Northeast Fishing Report: 7/30/20 - The Compleat Angler

July 30, 2020

Greetings Compleat Anglers! This week the fishing has continued more or less along the same lines. With continued high temps the fish - both freshwater and saltwater - are responding accordingly, seeking out cooler refuges where they can. For us anglers, the strategy must shift too. Check out those cooler tailwaters and hit the river early and late. If the salt is your thing, be prepared to head out to deeper water and keep an eye out for places where the the fish are more comfortable and active. As always, there is still plenty of action to be had, it just requires a little more thought and planning. 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 fishable conditions. When ambient air temps start pushing 90, it becomes all about finding the coldest water possible. There are only a few places to do this and they are almost exclusively tailwaters. Of course anglers know it and the pressure on the West has been substantial. We highly recommend going on a weekday as both drift boats and waders have been amassing on the West Branch and it has made fishing quite challenging. Even if this were 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. Size 16 and 18 tied in a few different styles should work. 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 a 16, 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. 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. 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

Montauk is still fishing well, no doubt about it. We are hearing that the bigger Stripers are becoming more difficult to locate however 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 the 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. It seems that fishing the deeper structure is the key as it gets warmer. 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 pushed in and have been numerous this past week, a welcome sight for sure. The teasing method has been producing some nice fish up to 16 pounds. A blast on the fly, this is a great option right now. Montauk Light is a great place to start looking for both bass and big blues since the cold-water rips across the point. We have heard of a few Bonito around Montauk as well, though they aren’t numerous quite yet. If you are running around out there, it is wise to have a dedicated hard tail rod ready to go with a Bonito Bunny or bright Clouser tied onto 16lb Fluoro tippet. We even heard of an angler who caught an Albie already! It’s super early for that fish and it could have been mistaken for a Bullet or Frigate Mackerel that look quite similar and which are around right now. Either way, you never know what you will run into out there this time of the year!

Connecticut

Farmington River

The Farmington is the place to be right now. Almost everything else in the state is just too warm. The flow out of the dam has been holding steady at 260ish CFS with fluctuations out of the Still depending on precipitation. That means that the CFS below the Still should be around 300 which is ideal for wade anglers. That is a great flow, allowing anglers access to everything. The key this time of year, after months of relentless pressure, is fishing less pressured areas or fishing unique patterns and methods. That coupled with perfect presentations. We can’t stress that enough as many of these fish have been caught multiple times and will be very picky. Thinking outside the box a bit and making educated decisions about where to fish and what to throw (that is a bit different than everyone else is doing) should pay off. At the end of the day, there is no substitute for time on the water and lessons learned from experimentation. Fishing reports and tips from social media are good, but will never replace a concerted effort to learn the idiosyncrasies of a particular river especially when it is late in the season. There are plenty of approaches and patterns that are seldom used that are extremely effective when the season is getting long in the tooth. As far as hatches are concerned, 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 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 also been taking quite a few fish in the fast stuff. So, if you are perplexed during the mid-day doldrums, try something really big on top. Nymphing remains solid. This is a great option early in the morning before the fish start reacting to emergers and duns. Everything from giant stonefly imitations to midges can be 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. More often than not, it produces the largest fish as well. 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 mousing has been very effective as of late. Anglers are going out around 12pm and taking 18-20+ inch fish on mouse patterns. And while it’s not for everybody, late-night mousing is a surefire way to at least have a shot at these big and wild fish. The deep long runs that slow at the tail are the areas conducive for mousing. 7 or 8wts are recommended if you plan on casting large rodent patterns. There are no shortage of options on the Farmington right now, that’s for sure.

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 however and make sure to have light, dark, and brightly colored options if the fish are uncharacteristically picky. White, black, and chartreuse are always a safe bet too. 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 sink tip line is the bare minimum. An intermediate sink or some type of sink/hover is ideal. A 6 or 7wt 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 holes and into the flat slow-moving water.

The Pike fishing has slowed. 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 helpful. Early morning and late afternoons will be the windows of opportunity and consider downsizing your fly size. The Flashtail Whistler is a staple Pike fly and will produce if you spend enough time covering water. It is also not egregiously large, about 4 inches in the 3/0 size. 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 the Blues and Bass and will be the patterns you will want the most of in your box. There has been a bunch of micro-bait out there that the fish have been keying on and this has made things very challenging for fly anglers. It is wise to have a few small flies in white or clear just in case. A size 6 or 8 epoxy style fly in 10lb tippet should get the job done. Rock plies and rips will both hold fish but it may take some moving around to find the right ones. 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

Fly fishing off of Rhode Island fishing has been hot!  The farther East you go the better the fishing should be. Block Island is holding plenty of big Stripers and everybody knows it. The crowds have been substantial but if you get out there early you have a real shot at a very big fish. 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, Block, and Point Judith there have been everything from harbors to gators. However, it seems as though the Gators are thinning. Early mornings off the beaches have had a mix of blues and bass but typically nothing huge. However, the action has been great. Birds working and fish pushing bait right up onto shore has been making for exciting mornings. Out toward Newport the Bonito bite has been consistent-ish. Again, 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! Keep in mind that mid-August is the sweet spot for Bonito out East. 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 when 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. There are also Mackerel schools around. Not typically targeted by the fly anglers, Chub and Bullet Mackerel are prevalent off of Rhode Island at the moment and these fish will take small baitfish flies in a size 6. So if you want to do something a bit different, bring a 6, 7, or 8wt and locate these schools. They are cool fish and definitely unique. Realistically, it’s likely to be a mixed bag of Stripers and Blues (both large and small), as well as Bonito and Macks on the right day. 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 hot spot. The rips continue to produce and are a proven location that tends to always hold nice fish. Full sink 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 allowing you to 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 toward helping rebuild the stock. Early morning beach and flats fishing has been very solid of late and schoolie and slot sized Stripers have been prevalent up and down the Cape. Late in the afternoon has 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, making for great light tackle fly fishing. The Bonito have been moving in thicker and thicker too. 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 off 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. 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. 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 still leaves plenty of opportunities to target these fish. Locating bait schools in 40+ feet of water will give you a high likelihood of finding 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 in tight on the falling tide. The Beaches have been quite productive as well with 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 to this are the Blues, and the Harbor Blues especially, which just don’t seem to care about the time of day. The Gators are typically more fickle and act like larger Bass. The Gators 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 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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