The week ahead in fly fishing: June 12, 2017

It’s getting closer to “official” summer. And fly fishing is moving nicely into it’s late spring / early summer phase. Creeks are now looking good and are flowing full and cool. The warmwater rivers are too high, though. At this time last year, even the Susquehanna was low and very fishable for wading anglers. This year has certainly been good for the fishies – maybe not so good for anglers chasing them.


Air temps remain in the normal range, on average, but precipitation for the year is 60% above normal through June 11th.

Fly Shop Talk: The talk of the town this past week was the sighting of several lake sturgeon congregating near the Lake Avenue Bridge. When I first saw a video of these fish, courtesy of Ithaca fly fisher Mike Lenetsky, I was amazed. These were big fish powering up through riffles – could it be? DEC fisheries biologist Emily Zollweg-Horan visited Fall Creek and saw several of the 5 to 6 foot lake sturgeon congregating near the Lake Avenue Bridge. The NY DEC has been periodically stocking sturgeon fingerlings into Cayuga Lake since 1995 in an attempt to re-establish a population there. This is the first time staff have detected sturgeon in Fall Creek, and these fish may have been helped by the unusually high water this year. Zollweg-Hornan’s visit followed reports by local anglers observing spawning sturgeon there. The lake sturgeon is a NY State threatened species and fishing for them is prohibited.

Here’s the week ahead report:

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone reports that lake trout action has been at or near peak form on Cayuga Lake.  I expect good pike fishing on Owasco Lake.

  • Cayuga Lake:  Lake trout jigging is very good to excellent with large fish (27″ range) common.  Pickerel fishing is good to excellent.
  • Owasco Lake:  Lake trout and northern pike fishing should be good here. Work is currently being done near the launches at Emerson Park.  At least one ramp is open from what I heard but it is a mess up there.  The Marina at the south end would probably be a better place to launch.
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Expect good to excellent smallmouth bass fishing here with rock bass, lake trout and perch in the mix.  Lake level is high.
  • Seneca Lake:  Fishing is fair to good for landlocked salmon and brown trout.  Lake trout jigging continues to be very slow.  Expect fair to good pike action here.
  • Keuka Lake:  Lake trout fishing was fair to good here. No recent reports.
  • Otisco Lake:  Tiger musky fishing is the usual slow to good depending on the day. Bass action is top-notch as well with most fish spawning.

Catskill Rivers:  

  • The West Branch Angler is reporting that all of the Catskill rivers are continuing to drop slowly. The upper West Branch at Stilesville is now 1,590 cfs and is currently 53 degrees. Down at Hale Eddy the flow is 1,920 cfs and 50 degrees. The East Branch at Harvard is 698 cfs and 52 degrees and down at Fishs’ Eddy the flow is 1,570 and 60 degrees. The mainstem at Lordville is 3,860 cfs and 57 degrees. With the high sun and heat, the mid-day fishing has been a bit slow but the evening fishing has offered a lot of bugs for the last few hours of light. With the current conditions the West Branch is likely to fish the best before the later hours of the day. The bugs remain the same with some #14-16 Sulphurs, #14 Grey Fox, #20-22 Blue Winged Olives and some Drakes (green and brown) where they live, mainly the East Branch and mainstem. The streamer fishing on the West Branch has been good, especially in the early morning hours. We are lucky to have the higher water with these very warm air temps but be a responsible angler and check water temps as the day goes on and watch out for water above 68.
  • The Delaware River Club is reporting flows have dropped nicely over the last few days and things are looking good. The Beaverkill is in great shape for wading and the East Branch is looking better each day. The West Branch is still running high but it is mostly release at this point. That’s great news for the water temperatures on the West Branch and Upper Mainstem while we deal with the hot air temperatures and sunshine. Coffin flies have been giving us some decent fishing in the evening mixed with the sulphurs and cahills. The sunshine should make the caddis a bit more active and we may see some of the Cornutas offering some mid morning action.
  • Ken Tutalo of Baxter House Fly Fishing Outfitters reports that higher than normal water continues to be present around the system. The Beaverkill, Willowemoc and Upper East Branch will have wading options at this time. Be careful, wade shallow, and don’t make any river crossings at this time. With the large insects you can find plenty of rising fish right along the banks. The dry fly action  is the main attraction but there are other options. We have had great streamer success since the current high water period started. The waters are at a good temperature for the trout to be aggressive. We have had some periods where the action has been red hot.  Right now fishing right at daybreak will provide you with a few hours of steady chases. Smaller streamers are best right now. Our smaller Baitfish imitations and our Baxter House Buggers are killing it. For all of the nymphing folks, the water remains a bit high. Under the current flows it is pretty difficult to move around and target the correct water types. A few more days and favorable nymphing conditions will return. The big bugs will be the attraction for the next few days. Green and Brown Drakes are emerging well. March Browns, Sulfurs, Isonychia and Golden Stones are also in the mix. Spinner activity has been heavy. The smaller spinners associated with the sulfurs have been returning in heavy numbers. The huge Coffin fly, March Brown and Brown Drake spinners are on the water as well. In the areas where these huge insects have been coming down intense feeding has occurred.


Sulphur – #16 – 18 – Ephemerella dorothea
Green Drake – #8-2xl – Ephemera guttulata
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella rotunda
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella invaria
Little BWO – #22 – 26- Pseudocloeon sp.
Blue Wing Olives – #18 – Baetis sp.
Dark Grannom – #14 – 18 – Brachycentrus spp.
Tan Caddis #16 – 18 – Hydropsyche spp.
Little Black Caddis – #18-20 – Chimarra sp.

Local creeks: Local creeks are settling back down and clearing after some mid-week rain. Flows are excellent, the water is cool, and hatches have been very good. I’ve read good reports about Cayuta Creek but don’t forget the more marginal waters. Where flows are high and murky, streamers will be effective in the early hours of the morning. After that, nymphing, wet flies, and dry flies will work well. Hatches of caddis and mid-season mayflies are on, particularly on the warmer days. Stocking is done, but many of the stocked streams are underfished as many fishermen focus on other bigger waters. Never fish when thunderstorms are about but keep in mind that fishing after heavy rains can be very effective. Nymphing with large nymphs and worm patterns will imitate the food forms that are often washed into a creek with heavy rain events. And large streamers fished dead drift and on the swing can also take high water trout.

owego 612

Owego Creek, like most local creeks, has finally dropped to easy flows.

Warmwater Rivers: The warmwater rivers are dropping and clearing in the wake of last week’s heavy rains, but it’s slow going. Most of the rivers are still too high for wading fly fishing. As of this past weekend, even the lower section of the Tioughnioga was  flowing pretty fast with dirty water conditions. A recent foray on the Tioughnioga confirmed that the spawn is at least partly done. I fished around the mouth of a trib creek where the creek entered a river braid. There I saw a half dozen spawning beds. One of them had a nice smallmouth on it – it spooked immediately. The rest of the beds were empty. For now, fishing heavy water is best done with a sink tip line, fairly short leader, and big dark or very bright flies. Another method is to dead drift large dark nymphs. Short of that, check the USGS water gage charts for flows and focus efforts on the headwaters where the water will clear and drop first.


This tributary creek mouth provides excellent spawning habitat for smallmouth bass. The mouth is relatively deep, there’s plenty of gravel, and flows of cool water are good. It also provides shelter from the stronger flows of the river braid it feeds.

Ponds: Ponds are warming up and so is the fly fishing. Largemouth bass are part-way through spawning as are sunfish. You will still see some occupying beds. Fishing the edges of weeds with wooly buggers, big nymphs, and streamers should remain effective. As the water warms, the best activity will shift to early morning or towards evening. Evening will also be the best time to try topwater. Remember the key in largemouth bass fishing is often to slow down. If you’re stripping a streamer, slow it down – let it sink. Vary the retrieve. With poppers, let them sit until the last ring has disappeared. Often times a bass cannot stand the anticipation. A good pop will often ring the dinner bell, but be careful not to spook fish in shallower water.

Fly Fishing Events / Activities:

  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of FFI will be conducting its 3rd Annual Fly Casting Clinic on Saturday, June 17th. Read more about this great event here.
  • The Al Hazzard chapter of TU will be holding its monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 20 at 7 pm in the public meeting room of the Vestal Library.
  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of FFI will hold its last general meeting before the traditional summer break on Thursday June 22, 2017, at the Endicott Public Library, at 7:00 PM with an informal tying demonstration at 6:30 pm. Chapter member Bob Bruns, a dedicated warm water river rat, will talk about fly fishing our warm water rivers for smallmouth bass. His presentation, “Fly Fishing for Smallmouth Bass”, will cover how to fish for the “gentleman game fish of the warm water species” with detailed information on tackle, tactics, and methods that he has learned from small-mouth bass masters and has applied to his fishing of the local rivers over the last 20 years. Bob will characterize our area’s warm water rivers and profile the seasons of the small-mouth bass. His presentation will also cover the diverse “by catch” that comes to those who fish for bronze backs – a nice bonus to anyone who fly fishes “brown water”.

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

We’ll have mostly sunny skies Monday. This will be the hot day in the forecast with a high near 90. It will be another hot and muggy day Tuesday with highs in the upper 80s and low 90s. We have moved our chance of showers and thunderstorms up with some rain expected Tuesday.

Showers and thunderstorms will be in the remainder of the forecast. The showers will be caused by a front wavering across NY and PA. Temperatures will be running a few degrees above average, in the mid to upper 70s and low 80s.


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