Archive for fly fishing

The week ahead in fly fishing: August 7, 2017

Posted in Carp, Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on August 7, 2017 by stflyfisher

Summer seems to be finally here. The wet weather has eased somewhat, though we are still on a record-setting pace. Precipitation totals year to date are greater than 2016. But the rain events have been more sporadic with dry breaks between storms. This is helping drop river levels more quickly. It has also been cooler with daily highs holding in a tight range around the average for this time of year.

A recent hike with my dog along Choconut Creek in Vestal showed the impact of the significant flooding we have had this year. This creek flows from Pennylvania through Vestal and is a tributary to the Susquehanna. normally at this time of year it is low and clear – a trickle in some places. The upper reaches of the creek in PA and some of its tribs, such as “No Name Brook” hold native brookies. This year will be a good year for them!

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Major bank erosion on the Choconut Creek resulted in large tree downfalls in places. This picture, taken on 8/6/17, shows the Choconut flowing fairly full for summer.

Fly Shop Talk: A must-read for every fly fisher is the book, “A River Never Sleeps” by Roderick Haig-Brown. Bob Card, friend, fellow angler, and steelhead enthusiast, recommended the book to me one morning as we drove to the Salmon River. Card highly recommended it – a “couldn’t put it down” recommendation – and he was right. Buried deep in the book’s 352 pages, is a great essay titled, “Why Fish”. The 8 page essay begins with recounting a run-in Haig-Brown’s father – a big man and Army officer – had when a “little Cockney private” came running round a street corner smack into him. The collision prompted the larger man to ask of the smaller man, “why run?” The answer from the Cockney private: “to please myself”. Haig-Brown goes on to explore the many reasons we fish, but principally comes around to “enjoyment” as the main one. He goes on to remark that “fishing” started so many thousands of years ago when a tribe member took off in secrecy to fish long after a hunt had provided all the food the tribe needed.

Here’s the week ahead report:

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone provides the following lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake: Jigging is back to top-notch form. Occasional salmon, rainbow trout and brown trout are in the mix. I expect good largemouth bass fishing on Cayuga Lake.
  • Owasco Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing should be fair to good here. Lake trout fishing is fair to good.
  • Skaneateles Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is good. Lake trout jigging is fair. Plenty of rockbass and some perch are around.
  • Seneca Lake: Fishing is fair for lakers – a couple fish is a good day.
  • Keuka Lake: Lake trout fishing should be fair to good here. Bass fishing has been good.
  • Otisco Lake: No recent reports from here.

Catskill Rivers:  

The Catskill Rivers have been in good shape and fishing well thanks to lots of rain and generally normal to cool temps. Following are some local fly shop reports:

  • The West Branch Angler is reporting that today is looking like a great day to be out with a slight drizzle since this morning and cloudy skies all day. The air temps are great and feel more like September than August at 57 currently which is great for the mainstem and East Branch. It looks like we won’t get too much rain today, probably 1/3″ total, not enough to bring it up too much. Currently the upper West Branch is 526 cfs at Stilesvill and 47 degrees. Down at Hale Eddy the flow is 611 cfs and 49 degrees. The East at Harvard is now 225 cfs and 56 degrees and downriver at Fishs’ Eddy the flow is 488 cfs and 62 degrees. The mainstem at Lordville is now 1,360 cfs and 62. A great temp going into August and would be a great place to be with the current overcast conditions. If you’ve had enough of the Sulphurs in the no kill try the main with some Blue Winged Olives or blind casting a large Isonychia in likely spots. We should have some good Olives on the West as well. The streamer fishing is also a great option for today with the low light and possibly a little stain from the rain.
  • The Delaware River Club is reporting that Oquaga Creek was pushing a lot of water into the West Branch over the weekend. The river was a chalky color rather than brown making it decent for throwing streamers. We found mixing up the streamer selection made the difference and finally settled on small, dark patterns. The water was clear enough for fish to rise and there were some eating in the evening when the olives hatched. The Upper West Branch above Oquaga was in fine shape and had the normal hatches of sulphurs and olives. We are coming off a cool night so the water temperatures are starting off a couple of degrees cooler this morning. Today looks good with partly cloudy skies and air temperatures in the low 70’s. Winds should stay in the single digits.
  • Ken Tutalo of Baxter House Fly Fishing Outfitters reports that fishing has been very good for both trout and smallmouth bass. With the cooler weather and mix of sunny and overcast conditions the fish and insects were very active. The steady supply of thunderstorms recently has kept certain stretches of the river running with turbidity. This has been in every local river. Our guests have had periods of exciting action with streamers. There have been a lot of trout on both the East and West branches that are more than willing to chase streamers pretty hard. The trick has been turning the chasers into takers. To accomplish this we have been fishing mostly smaller patterns. Buggers, Urchin Buggers, EP Baitfish and 4″ or smaller articulated patterns. These smaller offerings have been the best at sealing the deal.
    The cooler weather and cooler water has been great for the hatches and the overall activity of the trout. On my trips there were plenty of targets as trout have been feeding steadily to a mix of insects. I have been out both early and late recently and there is action. There is a huge amount of trico’s emerging every morning. As long as the water is slow enough for the trout to feed efficiently they have been on them. Yesterday we had a few nice pods of mature rainbows feeding steadily on these tiny duns. We also had very good nymph fishing during the AM portion of the day.
    The evening rise has been better simply because the insects are more widespread and varied. There are olives, sulfurs, isonychia, cahills, midges. The evening is also a bit easier since the fish have been set up feeding in faster water as well as the pools. Finding a good fish eating larger insects in fast water makes for a much easier presentation. On all of my recent trips I have been able to locate solitary trout in riffles that were blowing up on the occasional Isonychia or cahill that floats by. Most of these trout have found their way to the net. The forecast for the week has daytime highs in the mid 70’s so conditions should be stable for a while. Now is a great time to take a crack at some mid summer dry fly fishing. We have been hitting the bass waters hard and with a good reason. The bass action is hot and it is all surface action! These great game fish have good water temperatures to be super active now. Now is the time where they will feed heavy in anticipation of cooling waters later in the fall. On all of our recent trips we have been able to fish the POPPER from start to finish. The action is good all day but it increases in intensity as the day progresses. On my recent trips the late afternoon has produced non stop action. On all of our recent trips the catch rate has been up. 20 + fish on the fly rod is common now and we have been taking some nice fish. Yesterday we had lots of 14″ to 18″ bass come to net. Right now we are fishing size #2 poppers on 5 weight rods. This combination is perfectly matched for Delaware Smallies. The best action is on brightly colored poppers. Orange has been hot.

Hatching:

Slate Drake #12-2xl – 12 – Isonychia bicolor
Sulphur – #16 – 20 – Ephemerella dorothea
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella rotunda
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella invaria
Little BWO – #22 – 26- Pseudocloeon sp.
Blue Wing Olives – #18 – Baetis sp.
Little Tan Sedge – #16 – 18 – Glossosoma sp.
Green Caddis – #16 – Ryacophilia sp.
Tan Caddis #16 – 18 – Hydropsyche spp.

Local creeks: Local creek flows remain in a yo-yo pattern with the variable weather we’ve had. They will continue to rise and fall with the sporadic storms. 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.

Warmwater Rivers: The warmwater rivers were on the way down through this past Thursday, but Friday’s rains proved to be a spoiler for the weekend. Flows are again dropping and with a string of dry days in the forecast, should provide good fishing by late in the week. Some anglers have managed to produce by capitalizing on days when flows have dropped. Topwater and subsurface flies will work, with topwater being the choice for when the light is low. Pay attention to the USGS water gages for now.

tio 807

The Tioughnioga River was at a nice fishing level up until Friday, when rain had put it back on the rise. This river, along with the Chenango and Chemung, should give anglers hunting for bronze some good fishing access in the week ahead.

Ponds: Ponds remain a great place to fly fish right now. Largemouth bass are in summer mode and are more than 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: It won’t be long until local fly fishing clubs begin their fall programs. Here is one update on a fishing tripped planned by the TTFR chapter of FFI:

  • Chemung River Fishing Trip Moved Again to August 26 – Due to the water conditions on July 22, the Chemung River float fishing trip was postponed. The trip has been rescheduled for August 26th and is again open to all TTFR International Federation of Fly Fishers members and visitors. We need to know before August 23 if you plan to come. This is usually a productive and popular float for bass and carp. Plan to meet at 9 am in Corning NY at the Cohocton Street launch (behind Pressware) and float 7 miles to Botchers Landing. We will grill out a shoreline lunch halfway through the trip. We expect to be off the river around 5 pm. For lunch, the club will grill burgers with all the fixings. The club will have bottled water and some drinks. There will be plates, napkins, plastic silverware, etc. If you want to bring food to share, that would be great. Chips, cookies, wine, beer, or whatever else you would like. Fishing is for smallmouth bass and carp. An 8 weight outfit is recommended with a floating and maybe an 8 weight with a sink tip line. If you don’t have an 8 wt – bring what you have. If you need to borrow a rod, the club has 6 weights. I think you will find a 7 or 8 is perfect for the size of flies and longer casts. I suggest bringing clouser minnows, foxee minnows, suspendors, twistertails and gurglers. Big wooly buggers are a good bet. Felt sole wading boots are recommended. The rocks are very slippery – so best to avoid tennis shoes or Tevas. Bring a raincoat. You will need a canoe, kayak, driftboat, or inflatable pontoon for the float. If you will have space and would be willing to take along another person in your boat – that would be great! If you would like to come, but do not have a watercraft – we will try to hook you up with someone who has an open spot or you can rent a canoe ($45) or a single person kayak (35$/day). Please let us know your needs and we will make the arrangements with the rental company. Life jackets, paddles, etc will be provided if you rent. Please contact Matt Towner 607-542-0285 ( townermj@corning.com) before August 23 to let us know you plan to attend. You may also contact Kirk Klingensmith ( kklingensmi@stny.rr.com ), but he is out of town until 8/18, so a response may be delayed until he returns. In the case of bad water conditions or severe weather, we will notify folks who are coming by e-mail or cellphone.

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

After a relatively dry weekend, there’s a chance of showers for Monday with temperatures in the low-70s. High pressure then pushes in Tuesday through Thursday afternoon. Temperatures crest in the mid- to upper-70s under sunny skies, before the chance of showers returns late on Thursday and persists through Friday. At this time, Saturday looks to be a mainly quiet day, as a pocket of high pressure moves north through Ontario, perhaps keeping our atmosphere stable enough to prevent any convective rain or storms.

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The week ahead in fly fishing: July 30, 2017

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , on August 1, 2017 by stflyfisher

We are finally in the midst of a “drought” window. The past weekend, starting Friday, was dry and it’s looking like that may continue now at least a few days into next week. This dry period may be all we need to allow the warmwater rivers to drop down to the fly fishing range.

We are also closing out July with some warmth. The corn in places now has tassels, pumpkin and squash plants are flowering, and I’ve seen some whitetail bucks with antlers in velvet.

August is on the doorstep – a time of year when the fishing pace slows with warm days and a time of year that serves as a preview for early fall and a return to great fly fishing.

Fly Shop Talk: BC Flyfisher Dennis See recently shared a facebook post from weather.com about Binghamton NY’s weather. The post was titled: This U.S. City Has Seen Some of the Worst Weather This Year and Continues to Shatter Records. It’s an interesting read and does a nice job putting some of our recent weather in perspective. Some highlights follow:

  • Binghamton, New York, is currently on pace to exceed its wettest year on record following the record-snowiest winter.
  • As of Wednesday, 37.08 inches of precipitation have been recorded in the city in 2017 – more than all of last year.
  • An average year in Binghamton features 39.3 inches of precipitation, defined as rainfall and the liquid equivalent of melted snow.

KBGM2017plot

Here’s the week ahead report:

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone provides the following lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake: Jigging is back to top-notch form. Occasional salmon, rainbow trout and brown trout are in the mix. I expect good largemouth bass fishing on Cayuga Lake.
  • Owasco Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing should be fair to good here. Lake trout fishing is fair to good.
  • Skaneateles Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing should be good.
  • Seneca Lake: Fishing is fair for lakers – a couple fish is a good day.
  • Keuka Lake: Lake trout fishing should be fair to good here. Bass fishing has been good.
  • Otisco Lake: Tiger musky fishing has reportedly been slow for the most part. There is an algae bloom going on here from what I heard.

Catskill Rivers:  

The Catskill Rivers have been in good shape and fishing well thanks to lots of rain and generally normal to cool temps. I fished the West Branch of the Delaware in the morning and the action was sporadic but good. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right pattern – changing flies when action is slow to nil is always a good idea especially when hatches are sparse. I finally dialed in with a small sulphur nymph and sulphur soft hackle.

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  • The West Branch Angler is reporting that flows are generally excellent in the Catskill river system. Stilesville on the upper West is 525 and 46 degrees and downriver a few miles at Hale Eddy we have 611 cfs and 49 degrees this morning. The upper East Branch at Harvard is now 314 and 57 degrees and down at Fishs’ Eddy we have 706 cfs and 61 degrees. The mainstem at Lordville is 1,590 cfs and 63 degrees. The main and East are really getting a break temperature-wise with these cooler temps we’ve been having and aren’t at a bad level for this time of year. We are still getting the same bugs on a regular basis with #18 Sulphurs and #20-24 Olives being the most consistent during the afternoon hours. A few Isonychia are also around in the afternoon.
  • The Delaware River Club is reporting that the best fishing is on the upper West Branch and upper East Branch. Look for the coldest water. There should be daytime sulphurs and olives in Deposit and Stilesville. Although small flies have been working better carry some Cahills, Isonychias, and Golden Drakes just in case. Areas with mid day shade will also fish better. Yesterday’s bright sun and hot air temperature bumped the water temps up just enough to push most of the mid to lower river hatching to dark. Find the water in the 50’s. Today’s air temperature will be cooler at 80 degrees but the sun is going to shine. The lower East Branch, Mainstem, and lower Beaverkill all warmed up into the high 60’s yesterday. We’re leaving them alone until they cool back down.
  • Ken Tutalo of Baxter House Fly Fishing Outfitters reports that since the last report our guides have fished both trout and smallmouth bass and covered lots of river miles. Overall the fishing is good. The main reason is the cooler nights and recent rainfall. The trout are more active since the water temperatures dropped into a more suitable range. Over the weekend our trout trips had a steady pick of surface feeding trout to keep busy with. We also did really good on our nymph rigs in some places. Yesterday I did 2 floats both for trout – my first trip was a nymphing float where we targeted a couple of big riffle areas. The action was pretty steady and in 4 hours we had 8 fish. We had 2 small ones but most were 15″ to 17″ Wild Rainbows. On this morning float there was also some super heavy activity with Trico’s. The amount of insects in the air and on the water was huge. There was a small amount of surface activity but the river is high and it was very windy. I expect that when the water comes down there will be a good rise of trout to these tiny insects. We also had boats out for evening hatch floats every day recently. There have been fish sporadically rising from when we put in around 5:00 pm. As is normal the action slowly improves as darkness approaches. We have been doing well fishing a combination of small Olives, Sulfurs and Midges. CDC Knock Down Duns and Cripples have been the best. Small rusty spinners and midge patterns are also working well. Below the surface it has been all about size. #18 and #20 nymphs are whats working. I have been fishing 3 fly rigs with descending sizes down to the #20. Every fish has been on the tiny flies. Copper Johns, Pheasant Tails and Midges are working well. The bass fishing hit a bit of a slow down with the recent cold front. Over the weekend water temperatures dropped below 70 degrees just about everywhere. The bass have been a bit sluggish during the morning but get back to feeding after the sun warms them a bit. We had several groups out and all had lots of fun. The biggest difference from last week is that the surface bite has slowed from the cooler water. Last week we were having fast and furious popper action. Right now you have to work at it. The strikes are not as frequent but the fish have been good sized. The best approach at this time for steady, fast action is slow and deep. The hot surface action should return quickly as the temps climb back up.

Hatching:

Slate Drake #12-2xl – 12 – Isonychia bicolor
Sulphur – #16 – 20 – Ephemerella dorothea
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella rotunda
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella invaria
Little BWO – #22 – 26- Pseudocloeon sp.
Blue Wing Olives – #18 – Baetis sp.
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 will continue to rise and fall with the sporadic storms. 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.

Warmwater Rivers: The warmwater rivers are starting to drop again due to the string of dry weather we’ve experienced over the weekend. This weather pattern is supposed to hold until Tuesday – let’s hope that dries the ground out enough to let the bigger rivers drop and clear. This is white fly hatch time by the way. The high water may be putting that off though. This monumental hatch can sometimes last through the month of August.

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.

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Ponds: Ponds are a great place to fly fish right now. Largemouth bass are in summer mode and are more than 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:

A cold front over Ontario and Quebec will sag southward. It will have a hard time making it through, but it will be close enough to give us a few showers. These will be scattered. Tonight we’ll have partly cloudy skies.

We’ll have a similar forecast over the next few days. It will be warm and slightly muggy with scattered showers. The chance of showers will climb through the forecast.

A cold front will come through on Saturday with showers and thunderstorms. We’ll have partly cloudy skies on Sunday. Another low coming through the Great Lakes will give us showers on Monday.

WBNG7Day

 

The week ahead in fly fishing: July 23, 2017

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , on July 25, 2017 by stflyfisher

The lead paragraph on this weekly fly fishing report is beginning to sound like a broken record. The past week started out looking like it might be dry but ended up with some heavy localized downpours that sent some creeks, streams, and rivers into heavy turbid flows. Maybe it’s time to pray for dry weather?

Climate records for the Southern Tier continue to tell the same story: moderate to cool temps and lots of precipitation:

KBGM2017plot

Fly Shop Talk: In his book, My Life Was This Big, Lefty Kreh talks about his stint in the US Army during WWII. While he was proud of his service (he fought in the Battle of the Bulge), Kreh and the US Army did not get along. “I hated the Army. Despised it. It ran counter to my lifelong instinct to make things better. I am an inveterate tinkerer and self-described inventor.” While the Army might not have appreciated Kreh’s inventiveness, the fishing world certainly did. Below is a picture of just one of Kreh’s nifty way of making fishing better. His first fly reel, a Pflueger Medalist purchased in 1947, was improved with a finger insert as a means of applying drag to the spool.

lefty reel

 

Here’s the week ahead report:

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone provides the following lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake: Lake trout jigging is slow with occasional moments of good fishing. Bass season is underway. I expect jigging to pick up once this algae bloom clears up. When that happens is anyone’s guess.
  • Owasco Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is fair here. Lake trout fishing is fair to good.
  • Skaneateles Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is generally good. Rockbass 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.
  • 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. There is an algae bloom going on here from what I heard.

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 weekend’s rains left some dirty water on most of the rivers but there still are a few spots that the storms avoided. Down at Hale Eddy it’s pretty dirty but dropping with a current flow of 938 cfs and 56 degrees. Up at Stilesville the flow is 374 cfs and 46 degrees and will be your best spot to fish down to Oquaga creek which is pumping in a decent amount of dirty water. The West could clear up enough by tonight to offer some decent opportunity. The East got hit pretty good with a flow of 2,360 and rising at Harvard and down at Fishs’ Eddy we have 2,410 cfs and 64 degrees. The main is going to be dirty as well with a flow of 3,310 and rising at 300+ cfs per hour. We should have some good streamer fishing on the West as the water drops over the next couple days.
  • The Delaware River Club is reporting that all the rivers in the system are up and off color. It looks like the rain is tapering off so the West Branch should drop and look a lot better tomorrow morning. The flow didn’t move much at Stilesville so the West Branch above Oquaga Creek should be in decent shape. If you go up there you should see some afternoon sulphurs and olives. It is still perfect for wading up there. Below Oquaga Creek it looks like a streamer from the boat kind of day. If the river drops quickly enough there is a slight chance of finding a few fish on top in the big pools so carry a dry fly rod too, but count on throwing streamers for the most part. Try dark streamers first in the off colored water.
  • Ken Tutalo of Baxter House Fly Fishing Outfitters reports that HOT, HOT HOT has been the weather pattern lately. Summer has it’s grip on the Upper Delaware region at this time. There is no better place to spend a hot day than out on the river so here are your options for fishing. Trout fishermen who plan on fishing in the coming days should be aware that a lot of the system has very warm water. The options for chasing trout at this time are the Upper East Branch, the West branch and the headwaters of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc. The best action is very early morning and again from near dark until after dark. Our guides have been on the water on both the Upper West and Upper East branches and they are getting some nice fish for our guests. The fishing is very technical now. As is always the case in summer you need to be proficient with long leaders, making accurate casts and floating drag free. This is what we teach and now is the time where conditions will demand near perfection. The insects will not change now. Sulfurs, Olives, Tricos, Midges and terrestrials. Small is the key on the waters that see the most pressure. (this is the entire West Branch). Isonychia and Cahills are about late day and you can take some of the more exuberant fish with these larger patterns. Nymphing has always been our go to approach for getting some numbers on the tailwaters and recently this is where the success has been best. You will still need perfect floats and long leaders. You will also need to be comfortable fishing the tiny stuff. All of my nymphs at this time are #18 or smaller on both 5X and 6X tippet. On a recent trip my guests had very good action fishing the pressured water and put about a dozen fish in the net. There is also a small population of anglers who head to the water after dark at this time of year. These are the hunters who fish mice, frogs, boppers, gurglers and huge streamers. These guys are doing well. Our guides have been taking some monster browns after dark some of which measure 25″ to 30″. If you think you want to give this a try call us today.

Hatching:

Slate Drake #12-2xl – 12 – Isonychia bicolor
Sulphur – #16 – 20 – Ephemerella dorothea
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella rotunda
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella invaria
Little BWO – #22 – 26- Pseudocloeon sp.
Blue Wing Olives – #18 – Baetis sp.
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 will continue to rise and fall with the sporadic storms. 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.

Warmwater Rivers: As discussed last week, forget about the warmwater rivers for now. I fished the lower Tioughnioga this past weekend and was surprised how full, fast, and turbid it was. The USGS gage chart looked decent, but the river was another story. With the squirrely weather we’ve been having, look to the headwaters of the smaller rivers like the Tioughnioga, Chenango, and Chemung for the first signs of dropping flows and clearing. But dropping gage charts don’t always mean the river is fishable.

susky 724

The Susquehanna River continues to tease…

Ponds: Ponds are a great place to fly fish right now. Largemouth bass are in summer mode and are more than 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:

We have a slow moving front to our south. With lows moving along this front we had rain and thunderstorms last night, leading to flash flooding. We will have a similar forecast today with rain and thunderstorms. The rain will taper to showers tonight.

A slight chance of showers on Tuesday as high pressure begins to move in. Nice weather on Wednesday with partly cloudy skies.

Another front will approach on Thursday with another round of rain and thunderstorms. A few showers could linger into Friday.

Nice weather for the weekend with partly cloudy skies and warm temperatures.

WBNG7Day (2)

The week ahead in fly fishing: July 16, 2017

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , on July 18, 2017 by stflyfisher

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.

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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.

Hatching:

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.

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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!

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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

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In like a lamb – a Preview on March Fly Fishing

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on March 4, 2017 by stflyfisher

March is a transition month for fishermen, particularly fly fishermen. It is a month when (traditionally) the snow melt starts in the Southern Tier, creeks and streams pick up that wonderful run-off green color, and on sunny days, a few bugs, mainly little black stoneflies, begin to flutter clumsily about.

March is just as well known as the fickle entrance to spring, when warm days, as we’ve recently been experiencing, tempt us into thinking old man winter is on the way out. Indeed, we can start the month warm and end up deep with snow. So it is said, March will come in like a lamb or lion and exit just the opposite. And while March 2017 came in very lamb-like, March to-date has been very lion-like with cold and even frigid temps, high winds, and snow squalls.

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What March can look like. This picture was taken deep in Vestal’s Jones Park on 3/7/15.

We’ve had another relatively mild winter. December proved the coldest month and February has been downright balmy. Hopefully this weather pattern is not prelude to another dry summer and fall. Last year’s drought was extreme by most measures. As reported here, the weather pattern made for some great warmwater fishing but suicidal trout conditions. In any case, early March is a good time to look ahead on the year and give a head’s up on fly fishing events, activities, and preview early season fly fishing.

Events to watch or attend:

The Fly Fishing Show in Lancaster, PA – For those who missed the Somerset NJ show, the final “reasonably local” opportunity to attend will be the Lancaster, PA show which will be held Saturday, March 4th through Sunday, March 5th. Exhibitor booths will include non-stop casting demonstrations, seminars, fly-tying, a Women’s Fly Fishing Showcase, Fly Fishing Film Festival, book signings and the newest fly fishing tackle and gear. Fly Fishing Show admission is $15 for one day and $25 for both days. Children under age 5 are free as are Scouts under 16 in uniform. Active military with an ID are $10. Hours are: Sat. – 9 am-5:30 pm; Sun. – 9 am-4:30 pm.

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Ithaca Fishing Day – The Leon Chandler chapter of TU will once again celebrate the arrival of spring with Ithaca Fishing Day. And this one will be the 25th! This is a great event for fly fishers of all ages and skill levels. The event will be held on Saturday, March 25th from 9 am to 4 pm.

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The Twin Tiers Five Rivers (TT5R) Fly Fishing Academy – The TT5R Chapter of  IFFF is sponsoring its 10th Annual Fly Fishing Academy. This is a high-quality fly fishing course, open to Adults and to Youth 11 yrs old and over. The class will provide beginner fly fishers with the basic knowledge and skills to get started, and will help those familiar with the sport onto a fast track to improve. Classroom topics include fly fishing equipment and its use, fly types and their usage, knot tying, reading water, basic entomology, fishing dry flies, streamers, and nymphs, catching and releasing fish. Students will most importantly develop fly casting skills through three sessions throughout the day. Students can bring and learn on their own equipment, but are welcome to use the club’s equipment. More than 15 members and fly fishing experts staff the school, bringing over 200 years of fly fishing experience to help you learn and have fun. Kirk Klingensmith is the Lead Instructor for the Academy. Chas Elliott leads the fly casting staff and is an Internationally Certified Casting Instructor. Class fee is $85 for Adults (ages 16 and over) and $40 for Youth (ages 11-15, accompanied by a registered Adult). TT5R Members are also eligible for a $10 discount. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Prepaid registration is required by Fri., March 31st. Class size is limited, so please register early. Contacts : Steve Harris 607-377-4956, sjh529@stny.rr.com, or Kirk Klingensmith 607-346-7189, kklingensmi@stny.rr.com.

Activities:

Wader work – If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to go over all of your wading gear. Check boots for damage, replace missing studs, check laces for wear and get your felt bottoms replaced if they are worn. Check and repair your waders for leaks. And check your wading staff for functionality.

Fly rods – Go over all of your fly rods in the following steps: clean, inspect, repair. Start by cleaning with soap and water, paying particular attention to the crannies around the guides. A soft bristle toothbrush can help with deep cleaning. Once clean, a light coat of car wax improves the finish and helps protect your rod from accumulation of dirt. Don’t forget to clean the cork grip. Soap and a soft bristle brush, Softscrub, or eraser sponges do a great job of removing grit and grime.

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The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser works great on cleaning cork.

Next, inspect your rod for damage. Run pantyhose material through the guides to detect burrs. Inspect the wraps for wear or damage. Check the reel seat. Examine the blank for dings that could be stress concentration points. Once you are done inspecting, take action to correct any discrepancies.

Fly reels – Start by removing the fly line from the reel. Set that aside for further examination. Next, check the backing. Is the backing still fresh or is there evidence of mildew or wear? Backing is relatively cheap to replace and you’ll be glad you did if a big fish ever takes you there. Now, insect the reel for dirt and damage. Light cleaning with soap and water will remove most grime. In some cases using a Q-Tip will help clean the crevices. A light coat of oil on the reel spindle and handle helps. Check your fly reel maintenance instructions for specific maintenance on the drag system.

Fly lines – Take each fly line and coil it into a tub of warm soapy water. Allow it to soak and then run the line through a sponge or clean wet cloth to clean it. Once cleaned, lay it out in large loose coils to dry. Once your line is dry, dress the line with quality line dressing and let it dry. Once the dressed line is dry, wipe it down with another clean dry cloth and store the line in loose coils until ready to use again.

Inventory fly boxes and tie up – It pays to go through your fly boxes and take inventory BEFORE you get on the water. You can decide whether to buy or tie.

Fly fishing opportunities:

For most anglers, March means trout (where the season is open), landlocked salmon, and steelhead. Rainbow trout will run up the Finger Lakes tribs but these fish are on their way to spawn and are protected until Opening Day on April 1st. It’s important to keep regulations in mind at this time of year as they vary significantly by water, species, and allowed angling methods. There are a number of local creeks, for example, that are open all year under artificial lures (flies) / catch and release rules. Other creeks are closed until the traditional opening day. Some Catskill waters are open, such as the border waters on the West Branch of the Delaware. And the Finger lakes are always a possibility. One of the most popular destinations for early season anglers are the Great Lakes tribs such as the Salmon River, where steelhead and browns can be caught. Steelhead, in particular will be coming into the river to spawn in some cases and later in spring, will drop back after spawning. Water temperatures and flows play a big part in the fishing.

Early season flies also vary but egg patterns, nymphs, and streamers are best, depending on the waters being fished. March water temps are almost always very cold, so fish nymphs and egg patterns dead drift or streamers slow and deep.

Regardless of what kind of fishing you are doing, fly fishing in the early season can often times be hit or miss, but no matter what, it’s a great way to get a fly fishing tune-up for better fishing to come.

The week ahead in fly fishing: February 27, 2107

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on February 26, 2017 by stflyfisher

Spring certainly visited the Southern Tier with gusto this past week. Record temperatures were set with highs, at times, hitting the low 70’s. And those high temperatures went to work on the snow pack, swelling local creeks, streams, and rivers with snow-melt. Most ponds and smaller lakes are largely ice-free and all of our snow is gone. As nice as it was to get a tease of spring and even early summer, let’s hope the weather returns to normal and some of the white stuff hits the ground again.

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The East Branch of Owego Creek flows high and turbid with snow melt in this picture taken on Friday, February 24.

Fly shop talk: I’ve recently been attending the BC Flyfisher’s fly tying class, learning how to tie guide flies. The class has provided an opportunity to connect with other anglers, shake off the fly tying rust, and learn how to tie some simple but very effective fly patterns. Guide flies are fish catchers – cheap in material use and fast to tie. And as John Trainor stated in one of the first two classes, when you lose some of the nymphs to the bottom, which you should be doing if you are fishing where you should be, you don’t mind losing them in comparison to a more technical fly that you just purchased at a fly shop. Guide flies are probably the epitome of effectiveness and tying them should remind us all that fly fishing need not be as pricey or “difficult” as it is sometimes portrayed. Going forward this year, I’ll be carrying plenty of these patterns in my vest, but more so, I’ll try to keep my fly fishing just like these guide flies – efficient and effective.

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

Great Lakes / Finger Lakes tributaries: The Douglaston Salmon Run has been reporting poorer results lately, mainly due to river conditions. Most of the snow is melted and the run-off has really kicked flows up significantly. Whitaker’s is reporting the much same and advises anglers to check river flows before venturing out.

 

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Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone reports that water temperatures are in the 41 degree range on the surface of the larger Finger Lakes. The action over the past three days has been good to very good for the most part. Here’s his lake-by-lake report:

 

  • Cayuga Lake:  Fishing has been productive for landlocked salmon and brown trout along with occasional rainbows and lakers.  Both fly-and gear fishing are working.   The water level is low here and launching and retrieving boats could be a hassle for some. Lake trout jigging is good to very good.
  • Seneca Lake:  Fishing is currently fair to good for landlocked salmon and brown trout.  Perch and pike fishing should be good.
  • Keuka Lake:  Lake trout fishing should still be good here.
  • Owasco Lake:  Lake trout and northern pike fishing should be good here.
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Rainbow trout, landlocked salmon and yellow perch fishing should be good here.

Fly fishing events: Here’s a summary of upcoming events:

  • The Twin Tiers Five Rivers chapter of IFFF will be holding its next monthly chapter meeting on Monday, March 6th. Make sure to mark your calendars because this will be a good one. Joe Goodspeed, Sales Rep. for Thomas and Thomas, will be visiting to talk about Fly Fishing for Muskies. Joe is known for being a very diversified fly fisher who thinks outside the box and targets many different species. His talks are always interesting. Prior to his presentation, Joe will be tying a fly he uses for musky fishing. Joe always has some interesting stories and techniques to share, so you will not what to to miss this presentation. Fly tying demo will start at 6:30 pm, with the presentation starting at 7:00, at the Big Flats Community Center, 476 Maple Street, Big Flats.
  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF held the second of a series of four fly tying classes  on Saturday, February 25. The class is focused on tying guide flies – flies known for their simplicity and high effectiveness in fooling fish. Some very skilled and experienced fly tyers will be leading the remaining two classes. While the class is closed to new participants, the public is welcome to come, observe, and learn more about fly tying, fly fishing, and the BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF. If interested, read more here. The next class will be held on Saturday, March 4 at 12 pm in the basement meeting room of the Endicott Public Library. On hand to teach will be Joe Cambridge, who has presented at previous BCFF monthly meetings.
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The “Turd”, shown here in fly tying instructor Tim Barrett’s vise, was one of four guide flies taught in this past Saturday’s BCFF Fly Tying class.

  • The Fly Fishing Show is in town. For those who missed the Somerset NJ show, the final “reasonably local” opportunity to attend will be the Lancaster, PA show which will be held Saturday, March 4th through Sunday, March 5th. Exhibitor booths will include non-stop casting demonstrations, seminars, fly-tying, a Women’s Fly Fishing Showcase, Fly Fishing Film Festival, book signings and the newest fly fishing tackle and gear. Fly Fishing Show admission is $15 for one day and $25 for both days. Children under age 5 are free as are Scouts under 16 in uniform. Active military with an ID are $10. Hours are: Sat. – 9 am-5:30 pm; Sun. – 9 am-4:30 pm.

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  • The Eastern Waters Council of IFFF, parent organization of the BC Flyfishers and Twin Tiers Five Rivers chapter, is having a contest to bring in new members, called “Giving the Gift Of Membership”. The contest is to encourage current members to buy an IFFF membership as a gift to a fly fishing friend, fishing buddy, or family member. You will be entered in a raffle for a new Sage Rod and Reel. To enter the contest, call Kat Mulqueen (406-222-9369 X106) at IFFF headquarters, tell her you are from the BCFF chapter or TTFR chapter, Eastern Waters Council and that you want to participate in the Giving the Gift of Membership. You will need to provide the giftee name, address and email and pay for their membership. There is also a prize for the club that brings in the most new members. You will be helping your buddy, your Club and the IFFF, and you will be eligible to win an awesome new rod and reel! The contest ends May 1st.

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

A few snowflakes will end up falling on Sunday, with light accumulations, from 0-1″, expected, particularly at the higher elevations. MINOR flooding is also possible through Sunday evening, as ground conditions are such that the heavy rainfall received Saturday could cause flooding in some areas.

Colder air sets up and hangs around through Sunday night. More mild air looks to return Monday and stay through midweek, with temperatures possibly reaching into the mid-50s again come Wednesday. We are watching a few batches of rain showers, one on Tuesday and another low-pressure system on Wednesday. Both of which look to shake up the first half of our week. Some snow showers are then possible on the back end of that low-pressure system on Thursday. High pressure takes over Friday and Saturday, as quiet and more seasonable weather returns to the Southern Tier.

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Looking back on 2016…

Posted in Carp, Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Rod Building, Saltwater, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on January 17, 2017 by stflyfisher

“To be able to look back upon one’s life in satisfaction, is to live twice”

Kahlil Gibran

The book on 2016 is now officially closed and as most who peruse my blog know, I like to take a look back on each year fly fishing the Southern Tier before looking forward to the year ahead.

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The beautiful West Branch of the Delaware – a classic Upstate New York trout fishery that will hopefully continue to provide great fly fishing in 2017…

2016 was an interesting mix of fly fishing highs and lows for the Southern Tier and for me in particular. I’ll summarize those points with commentary in this post. Look for a “year ahead” post in the coming weeks as well as a review of my performance to last year’s fly fishing goals and a list of what I want to accomplish in 2017.

Weather / Climate Summary – The top story of the year is the drought that started slowly, but hung on through summer and early fall to the point where many small creeks and streams were dangerously low, if not outright dried-up. Owego Creek, for example, was dry in sections, something I’ve never seen in the 24 years I’ve lived in the Southern Tier. What’s often not so good for some fishing, however, can be good for others. The warmwater rivers of our area were low enough for good wading access as early as April and even the mighty Susquehanna was low by late June.

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A large fallfish nest lies exposed on the Susquehanna River. This might be expected in a dry year in August, but to see this in late June is a testament to the severity of the 2016 drought.

By July, one could wade across the Susquehanna in many places! River flows hit a low of 500 CFS in mid-September – making fishing from a boat difficult in some areas later in summer. Note the USGS chart below…

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As can be seen in the next chart, temperatures were on the warm side in February and March, precipitating early snow-melt, but then tracked in a fairly tight range for the remainder of the year. Precipitation, or lack thereof, was the bigger issue. The chart below shows a growing deficit that widened significantly into the early fall.

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BC Flyfisher’s 1st fly rod building class – The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF kicked off 2016 with a rod building class taught by expert rod maker, Joe Swam. The class was outstanding – the group small enough to allow personalized teaching from Joe. It was so good I’m enrolled in the second annual rod building class as I write this. The best thing about the class was the knowledged gained on not only “how”, but “why” fly rods are built as they are. As an example, I never understood why the female end of each rod section is wrapped much like a guide. Now I know, thanks to the class, that the ferrule is very weak and the wrap serves to re-enforce the rod. Obviously too, rod building opens endless opportunity to build a rod that is totally your creation, and perfectly suited to your fly fishing needs. I’ll never buy another. Thanks, Joe!

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Rod wrapping with Hemingway.

Visit to Destin – I visited Destin, Florida, and my son Chris, on my way to a business trip destination at the end of January. I’d never been to the “Emerald Coast” of the panhandle of Florida. I brought my 9 weight saltwater fly fishing outfit with me but without much local guidance, I was unable to stir up a bite. Nonetheless, in talking with a few locals, I was immediately impressed with the fly fishing potential, especially when one older angler answered my query on the fishing by saying, ‘the fishing is not good, it is excellent, most excellent…’

April Steelhead – I made it out for steelhead on a very cold and wet, early April day. I once again was able to fish with friend Bob Card and guide Tony Gulisano. Tony is a great guide and is adept in angling for steelhead and salmon in all ways – spinning, centerpin, and fly fishing. Although I did raise one fish, I skunked out while Bob hooked into a number of steelhead and lost a few more. The only bad side to the trip were the repeated disappointing statements from Tony on what he was seeing as we drifted the river. The numbers of steelhead were low according to him – in some places he saw only a few fish where he’d normally see 20, 30, or more. Tony’s observations are based on years guiding the river. What he saw in early 2016 more or less predicted less than a great run of steelhead in the fall.

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Bob Card with a nice spring steelhead…

Owego Creek – I was able to get out on the “lower” Owego Creek with Rick Searles. Owego Creek is homewater to Rick – he knows it well and has caught some true trophy browns from the Owego. Rick showed me some areas to fish but was pretty up front about expectations. The lower Owego Creek is not loaded with trout but when one does find them they can be very high quality fish, including some big holdovers and wild browns as well. While I did not do so well the couple of times I fished it, I’m a believer in this small creek’s potential. Rick and I fished it in the spring but as mentioned above, by June the creek was extremely low. I stayed away from ALL creeks for the remainder of the year. I figured wild and holdover browns had enough to contend with from Mother Nature.

April Visit to Destin – I managed to visit Destin, Florida again in April along with my wife. We flew down to see our son, Chris, but in the process, decided to see what real estate was like. One thing led to another and before long we were hooked on buying. I never pictured my later life as involving the “snowbird migration”, but suddenly the thought of living part of the year in a warm climate where the fishing is both good and different and then returning north for late spring through fall seemed to appeal to me. On top of that, Destin has a strong vacation rental market and buying a property would allow us to own an investment that we could use a bit, letting rental income defray at least some of the cost before retirement. We ended up buying a townhouse on a stocked lake just minutes from the beach and 5 minutes by golf cart to Cowahatchee Bay…

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Early Season Bronze – The pre-spawn smallmouth bass bite turned out to be excellent. With water levels at spring lows, it didn’t take long to break out my smallmouth gear and look for some early season bronze. I had some excellent fishing starting with the smaller warmwater rivers like the Tioughnioga, but eventually even the big Susquehanna dropped to levels that offered exceptional fly fishing. This early season bite is always there, of course, but only when winters are mild and the rivers are relatively tame does it open up for the wading fly angler. I fished the smaller rivers early on and found some “football” smallies and equally stout fallfish in the river braids and shallow eddies…

Later in the spring, the big Susquehanna also dropped to wadeable levels, and the fishing opened up there too. I did my best to get out when the getting was good, and scored some nice bass in the process. I even got a chance to break in my newly made fly rod, dubbed “The Golden Bear” because of its Vestal High School colors of green and gold…

 

Trout & Memorial Day – I didn’t fly fish for trout as much as I’ve done in past years. Blame the low warmwater river levels and my obsession with smallmouth bass and other warmwater river species. I did make it down to my favorite place on the West Branch of the Delaware River a few times, the most memorable and personally rewarding being Memorial Day. A former sailor, Dan, contacted me out of the blue. He had read my Memorial Day blog posts and told me he had worked for Bob Shippee, one of the 37 on board who had died when the Stark was attacked in 1987. The more I read of Bob Shippee and the more I corresponded with the man who first wrote me about him, the more I wanted to write a tribute to Shippee.

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Memorial Day brown – and evidence that Bob Shippe was listening…

Carp – I ran into a few carp this year and fished for them intentionally a few more times. My first encounter was while fishing for early season bass with “The Golden Bear” – a good test of any rod and one that made me smile all the more.

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Big river carp are a great way to test out a newly built fly rod…

I caught another dandy on the Tioughnioga with Singer’s Crayfish in a size 6 – a great little pattern that’s equally good on smallmouth. In this specific case, I sawa at least a dozen carp moving and feeding in a deep hole. A few drifts with my crayfish pattern and I was hit solidly. What a great fight these fish can put on! My other attempts resulted in a few missed hook-ups but these scouting trips proved fruitful in uncovering a number of areas to fish in 2017.

Father’s Day – I spent a very special Father’s Day with a long distance fly fishing friend, Joe Laney. Originally from the northwest, Joe currently lives and works in Manhattan with his wife and daughter, but has connections in the Southern Tier through his wife’s family. He happened to read some of my posts way back when and eventually we met up to fish our local waters. Since then, we usually get out when he’s up our way. Joe’s a very good fly angler. On this past Father’s Day we explored the Otselic River and enjoyed catching some nice smallmouth bass, fallfish, and even a few rock bass. It’s always a joy to fish new water, especially with a good friend…

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Joe releases a nice fallfish on the beautiful Otselic River…

Catfish – I’ve been running into Mr. Whiskers for a number of years, but it seems like my encounters have increased most recently, prompting me to fish intentionally for them while out hunting bass. Counter to general opinion, the channel catfish that populate our warmwater rivers will aggressively hit a fly, especially large buggy streamers and nymphs. Once hooked, hang on for a deep and dirty fight, even on an 8 weight rod. The state record was a 32 lb fish caught in Brant Lake, but I’d bet river cats are tougher, pound for pound, than their laker kin due to river conditioning. I caught a half dozen up to 32″ with just as many missed in 2016 and repeated an early fall pattern where they were feeding on large emerging mayflies! Go figure…

The Fall Float – I’ve made it out on my small and humble kayak every fall for the last few years and these solo floats always prove very productive. The Susquehanna was very low when I launched downstream this year, making for some even skinnier paddling in places. I fished mainly buggers and the bass were hot to play, including several very nice ones. I did not get a shot at musky or pike, but saw a “fingerling” musky – maybe 12″ long holding near some weeds in about a foot of water. That was most encouraging. Also in the mix was a very nice channel cat and countless fallfish, probably one of the most under-rated beginner “fly fisher fish”, but a species that always fights with bravado and readily and heartily takes a fly…

Blues – The fishing for bluefish was pretty damn good this year. That’s something I truly missed the last several years. Fishing seemed to change off Barnegat Light / Long Beach Island ever since Hurricane Sandy decimated the Jersey shore and that change to the fishing (along with regulation changes) took its toll on the party boats. Whereas two boats – Doris Mae and Miss Barnegat Light – ALWAYS ran for blues from spring through fall, day and night, fishing deteriorated so badly that these boats began to cut back on their trips. Sadly, Doris Mae eventually sold out. Theories abound on specifically why the fishing has changed for Barnegat Light – some indicate bottom changes due to the storm – others point to changes in seasonal currents. Whatever the cause, the trip (think fuel expense and time to fish) to reach blues from Barnegat Light did not make business sense. So after reading some glowing reports this past fall, I looked about 40 minutes north to the boats out of Belmar and I was not disappointed. I took a trip aboard The Golden Eagle with my cousin, Mark, and we had a great day. The only disappointment was that the fish mainly wanted bait in the chum slick. I prefer to jig for them, but it was so good to feel their brute power…

Destin – My wife and I returned to Destin in early November to spend a week at our place there. I finally got a chance to meet Ed Greene, a local fisherman and neighbor to our realtor. He was gracious enough to take me out to the expansive Cowahatchee Bay on his center console 23 foot fishing boat. We fished primarily for “trout” as they are referred to in the south. The bay holds a wide range of gamefish, including summer flounder, ladyfish, bluefish, redfish, trout, jacks, spanish mackerel, and even cobia and tarpon. Once I got a handle on the fishing, thanks to Ed’s sage advice, I ventured out on my own, wading the bayside shallows and tidal creeks. I fished a 9 foot 8 weight rod, an intermediate line, a 6 foot leader, and a number of streamers / shrimp patterns, but the best producer was a chartreuse and white clouser minnow. My efforts were rewarded with a number of small trout, a redfish, many lizardfish, and a summer flounder – a great intro to fly fishing, Emerald Coast style, and to think it was only a 5 minute ride in a golf cart to miles of bay fly fishing…

Ed also was kind enough to take me out wreck fishing offshore in a friend’s 27 foot center console boat. Our target species was red snapper. We first jigged up live bait in the East Pass inlet using light spinning gear and tiny sabiki rigs. This was fun stuff in itself. Proper technique could end up with 3, 4, or even 5 feisty baitfish on the multiple hook rigs. After we had a good supply of live bait, we cranked up and headed offshore to wrecks that Ed had in his GPS unit. We fished in water 50 to 90’+ and used pretty stout boat rods with 60lb mono. The rig was classic bluefish stuff – egg sinker (in this case 8 ounces!), swivel, leader, and snelled circle hook. I’d never fished a circle hook and it does take some getting used to. The idea is to just let the fish take the bait and simply tighten up to it without lifting the rod. The circle hook then rotates in the fish’s mouth, rolls, and hooks the fish in the corner of the mouth. I quickly got the hang of it, and in combination with the 3 other gulf-fishing veterans, it wasn’ long before we each had our 2 fish limit in the cooler. These were beautiful red snappers, hard fighting and even better tasting…

Salmon – Another first for me was a trip to fish the salmon run in the Salmon River. I made it up to the Upper Fly Zone – an area I had never fished before but one about which I’d heard good comments. I fished it with angler friend Bob Card on a rainy day. For those unacquainted, the Upper Fly Zone is beautiful water and well worth a full day or days of fishing. I hooked up as did Bob but we did not land one of thee black beasts, primarily due to our position on the river. If nothing else, it was a great recon trip. I’ll certainly be back up there again in 2017.

The Magic of 100 – I’ll finish up this post with a comment on achieving a goal I set at the start of 2016 to “fish and/or engage in fly fishing events and activities 100 times”. Look for a future post on this idea of “100”in the near future, but setting that goal was largely responsible for most of the 2016 memories that I’ve posted here.

And so, I’ll close out 2016 with a wish that 2017 is even better for Southern Tier long rodders…!