Northeast Fishing Report: 11/20/20 - The Compleat Angler

November 20, 2020

Greetings Compleat Anglers! Fresh rain has created superb conditions on the Ontario Tributaries and a fresh push of fish has been surging up most rivers. Perfect timing if you were there this past week and the conditions should continue to hold a little longer too. On our local trout waters it is pretty much a nymph game now though relatively mild temps have provided nice pockets of hatches here and there. And in Long Island Sound anglers are still reporting excellent bass fishing, even as things have started to tail off further to the east. As always read on for the details!

New York

Freshwater

Ontario Tributaries

What a difference a week makes! The Ontario Tributaries have much more water than in the past few months. As a result, the fish are moving! As of Friday 11/20 water levels were up across the board. That nasty storm front on Sunday whacked the Great Lakes region putting down significant rainfall. With cloudy conditions and more rain in the forecast, now would be an opportune time to hit some of the smaller tribs along Ontario and Erie. This influx of water will send fish flooding in and the fishing should be pretty darn good regardless of where you decide to drop a line. The Kings and Silvers are all but done, however Steelhead and Browns will start pouring in. The larger rivers such as the Salmon will begin to fish very well too. Not that is hasn’t been good lately. Reports have been great from the Salmon River but things have improved significantly the last few days. Why? The high water has pushed lots of fresh fish into the system while fish that are already in the river have begun a concerted push upstream. Low water earlier in the season stifled the early push of Steelhead and higher water is exactly what they have been waiting for. As such, there are no bad options as far as locations go right now.

The upstream Fly Fishing Only Zones have been hot this week but with more and more fish filtering in, I would expect the lower and middle sections to light up as well. The DSR is reporting awesome fishing and we are also hearing from our customers who are up there that the bite is on! The higher water will also open up pocket water. My personal favorite, these smaller pockets will hold fish for a time before they continue upriver. These are great spots to get on some unpressured fish and get away from the crowds. You can also cover much more water which is always a good practice on any Great Lakes river.

Egg imitations are still the go-to and will be for the next month or so. Stoneflies, nymphs and baitfish patterns will work but tend to come into their own later in the season. The weather is nice, there are plenty of fish in the rivers, and water levels are much closer to historic averages for this time of year. What are you waiting for? Now is the time to go. It is prime time.

Saltwater

Things seem to be slowing down on the East end of Long Island. Montauk light is becoming less and less consistent. While there have been some good days from shore this week, the strong winds and dropping temps have most anglers pulling their boats or staying close to home as the fishing has been great further to the West. If you are local then my no means is the season over. Beaches and bays have been loaded with bait and plenty of schoolies around to keep fly rods bent. Some straggling larger migratory fish will be pushing through in the next few weeks as well so focus on good holding structure that will corral larger bait. To the West and especially on the North shore, fishing has been very good from Smithtown Bay, West. There are Bunker everywhere, including Peanuts which has the Stripers on the move. They have been tough to pin down however. They are there one day and gone the next. As the bait migrates, the Bass will follow so on any given day it's anybody’s guess as to where these fish are. A good game plan is to focus on large obstructions that funnel or hold bait. Points, rips, and drop-off are all great places to look. From shore, harbor mouths, jetties, points, and channels will all force bait into certain areas. The likelihood of finding fish here is much higher than say on a featureless beach so, keep that in mind. If you are willing to move around and try multiple spots, the odds are high that you will run into fish. 

Connecticut

Local streams are fishing well across the state. We are hearing from beginners and seasoned vets alike, the fishing has been awesome. There are plenty of fish in the smaller streams and with a good shot of rain for all but coastal Connecticut, water levels are great at the moment. The last stockings were over two weeks ago and, while a streamer may take a fish or two, it is time to switch it up to nymphs. There will be no more stockings for the rest of the year and that means it is time to switch up your tactics once again. The majority of the smaller streams have received a good amount of pressure at this point so assume the fish will be educated. Smaller nymphs will be the most productive for these educated fish. The amount of angling pressure the fish get will also directly reflect what flies to use. Generally, less pressure equals larger nymphs with more flash while more pressure requires smaller flies with little or no flash. I tend to find that a s16 or 18 beadhead caddis variation is tough to beat when we have these conditions. A wide variety of colors work but tan, brown, and black are my go-to’s. The key is a perfect, drag-free drift and getting the fly deep enough. That fly should be right on the bottom. Add split-shot to get the fly down if the area you are fishing is deep and make sure to constantly switch flies. Give it about 10 good drifts and if you don’t get bit, switch. Keep in mind that as the weeks pass these fish will only get more selective. Then as it cools down they will become much more lethargic. You will need to adjust for that but correctly doing so will keep the fly rod bent all winter. As a reminder, all Trout Management Areas (where the DEEP has stocked) are all catch and release only as of August 31st. It is also Single Hook – Artificial only. The majority of fly anglers are catch and release anyway. However, if you do see any poaching going on, call 800-842-4357 and report it to the CTDEEP. That way the fishing will remain good all Winter. All TMAs will remain catch and release until mid-April of 2021. 

Farmington River

Keep in mind: As of September 1st, almost the entirety of the West Branch of the Farmington River is now all catch and release. From the Goodwin Dam, 21 miles down to the Route 177 bridge is all catch and release only from now until the second Saturday in April. Please report any poaching to the DEEP by calling 800-842-4357.

The dry fly fishing is essentially over. BWOs, midges, and caddis are essentially all that is hatching now. These are all smaller bugs size 18 and below. If you plan on fishing the Farmy, streamers and nymphs are the best approaches. A tan beadhead caddis is always tough to beat on the Farmington as are Frenches. Keep in mind that most of your nymphs should be size 16 or smaller with a few exceptions. With the bump in water, try some larger stuff down deep and see if there are any takers. Tan, cream, light orange, and peach-colored Mop Flies do a decent job of imitating a ball of trout eggs. If you are in a lull, dropping a bigger fly down there can be a slump buster. Pat’s Rubber Legs will take fish in the faster water at times but don’t be stubborn with larger flies. Smaller patterns will be the most productive. That front that came through on Sunday added a bunch of water to the system and streamer fishing was good while the water was still high. The Still River has come down to around 90 CFS and falling. The Dam is putting out another 192 so the water has come down quite a bit. The streamer bite will tail off until another good shot of water hits. If you are going to fish streamers, downsize your flies. Smaller Sculpin patterns in olives and browns ought to do the trick. Mid-day has seen the most actively feeding fish and while mornings have their moments, mid-day and afternoons are proving to have the most action. As long as these temperatures hold, the fishing will continue to be good. As always, tie on a Zebra Midge if times are tough. There were a bunch of bigger Rainbows stocked from the Dam down to the Riverton Bridge on the 4th. As a result, the fishing has been pretty good in this stretch of water. These fish will be less selective than the wild or holdover fish so if you have been struggling a bit, head North.  

USGS Water-data graph for site 01186000

Housatonic River

The Storm on Sunday pushed the Housey close to 1000 CFS. While it was challenging fishing for most of the week, the water has subsided a bit and the general consensus is that the fishing is still very good. Anglers have been having a blast. There is still some decent dry fly fishing which is a bit surprising this late in the Fall. We have had a mild November thus far which has resulted in a somewhat extended dry fly season. BWOs and Caddis emergers are a sure thing on any given day and anglers are reporting some great takes on dries or dry-droppers. The forecast looks great with mild temperatures, some rain on the way, and no overnight freezes. That should keep the trout nice and happy for a while and it is safe to assume that the fishing will hold for a bit longer (that is, of course, we don’t get too much rain and the river blows out again). As of Friday the 20th, the river was running at 689 CFS. This is a perfect level for all types of presentations. The streamer fishing was very good this past week and expect that to continue. The water levels are perfect for swinging and stripping all types of steamer patterns. It seems that smaller patterns have been producing better than larger articulated ones so keep that in mind. Don’t fish anything too small. Sizes 4, 6, and 8 will be a good starting point. Yellow has been hot as has white. Color will depend on cloud cover and water clarity more than anything. The water has cleared up quite a bit so more “natural” colors will be most effective. Indicator nymphing seems to be the way to go right now. The Housey does not lend itself well to tight lining in most places. It's wider than the Farmington and, as such, indicators are the way to go. Eggs have been producing well but midges, small caddis, and BWOs seem to be the hot flies. As I mentioned before, the fishing should hold for the next few weeks provided we don’t get hammered with a ton of rain. The Pike fishing has been strong. Anglers are reporting consistent action and some big fish being caught. It seems as though they are at the peak of their activity level, which bodes well for the next few weeks. Most anglers are bringing a fish or two to hand every outing. While fly fishing for Esox is never a numbers game, odds are high that any effort to come tight on Pike will prove successful. Plenty of water, great water temps, and Fall conditions means any weather window has a high probability of success. The Smallies have been overlooked for the most part so we have not had a ton of reports but suffice to say that if you want to get into them it shouldn’t be too hard. What a Fall we have had on the Housey this season and by the looks of it the fishing will be good for a while! 

USGS Water-data graph for site 01199000

Saltwater

Connecticut is still fishing exceptionally well right now. Depending where and when you fish, chances are that fishing will be darn good. There are huge numbers of adult Bunker around at the moment. While that is great to see, one common mistake that many fly anglers make is spending all of their time working these bait schools. Don’t get me wrong, there will occasionally be some large Bass or Blues on these fish, but it’s generally pretty rare. Especially this time of year when there is a huge amount of Bunker balled up in the Sound, it is more effective to run around at a good speed and look for big sprays. That is a sure sign that the adult Bunker are being preyed upon. If you see Bunker just milling on the surface with their tails out of the water like hundreds of tiny sailboats, it is best to move on. If larger fish are your target, bust out the sinking lines and head out to the middle. If you can locate Bunker schools in deep water around the buoys, there is a better chance that the larger predatory fish will be on them.

There have bigger Bass around so if you are in deep water, keep an eye out. Schoolie Stripers are making up the majority of the action. When the bite has been hot, it has been really hot. However, we are also hearing that it has been feast or famine. Some anglers are hammering fish while others are struggling. The fish are tucked in tight for the most part. While a boat provides ease of movement and the ability to cover a ton of water, shore-based fly fishing is just as productive if you are in the right place at the right time. The mouth of the Housey, Penfield Reef, Compo, Burying Hill Beach, and Sasco Beach are all having their moments. Long Beach in Bridgeport has been good as well. It seems like there are no bad choices right now provided you go at the right times. Low light is always best unless it’s overcast.

The last two hours of the rising tide and the entirety of the falling tide are key. If you are fishing during these tides, when the light is low and the wind is NOT out the East, you should have no problem getting on fish. It may take trying a few spots to locate fish but once you do, it should be lights out fishing. Another mistake is that anglers use too big a fly or do not let it sink enough. Make sure you are matching the fly to Peanut Bunker and allow that fly to get down if you are blind casting. Those two things can make all the difference. Just remember, keep moving, fish the falling tide, no East wind, and fish the right flies deep. 


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