The colors are beginning to fill in the hillsides. And the silver maples that line the river are turning to gold. This upcoming week will only get brighter in terms of the colors as we move towards peak. Meanwhile, the rains over late last week and the weekend served to at least add a little to our woefully deprived creeks. The fact that the Susquehanna bumped up a bit is a good sign but we still have a ways to go.
This week we wade into October and the great fall fly fishing transition. Get out and wet a line now while conditions are still good for a broad swath of the species covered here. Remember too that the general trout season closes in two weeks, so the trouty types should get their fill while the getting’s good.
Fly shop talk: Many of us start off fishing with some idea on where we want to go and what we want to do. We may arrange to fish a river or stream with a friend or we may decide to fish alone. Whatever the case, how many of us have a well thought-out plan? Especially for those who work, time is precious, and time on the water even more so. Our fly fishing hours are precious, after all, and any fly fishing outing deserves a plan of some sort. I like to develop a Plan A and a back-up plan, Plan B. Plan A is developed after checking the weather, the USGS water gauge for the areas of interest, and fishing reports. Timing, access and egress, stretches of the water to be fished are all reviewed in advance. Plan B develops along the same lines but is a back-up plan with a twist. I always have a Plan B whenever I go fishing thanks to Mike Hogue, a well-known Ithaca area angler and owner of Badger Creek Fly Tying. Mike writes a lot about “exploring” fishing trips, and so my Plan B is always fishing new water. That way, if Plan A is a bust because the fish aren’t cooperating, I always end the day on a high note by feeling like I made the best of it and took time to explore new water. One never knows when new water ends up being favorite water, too.
Here’s the fly fishing report for the week ahead:
Great Lakes / Finger Lakes tributaries: The DEC recently announced that it’s closed the Lower Fly Zone to fishing until further notice. This announcement came in conjunction with a cut in the release for the river. The release cut was apparently made to conserve reservoir water in case the current drought persists. It’s being done to protect the spawning salmon, according to the DEC. It’s anyone’s guess what impact this lower release will have on the salmon run. Some believe lower water hinders the run, while others believe the salmon will run to spawn, regardless of conditions. The Douglaston Salmon Run is reporting that there’s currently a very light trickle of fish into lower part of the river (“3s and 4s”), and throughout the DSR section of the river. Anglers are catching fish but the best action seems to be in the early hours of the morning. Whitakers Sport’s Store and Motel is reporting that the fish have adjusted to the low water and have mostly been holding in the deep holes during the day and moving from hole to hole at night. With increased fishing pressure the best action has been first thing in the morning and later in the day once the crowd thins out. Anglers who have had the most success stayed in and around the deeper holes. The low water pushes the fish to the deeper holes because it’s the only place they can hide and have cover. Because these areas can be crowded and the water is low and clear, the fish may be skittish or more line shy then normal. Using fluorocarbon, adjusting leader/tippet, and using more natural colors instead of big bright flashy stuff can all make a difference under the current conditions.
Catskill rivers: The West Branch Angler reports that the area got some rain this weekend but not enough to make much difference to the river but they did increase the release overnight bringing Stilesville up to 642 cfs and just under 800 cfs at Hale Eddy. The river still has a decent amount of stain, especially on the West due to the release this time of year. We’ve had rain the last few days and the streamer fishing has been decent for most. We have had some Blue Winged Olives and Cahills but the dry fly fishing has been spotty at best overall. The temps are in the low to mid 50’s on the West and upper 50’s on the mainstem. The water is a bit cleaner down on the mainstem as the silt drops as you head down river. Nymph fishermen are doing well now that the rivers aren’t too high due to releases. The Delaware River Club reports that the recent release from Cannonsville Reservoir is 696 cfs. This leaves the West Branch is decent shape for both floating and wading. The Mainstem will rise a little but will also remain good for wading and floating. The East Branch temperatures are decent and the river is in good shape for wading. We have been hearing some reports of fish being landed on the lower stretches. Wet flies and caddis pupa have been working for the nymphers while small dark streamers are taking some fish. We are seeing some isonychias in spots. They still seem a little spotty but some people are finding decent numbers of them. Most of the dry fly action has been on small olives in the afternoon.
Here’s what’s hatching:
- Slate Drake – 12-2xl- 14- Isonychia bicolor
Sulphur – #16-20 – E dorothea
Light Cahill – #14 – 16 –
Tiny Blue Winged Olive – #22 – 26 – Psuedocloeon spp.
Blue Winged Olive – #18 – 20 – E. lata
Light Blue Winged Olive – #16 – 20 E. attenuatta
Tan Caddis – #16 – 20 – Hydropsyche spp.
Dark Brachycentrus sp. – #14 – 18 – Dark Grannom
Little Black Caddis #18 – 20 – Chimarra sp.
Blue Winged Olives #16 – 18 – Baetis vagans (updated name: Baetis tricaudatus)
Local streams and creeks: Creeks picked up a little water with recent rains but not much. Cooler nights are helping the warm water but it’s still best to give the creek trout a break for now.
Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone gives the following lake-by-lake report:
- Cayuga Lake: Fishing for lake trout is fair to good. Bonus salmonids are occasionally in the mix. Crews are replacing the intake screen at AES. There are a couple barges out there.
- Owasco Lake: The water level here is low but launchable without problems thus far. Lake trout action here has been fair to good. Bonus bass, rainbow and brown trout are around. Smallmouth bass fishing should be good. Perch and pike fishing should pick up.
- Seneca Lake: The water level here is very low. Launching could be a problem in areas. Expect pike fishing to pick up as the lake cools. The southern third of the lake should offer some fair fishing for browns, lake trout and salmon, but it’s still a crapshoot.
- Skaneateles Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is fair to good. Bonus perch are around as well as the usual rockbass. The water level is very low here but launching at the State Launch is not a problem.
Ponds: As we move into cooler weather, fishing will be best in the late afternoon and early evening when water temps are highest. Bass and sunfish will remain active and willing partners to fly fishermen under current conditions. Topwater is a good choice and don’t forget the damselfly, grasshopper, cricket, and beetle patterns. Poppers will work well along weed edges, structure, and lilly pads.
Warmwater rivers: The warmwater rivers were dropping to new lows but got a little recharge due to the recent rains. Still, they are easily waded, making for great fly fishing. These river levels are allowing a lot of normally out-of-reach pools, runs, and riffles to be accessed safely.
The smallmouth bite remains excellent thanks to cooling water temps which seem to be strengthening the fall bite. Water temps are as low as the mid 60’s.
The rivers are loaded with bait and that bait is getting bigger as fall progresses. Water clarity is excellent. Early morning and late afternoon to sun-down are the best times to hit the rivers. Focus on the pool tailouts where smallmouth often set up to chase bait in the shallower water. Key in on structure and in particular, rocks, downfalls, and weedbeds. Streamers are the best bet, however, poppers can also be good, particularly in pools, slower water, and eddies. And remember on bluebird sky days where the sun is really bright, look for shady areas to fish as bass are light-shy.
In addition to smallmouth bass, be prepared to encounter a variety of other warmwater species. Fishing streamers and large nymphs in the deeper pools and around structure can often times drum up a good mix of river species. Channel catfish, walleye, northern pike, carp, fallfish, and musky can all be caught on any given day on the warmwater rivers.
Fly fishing events: Here’s a summary of what’s in store for the week:
- The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF is auctioning their prized 100th Anniversary Cortland Fly Rod. Read more about this unique and valuable fly rod, here.
- The Twin Tier Five Rivers chapter of IFFF will hold its next general meeting on October 3rd. Former Cornell professor Dr. Tony Ingraffrea will be visiting to talk about fishing Alaska. While some know Dr. Ingraffrea from his talks about fracking and the Marcellus Shale, he also has had the pleasure of fishing in Alaska many times, and on Oct. 3rd he plans to discuss those many trips, along with tips for making your own trip of a lifetime to the last frontier the best it can be.
The week ahead weather: WBNG’s week-ahead weather forecast is as follows:
According to WBNG’s Nathan Hopper, the cut-off low pressure system is still hanging around the Great Lakes just as we thought it would because it’s separated from the main jet stream. We don’t expect it to move very far from that area, which means that clouds and showers will be possible up through Monday here in the Southern Tier. High pressure then looks to kick that cut-off low back into the main jet stream and move it toward the northeast early in the week. Once that high pressure takes hold in the central plains, we’ll start to see a clearing trend and drier conditions will work their way in by mid-week. Thursday will be sunny under that high pressure, and temperatures will be comfortable as they work toward the 70-degree mark. 70 degrees is about 8 degrees above average for the first week in October. The next weather-maker looks to come in Friday and affect Saturday, as well, with a 30% chance of showers on Saturday.