join us when Joe shares with us his tips on where and how to fish for these fish in the Ithaca area tributaries. If water flow continues to be low, he will recommend strategies to still get hooked up with these exciting fish! Joe has developed several fly patterns unique to the fishery and will acquaint us with a few of his favorite patterns with pass around flies and a tying demonstration beginning at 6:30 PM. Joe advises that these patterns are easy to tie and work very well not only in the Cayuga Tribs, but also up north in the Salmon River and in other streams near Rochester and Buffalo. The meeting will be held, as always, at the Endicott Public Library.
  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF is auctioning their prized 100th Anniversary Cortland Fly Rod. Read more about this unique and valuable fly rod, here.
  • The Al Hazzard Chapter of Trout Unlimited will hold its October general chapter meeting on Tuesday, October 18th from 7 pm to 9 pm at the Vestal Public Library. Speaker to be announced.

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

According to WBNG’s Brian Schroeder, a cold front is going to sag in from the north on Monday, giving us a few showers. This same front will lift northward. Since the front stalls, and then lifts northward, we aren’t going to get a cool down. In fact, we’re in for some warm, fall weather. We’ll have partly cloudy skies on Tuesday with the chance for some late day showers. More importantly, we’ll reach a high in the upper 70s, possibly low 80s. The chance of showers will continue Tuesday night. Not necessarily a wet forecast, but we will have the chance of showers and light rain from Wednesday and into the weekend. A slow moving front will sit over the Appalachians, giving us the precipitation. Temperatures will start out in the 70s, but by the weekend, they will become more seasonable with temperatures in the 50s.






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