Northeast Fishing Report: 7/16/20 - The Compleat Angler

July 16, 2020

Greetings Compleat Anglers! The fishing this week is largely a continuation of last week. We're heading into the summer doldrums, sure, so many anglers will need to be a bit more selective to have successful fishing. That said, the region certainly has it's bright spots, and the saltwater action has been fast and furious off Montauk and in Rhode Island and Cape Cod and the Islands. Our recommendation this week is to keep an eye on the tide charts, head further east if you can, and shoot for those early morning and late afternoon windows. Read on for the details!

New York

Freshwater

The Beaverkill and Willowemoc are too warm to fish at this point. The trout are lethargic and trying to survive the Summer. Please fish elsewhere.

No significant change to the Delaware from last week. The Mainstem and lower East are all reaching over 70 degrees during the day and should be avoided at this point. The upper East and entire West are still nice and cold with fishable conditions. When ambient air temps start pushing 90, it becomes all about finding the coldest water possible. There are only a few places that do this and they are almost exclusively tailwaters. And of course, other anglers know it too, making the pressure on the West substantial. We highly recommend going on a weekday if you can. Both drift boats and wading anglers have been amassing on the West Branch lately and it has made fishing quite challenging. Even if this was a “normal” year, July and August are tough months on these rivers. The fish are educated and the insect options are somewhat limited. Sulphurs have been the go-to fly recently. They are the most numerous and will begin to hatch around mid-day. Having size 16 and 18 tied in a few different styles is critical. A unique pattern is often the key to success. A 16 Parachute Sulphur may take a fish or two but consider tying your own or fishing a buggier fly for better results. On cloudy or rainy days, the BWOs are coming off strong. This is a core fly up there and you can’t go wrong with an 18 Olive. There are Isos and Cahills coming off toward evening and some caddis still round as well. We highly recommend going up on a weekday when it is overcast if you can. There will be less angling pressure and overcast days are when the bugs will pop the hardest and the fish will be willing to take bugs off the surface more readily.

Saltwater

No significant change to last week’s report which, depending on where you are, is either good or great. Things on the Western End and Sound Side of Long Island are similar to that of Connecticut, namely, settling into a typical Summer fishery. On the Western end things are slowing into the doldrums. Expect the next few months to be tough. Fly anglers will need to work for their shots. The bigger Stripers have moved East, as have the Blues. It’s a Schoolie Striper and Harbor Blue fishery until the Albies show up.

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However, out East off Montauk and the Hamptons things are a different story! The big migratory fish are off the rips and rock piles, many of which will call Montauk and the surrounding area home for the Summer. July is one of the best months to fish Montauk because of the sheer number of fish that hold here. If you want to target these larger Stripers on the fly, Montauk to Nantucket and Cape Cod is the spot for the next month. They are there in large numbers and mixed with some really big Bluefish. Plenty of Harbor Blues are mixed in as are the schoolie Stripers which will be in tighter to shore. You really can’t miss off of Montauk right now. As long as you pay attention to time, tide, and wind direction, the fishing should be off the charts. If the offshore action is your thing, the tuna are here and the bite has been phenomenal. This can be a difficult endeavor on the fly as the fish move fast, are often larger than you would want to hook on fly, and are boat shy, but anglers are definitely getting some. 40 to 80lb Yellowfin are very prevalent and some smaller Bluefin are around as well. The past week was a bit slow but it seems the tropical storm stirred things up and the fishing held up uncharacteristically well during the typically slow periods between the Full and New Moon. We are only days away from the New Moon and the fishing should be awesome. The beaches have been fishing well in the mornings with plenty of schoolies around to keep you occupied as you search for larger fish. If you have access to a boat that is best. Targeting the rips and rock piles has been producing some really nice Stripers. Teasing these fish up with a hookless popper and presenting the fly as they get close is the proven method if a 30lb+ Striper is your goal. This is the time of year to do it so get out there!

Connecticut

Farmington River

There have been Ups and Downs on the Farmington of late. Literally. In anticipation for the rain, the CFS was cut back and flows were quite low. Unfortunately, a much needed shot of rain never materialized, at least not in any substantial way. The flows have been bumped back up and should be somewhere around 300 by the weekend. This is a great flow to fish. Everything will be accessible, wadeable, and anglers should have plenty of options when it comes to locations to fish. The sulphurs are still going strong and seem to be the most consistent hatch at the moment. The Isos are still coming off as well and are big - Size 10 and 12 is where you’ll want to be. Fish Isos up in the riffles and faster water as they are seldom in the slow stuff like many of their smaller brethren. The Attenuata is still a good option as well. Often mistaken for a big BWO or Sulphur, they actually have an almost fluorescent green/yellow body that fades very quickly to brown so if you grab one it will not appear green. But rest assured, if you fish the Attenuata be sure to have them in that green body color and in a size 18-20. As we keep saying, the Farmington gets a ton of pressure so often a unique pattern is the key to success. The Light Cahills are still popping intermittently as well. These will come off late in the afternoon so as the light begins to fade be prepared to tie on a large lightly colored mayfly. We recommend having a wide variety of patterns to choose from as these fish a quite selective at this point. Having emergers, duns, cripples, and spinners in multiple species is good practice on this river. Having a few unique patterns is advantageous. Terrestrials are taking quite a few fish now as well. Ants are especially effective this time of year but make no mistake, beetles and even hopper patterns will be effective as Summer drags on. Anglers have been doing really well on Chernobyls and Hopper patterns. Stimulators in size 6 and 8 have been taking quite a few fish in the fast stuff. Odd, as there are few if any hoppers up there, but the fish don’t seem to care. So, if you are perplexed during the mid-day doldrums, try something really big on top. The nymphing remains solid. This is a great option early in the morning before the fish start reacting to emergers and duns. Everything from a giant stonefly imitation, to midges are productive depending on where you are and what is going on that particular day. If nymphing is your thing, be cognizant of what the fish are trending toward taking. Switch from flashy to dull flies. Large to small, mayflies to caddis, etc. Hone in on what the fish prefer and narrow the fly box search. I have always started with a confidence pattern slightly smaller than what I would have been fishing two months ago and work out from there. This time of year, I always have a size 18 or 20 black beadhead zebra midge behind my first fly. It is a rare day that a Zebra doesn’t produce at least a few fish. More often than not, it produces the largest fish as well. July is a great month to fish the Farmington as there is a lot happening on the river. The fish will be active and feeding all day and all approaches (if correctly executed) should yield results. Wets, nymphs, dries, and streamers will all take fish. Even mice at night has been a proven tactic for the big boys this time of year. In short, there are no lack of options on the Farmington in July.

USGS Water-data graph for site 01186000

Housatonic River

Be aware. Thermal Refuges are now in effect for the Housatonic. As of June 1st no fishing of any kind is allowed near any stream flowing into the Housatonic within the TMA. 100 foot exclusion zones are established to keep the fish alive through the warmer months. It is imperative that these exclusion zones are respected and left alone. That way we all have fish to catch this Fall.

The water is too warm to ethically trout fish right now. Please respect that these fish are trying to survive the Summer.

There have been a ton of Smallmouth caught recently. The bite has picked up substantially and now is a great time to target these fish. They will take a wide variety of flies and are a blast on the fly. Poppers will work early and late when the light is low. Or if you get overcast conditions but the surface bite is certainly slowing. Streamers are still very effective however. Have light, dark, and brightly colored options if the fish are uncharacteristically picky. White, black and chartreuse are safe bets. Have a few choices and sizes depending on the water clarity and ambient light/weather conditions. The streamers should be size 2, 4, 6, and 8. Clousers and Woolly Buggers will work just fine. The key is getting deep enough. These fish will be right on the bottom so a sinking tip line is the bare minimum and an intermediate sink or some type of hover is ideal. A 6 or 7wt if lined correctly will be a fun rod to fish for Smallmouth but an 8wt will work too. Look for deep holes where the current is prominent but not too fast. The fish will be hunkered down around rocks and structure typically at the tail end of these seams and into the flat slow-moving water.

The Pike fishing has stabilized. These fish can be notoriously lethargic when the water gets warm. It will be a low percentage game in July but make no mistake, plenty of large Northerns are caught in July by anglers who are persistent. Cooler mornings and cloudy conditions are advantageous. Early morning and late afternoons will be the windows of opportunity and consider downsizing your fly. The Flashtail Whistler is a staple Pike fly and will produce if you spend enough time covering water. It is also not egregiously large. In the 3/0 size it is about 4 inches. Large enough to make it worth it, but small enough to entice a lethargic or skeptical fish. 

USGS Water-data graph for site 01199000

Saltwater

How quickly things change. It seems like it was just yesterday that everyone was catching big fish, lots of fish, pretty much everywhere. That is no longer the case. The dreaded doldrums are upon us. Every year it sneaks up on us and this year is no exception. This past Full Moon saw some great fishing and since it’s passing things have been tough out there. It was very sparse this past week. A few nice Stripers here and there and some decent Schoolie action when anglers stumble upon them, but the water is getting warm. That aversion to warm water temperatures is what is dictating fish movement, as they are now seeking out colder water. If they are near shore they will likely be feeding exclusively when and where the water is the coolest. That means super early in the morning and just before dark and even then it has been hit or miss. The guides in the area are still doing quite well. Years of experience and time on the water pays dividends in July and August. They have been on fish consistently and even some large Stripers whereas the weekend warriors are reporting 1 fish, 2 fish, or the dreaded goose egg. No sightings of Gators. Harbor Blues are around and typically hanging around that 40 to 50 foot depth mark. The Harbor Blues are the safest bet for constant action. The best plan of attack would be to get on the water very early or late and to probe any structure associated with deeper water. The many reefs out there can light up in the morning and in the evenings. That will be a boat game however. If you are fishing from shore, same approach. Fish early and late while targeting areas with the deepest water you can find associated with structure. Cover water and you could be rewarded with a good day out there.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island is another great place to be fly fishing right now. The farther East you go the better the fishing should be. The big migratory fish are certainly around and being caught on a regular basis. They will be everywhere from in tight to out in 100 feet of water on bait so move around during a falling tide to locate them. Big Bunker sized flies or hollow-style patterns are where you want to be. The most productive method will be that bait-and-switch with a hookless popper or plug. That will get the fish up and close to the boat allowing you to present the fly. The Blues are numerous off of Rhode Island as well. Off of Watch Hill, East Beach, and Point Judith anglers have seen everything from harbors to gators. However, it seems as though the Gators are starting to thin a bit. Early mornings off the beaches have had a mix of blues and bass but typically nothing huge. However, the action has been great and birds working and fish pushing bait right up onto shore has made for some exciting mornings. Block Island has been very strong as far as the big Bass go. Early in the mornings and late in the afternoon these fish can again be teased up with big poppers or plugs and tricked into whacking a big fly. Same can be said for the Gator Blues if you do come across them. The same technique will yield results, provided the presentation is faster. Blind casting structure has also been very effective recently and taking some cows. Full sink lines with big flies are proving very effective if you can get away from the fleet and fish unpressured stuff. In another great development, Bonito are definitely around and in pretty good numbers for this early in the season. Out toward Newport the Bonito fishing has been consistent. Often passed up for Harbor Blues, the Bonito are beginning to feed on bait in the typical haunts. A great sign for the season to come! Right now is prime time off of Rhode Island. It’s a mixed bag of Stripers both large and small, Blues, and Bonito. You never know what you are going to run into out there. A good problem to have.

Massachusetts

Cape Cod

The Cape is fishing very well. As we approach the New Moon expect the big Striper fishing to be awesome. There are plenty of fish off the Cape at this point and plenty are being caught. Off Monomoy, the rips are producing plenty of fish and some really nice ones as well. This is a proven location that tends to always hold nice fish. Full sinking lines and big Sandeel flies are hard to beat. However, these fish can be picky depending on the forage on any given day. There is an abundance of bait around including Mackerel, Bunker, Sandeels, and maybe even some Squid still lingering around. So be prepared for that with multiple sizes, species, and colors tied up so that you can match the hatch. As far as Gator Blues are concerned, the Cape may be the best location to target these fish. They are thick off Monomoy and the surrounding area. They tend to hold here for the Summer and any concerted effort to find these fish should pay off. As with the Stripers, teasing them up with a hookless popper is hard to beat in terms of effectiveness. It will bring 5 or 6 of these bad animals up and anything lobbed into the water behind the plug will get smoked. A true sportfish, these big Blues are explosive, hard fighting, and big. A very cool fish by any measure, we encourage catch and release of these big breeding stock. Bluefish numbers are way down and at this point and every fish released is a step in helping rebuild the stock. Early morning beach and flats fishing has been very solid of late. Schoolie and slot sized Stripers have been prevalent up and down the Cape. Late in the afternoon has been productive as well since the tide is moving. There have been Harbor Blues mixed in and back in the salt ponds plenty of bait has been bringing in schoolies, making for great light tackle fly fishing. The Bonito have been moving in thicker and thicker. Reports are thin but with the number of fish being caught in Rhode Island, they are definitely around. It is a bit early to say that it's “Bonito season” but you could come across them at any point so be prepared. As we approach the New Moon expect the fishing to light up and hold for 4 days past the Full.

The Islands

 

Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket fishing has been similar to that of Montauk or Rhode Island. Awesome! It is prime time on the Islands, no doubt about it. The big Bass have amassed off both islands and the bait-and-switch has been taking some seriously nice fish. Fish well into the 30lb class are almost a given every morning and afternoon. Whether you hook them is a different story, but the odds of seeing them are very high if you are in the right spots. The schoolies seem to be on every rock plie, drop-off, and in every salt pond. The Beaches have been quite productive as well. They don’t typically hold larger fish, but there are still plenty of schoolie and slot fish to keep the rod bent. Again, regardless of where you are fishing, it will be an early morning and late afternoon bite, the one exception being the Blues. The Harbor Blues in particular just don’t seem to care about timing. The Gators are typically more fickle and act more like larger Bass and are around in strong numbers. Anglers looking for Bonito are running into them constantly and they are providing great fishing on 10wts. If you do run into them, throw big poppers and you will not be disappointed. They are not in thick just yet as it is a bit early but they are being caught every day. Classic spots like the Bonito Bar and Wasque Point are good places to begin the search keeping in mind that these fish love that rising tide. If you burn some fuel on the rising tide in the morning or afternoon, you should be rewarded with good shots at early season hardtails!

 

 


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