The week ahead in fly fishing: July 16, 2017

Water, water everywhere continues to be the theme for 2017. The past week was another turbulent one, weather-wise. Although the heavy rains seemed to hit some locations and bypass others, the effect local creeks, streams, and rivers was pronounced.

fernando llosa

This amazing picture of Taughannock Falls is a testament to recent heavy rains. Photo courtesy of Fernando Llosa

Fly Shop Talk: Last week’s severe rain events and their effects on local watersheds were a case in point on why it pays to know at least a little about hydrology. As I drove to work in Ithaca, it was interesting to see that Nanticoke Creek was running low and clear while Owego Creek, one valley to the west, was high and turbid. Choconut Creek, a creek close to my home, was also seemingly unaffected by the weather. Fortunately, a number of weather and climate-related sites on the internet make it very easy to get a good read on what moving waters are doing without having to travel and make a local assessment. Weather radar can show just where weather events are occurring and the USGS water gage can help an angler piece together where water is rising or falling. But use of the USGS water gage requires some relative idea of what gage levels and flows, i.e., what are the best condition for fishing, for example. So some familiarity with the moving water is needed to make use of the data.

Here’s the week ahead report:

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone reports that Cayuga Lake is muddy and came up at least a foot. I cancelled/postponed my weekend trips. Let’s hope conditions settle out soon. Just chant “No more rain…no more rain…no more rain…” Here’s John’s lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake: Lake trout jigging was very tough this weekend from what I heard. Bass season is underway. Pickerel fishing is fair to good.
  • Owasco Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is fair here. Lake trout fishing is fair to good (not on a par with Cayuga by any means.)
  • Skaneateles Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is generally good. Rock bass and large perch remain in the mix. Water here is still relatively cold.
  • Seneca Lake: Laker jigging has shown some signs of improvement since the Memorial Weekend Derby. Fishing is fair. Expect tough conditions this weekend with the heavy rains.
  • Keuka Lake: Lake trout fishing should be fair to good here. Bass fishing has been good from what I’ve heard.
  • Otisco Lake: Tiger musky fishing has reportedly been slow for the most part. This lake muddies up easily and can be tough after heavy rains.

Catskill Rivers:  

The Catskill Rivers have been in good shape and fishing well thanks to lots of rain and generally normal to cool temps. If fishing the freestones, however, “fish with your thermometer”.

  • The West Branch Angler is reporting that the rivers have cleared up quite a bit after the weekend’s rain and the West is currently in great shape with only a slight stain.  The upper West at Stilesville is currently 370 cfs and 46 degrees and Hale Eddy is running 606  and  52 degrees with minor stain to the water.  The upper East at Harvard is running 322 cfs and 57 degrees and downriver at Fishs’ Eddy the flow is 1,060 cfs and 63 degrees.  We should continue to have some good Sulphur activity, especially on the upper half of the West Branch.  The last two days were a bit slower with the bugs, likely due to the stained water and increased flow.  Other than being a bit higher than mid-week the West is back to good clarity and should start to fish better this week.
  • The Delaware River Club is also reporting good fishing in the Catskill system. Nymphing has definitely been a good choice until the sun drops behind the hills.  There have been some mid-day sulphurs on the upper West West but everything definitely picks up towards evening.  We did see more cahills and isonychias over the weekend so those hatches should improve.  Little olives and sulphurs are making up the bulk of the food right now so definitely carry those patterns.  Small olive spinners have worked really well lately.
  • Ken Tutalo of Baxter House Fly Fishing Outfitters reports that the last week brought the Upper Delaware some unpredictable weather. Small cold fronts passed through the region almost every day bringing us fast passing but heavy thunder storms. This weather has changed the river conditions but there is a pretty big difference from section to section. The most stable and predictable at this time is the Main Stem. It has been on the rise and much higher than last week. This will continue as long as the storms persist simply because all water here goes to the Main Delaware.  The water temperatures have dropped a bit which is a good change for the lower river. The Beamoc Water and the Upper East and West are where the flows have been swinging. They have been rising quickly and falling quickly right along the storm paths. Areas where rain has been locally heavy have had turbidity which clears up in about 24 hours or less. Overall temperatures have dropped but anglers should always check the water temperature  before fishing the freestone rivers in July and August. There have been several days recently where I have stayed dry while watching heavy rain upstream There have also been times where I have been on the wet end of the same situation. It is always a good idea to have a light rain jacket during summer in the mountains. In most instances the rains have been 10 to 15 minutes in duration. The Fishing remains good for both Trout and Bass. The Trout action is now pure summertime activity. Super fussy fish are the rule. Long leaders, light tippet and long casts are a must. Tiny Sulfurs, Olives, Trico’s, Midges and terrestrials are your daytime choices. Isonychia and Cahills will take some fish towards dark. The best trout activity remains in the Upper East, Upper West and the Upper Main Stem Delaware. With the heavy downpours you may find a good streamer bite in areas of turbidity. Recently we have been adding some nice trout to our daily catch on streamers worked along the edges of the dirty water.  The Smallmouth Bass activity is now steady and reliable. We have been hitting it with both Fly and Spin tackle and our guests have been having great trips. Fly guys will want to go deep in the sunny portion of the day. Baitfish, Buggers, Crayfish and other buggy creation will take some fish as long as they are slow and deep. When the light fades the action has been great on top. I have been rigging Poppers, Divers and Gurglers and all have been working well. There is also good match the hatch smallie action if you want to stay on the water until right at dark. The fish are eating Isonychia, Cahills and White Flies. They are not fussy so a big white wulff almost always does the trick.


Slate Drake #12-2xl – Isonychia bicolor
Sulphur – #16 – 20 – Ephemerella dorothea
Brown Drakes #10-2xl – Ephemera simulans
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella rotunda
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella invaria
Pale Evening Dun / Pink Lady – #14 – Epeorus vitreus
Little BWO – #22 – 26- Pseudocloeon sp.
Light BWO – #14 – Drunella cornuta (previously Ephemerella cornuta)
Blue Wing Olives – #18 – Baetis sp.
Dark Blue Sedge – #14 – Psilotreta spp.
Little Tan Sedge – #16 – 18 – Glossosoma sp.
Green Caddis – #16 – Ryacophilia sp.
Tan Caddis #16 – 18 – Hydropsyche spp.

Local creeks: Local creek flows have been a yo-yo with the variable weather we’ve had. They were settling down again, only to be roaring again as of this writing. To many anglers, these high water events are an excuse to fish elsewhere, but to creek-savvy anglers, change is a good word. Fishing after a high water event can be difficult but highly rewarding. Nymphing with big “nymphs” like cranefly larvae, worms, crayfish and hellgrammite patterns, can lure big browns waiting for the washdown of all sorts of food forms. Large streamers fished dead drift and on the swing can also take high water trout.

owego creek

Warmwater Rivers: Forget about the warmwater rivers. They were again on the way down but last week’s rains and Monday’s storms put a fork in them over the short term. For now, look to the headwaters of the smaller rivers like the Tioughnioga, Chenango, and Chemung for the first signs of dropping flows and clearing. The drier weather in the week ahead may allow us to finally wet a line for bronzebacks!


The Susquehanna River at Vestal tells the story – the watershed that feeds our rivers are soaked and pouring out of the hills, making our rivers too high and turbid for good fishing.

Ponds: Ponds are a great place to fly fish right now. Largemouth bass are done spawning and so are sunfish and they are beyond the brief period where they’re recuperating from the rigors of spawning. This makes then willing to take a fly. As the water heats up and the sun is bright, it’s now time to shift fishing to early or late, but in the case of sunfish, any time of the day will work. Fishing the edges of weeds and around structure with wooly buggers, big nymphs, and streamers should remain effective, but topwater will also be effective especially in the early morning and towards evening.

Fly Fishing Events / Activities: Most local fly fishing clubs take a summer break starting with July, so there won’t be any activities or club/chapter meetings to report over the coming weeks. If an event pops up, I’ll try to capture it here.

The Week Ahead Weather: WBNG’s forecast is as follows:

WEDNESDAY: Mostly sunny, a few scattered showers and thunderstorms. 0-.05″ Less than 20% High 84 (82-86) Wind NW 3-8 mph

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear, scattered showers and thunderstorms. 0-.10″ Low 64 Wind L&V

THURSDAY: Partly cloudy with a few scattered showers. 20% High 84 Low 64

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy with PM showers and thunderstorms. 30% High 84 Low 62

SATURDAY: Partly cloudy with showers and thunderstorms. 20% High 80 Low 64

SUNDAY: Mostly cloudy with rain and thunderstorms. 40% High 82 Low 62

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy with showers and thunderstorm. 30% High 82 Low 60

TUESDAY: Partly cloudy. High 80 Low 58

WBNG7Day (1)












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