Northeast Fishing Report: 7/23/20 - The Compleat Angler

July 22, 2020

Greetings Compleat Anglers! Our report this week may sound a little familiar. Now that we've entered the summer doldrums, and without any major weather changes, the fishing conditions just haven't changed all that much. Tailwater fishing is still the best bet for trout anglers, and the Farmington and parts of the Delaware system are still providing quality fishing. In the saltwater the action remains east, with anglers on Montauk, Rhode Island, and the Cape and Islands having the best shots at large fish. 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 report. 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 Upper West are still nice and cold with good 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. Of course all of the other anglers know it too and pressure on the West has been substantial. We highly recommend going on a weekday if you can. Both drift boats and waders have been amassing on the West Branch 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 or even a 20 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 manage it. There will be far 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. The Sulphurs and BWOs will be the majority of what you see so have plenty of those flies in a few different patterns ready to go.

Saltwater

No 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 as the bigger Stripers have moved East and so too have the Blues. It’s largely a Schoolie Striper and Harbor Blue fishery until the Albies show up.

Montauk and the areas adjacent are a safe bet at the moment. We are hearing that the bigger Stripers are becoming more difficult to locate though the “smaller” fish have been numerous. We are in the Summer Doldrums for sure, but out off Montauk the morning and evening fishing has been solid. The beaches have been fishing well in the mornings with plenty of schoolies around to keep you occupied as you search for larger fish. In the back bays and salt ponds early morning surface activity has been conducive for poppers as well as subsurface flies. The same holds true for the afternoons. Covering water and searching for any signs of life will be the key to success. Look for birds and surface activity but be mindful that there are a lot of Adult Bunker around that like to tail-slap which will often fool the untrained eye. If you have access to a boat that is best. Targeting the rips and rock piles have 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. The Gators have been tough to nail down but should still be lurking around. Montauk Light, where the cold-water rips across the point, is a great place to start looking for both bass and blues. No signs of Bonito just yet but do not be surprised if we see them pop up soon. 

Connecticut

Farmington River

The fishing on the Farmington remains as good as ever. The fishing can be challenging at times due to the amount of pressure, but make no mistake, this river is fishing very well. If you are squared away with your presentation and fly selection then this is currently the best option in the state. There are lots of fish in this river and some really big ones as well. The dry fly fishing remains good and there are enough bugs coming off to make things interesting all day with the evening being the most productive. BWO’s will be coming off in spurts pretty much all day and stronger hatches will materialize when it is overcast or raining. The Attenuatta are still a player as are Cahills, Isos, and Sulfurs. Most of the larger mayflies are popping up in the Catch and Release Only area. The Sulphurs will be well upstream at this point and are on the way out. Terrestrials are taking quite a few fish now as well. Ants are especially effective this time of year but 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 also been taking quite a few fish in the fast stuff (even though 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 also 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 outward 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 and more often than not it produces the largest fish as well. July is a great month to fish the Farmington. 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. There is 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. Please respect that these fish are trying to survive the Summer.

No change to the Housatonic report and expect it to stay that way until Late September. There have been a ton of Smallmouth being caught recently 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. Cloudy days will be the most opportune time to fish for Smallies especially with poppers. Streamers are still very effective too and have light, dark, and brightly colored options at the ready if the fish are uncharacteristically picky. White, black, and chartreuse are a safe bet. 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. 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 best windows of opportunity and consider downsizing your flies a bit. The Flashtail Whistler is a staple Pike fly and should produce if you spend enough time covering water. It is also not egregiously large as the 3/0 size 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

Not much to report locally. There are still a few larger fish hanging around but as the water temps increase expect to work for those larger fish. What is around is the tail-end of the migrating fish and most are out East at this point. Your safest best will be Harbor Blues and Schoolie Stripers. There are plenty of them out there if you are willing to work for them. Focus on good tide movement, early morning and late afternoon tide windows, and advantageous wind direction. We are beginning to see more and more Peanut Bunker so have a few of those patterns just in case. Silversides will be one of the main forage species for Blues and Bass and will be the patterns you will want the most of in your box. Rock piles and rips will both hold fish but it may take some moving around to find which ones are best. If you are fishing from shore the same holds true. Access is tough right now with beach season in full swing but have a few spots you can legally fish ready to go and be ready to move if plan A doesn’t produce fish after an hour or so.

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 bass 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 what you will want at the ready. 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 there have been everything from harbors to gators. However, it seems as though the Gators are thinning a bit. Early mornings off the beaches have had a mix of blues and bass but typically nothing huge. The action, however, has been great with birds working and fish pushing bait right up onto shore which has made for 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. The same can be said for the Gator Blues if you do come across them and the same technique will yield results, provided the presentation is a little faster. Blind casting structure has also been very effective recently and taking some real cows, but as the water warms expect to see a slow creep out to deeper water by these Big Bass. The Bonito reports keep trickling in and out toward Newport the Bonito has been consistent. It seems the farther East you go the better off you are. Often mistaken 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 if you are mindful that cold water is the key to success. Pull offshore a bit and focus on deeper structure. Areas where cool, deep water meets structure is exactly what you are looking for. The bait will be there looking for shelter and the gamefish will be close by. 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, which is a good problem to have.

Massachusetts

Cape Cod

Monomoy is still the name of the game. The rips continue to produce and this is a proven location that tends to consistently 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, and Sandeels 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 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 every fish released is a step toward 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 afternoons have been productive as well given 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, which has made for great light tackle fly fishing. The Bonito have been moving in thicker and thicker too. 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 its “Bonito season” but you could come across them at any point so be prepared.

The Islands

The Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket fishing has been similar to that of Montauk or Rhode Island. 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. Bass 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. We are seeing the fish slowly pushing into cooler water as the Summer progresses. This is really the only drawback at this stage of the game but it does not mean there are not opportunities to target these fish. Look for bait schools in 40+ feet of water as they will have a high likelihood of having fish on them. The schoolies seem to be on every rock plie, drop-off, and in every salt pond. While it seems the inshore stuff is slowing as the water warms there are still fish being caught on the falling tide and in nice and tight. The Beaches have been quite productive as well. Though they won’t typically produce larger fish, 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, with the one exception being the Blues. The Harbor Blues, especially, just don’t seem to care. The Gators are typically more fickle, 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. Classic spots like the Bonito Bar and Wasque Point are good places to begin your 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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