Fishing season is finally upon us! With warmer temperatures and the threat of snow finally behind us the fishing has been heating up. Trout streams throughout Connecticut and New York have been producing large numbers of fish. Our anglers have been reporting phenomenal fly fishing right on the heels of recent stockings statewide. At this point, most of the streams have been stocked which means it is time to get out there!
In our immediate area the Mill, Mianus, and Saugatuck rivers are the main fisheries and have been fishing phenomenally well. With freshly stocked trout and improving weather, our anglers have been reporting high numbers and good size fish! My experience has been the same. I have been getting on the water every chance I get and I can tell you the fishing has been nothing short of spectacular. It is all catch and release right now for all rivers, so if you want your best chance at catching plenty of fish without competing with too many bait and spin guys, I suggest going right now!
The Saugatuck was the one of the first rivers in the state to get fish this year. The state stocked the Saug on February 22, a full two weeks early! Fishing was incredible for the rest of February and remains very good. At this point it is exclusively a nymph game. The fish have turned off any type of streamer with the rare exception. The fish are very smart at this point and downsizing your flies and tippet is key. We recommend size 16 or 18 beadhead nymphs. Pheasant Tails, Caddis, Hares Ears, and wet flies in natural colors remain the most productive. Target the slower water and switch flies until you find something they will take. Keep in mind that these fish have been hit the hardest so it may take some time to find out what they are willing to hit. Be patient. Once you crack the code the fishing will be great! There has been a decent Stonefly hatch on the warmer days. This time of year, temperatures can fluctuate greatly from day to day. If you are trying to capitalize on this hatch then be on the water mid-day when the temperature is in the mid-forties or higher. If there is no wind, even better. Even on the warmer days the wind can snuff that hatch significantly. If the weather lines up the dry fly fishing can be lights out with the best local hatch of the year.
The Mill river is known more for its Class I Wild Trout Management Area rather than the typical stockie stream. This area is single hook, artificial only, catch-and-release all year long. Although it does not hold big fish, there are plenty of wild Brook Trout that call this river home. This is a great option for anyone who wants to get away from the crowds and fish a small river for wild and native trout. The Mill is a beautiful little river, and is fishing phenomenally well right now. The brookies have been gorging on the hatching Stoneflies recently, making for some great dry fly action. You will need size 14, 16, 18, and 20s for both dries and nymphs. However, this river does not get the pressure that the Mianus and Saug do. That means that these fish will typically cooperate. Cover water and find rising fish. This is very small river and it can be tempting to move too quickly so take your time and examine all of the deep holes. If you see Stoneflies coming off, wait the fish out. The Mill is a tight and technical piece of water so a short rod is key. I would say anything longer that 8 feet will be cumbersome and a 1 or 2wt would be ideal. Target the deeper holes. Most of the fish will hang out in those deeper sections all year and are very aware of what's going on around them. Be as stealthy as possible, always approaching from downstream. You may also see some caddis, midges and BWO’s as well so keep a box of those handy. Size 18 to 22 are the sizes you need for those flies.
For those of you who want bigger fish the lower section of the Mill has been stocked and fishing very well. “Junk flies” such as mops, San Juans, Greenie Weenies and Squirmy Wormies are catching their fair share of fish. Streamers have been working very well too. Getting there early is the name of game. Often having first crack at the fish for can make all the difference. The recently stocked fish will immediately seek out the deepest and slowest water so focus on those areas. This water can be challenging to nymph so try streamers first. If you don’t have any takers, switch to a nymph and make sure you are getting down along the bottom. Again, focus on the deepest holes. These stocked fish won’t move up into that faster water until the water temps increase a bit.
The Mianus River has been the most consistent river this spring. There are plenty of fish cruising around and some good quality fish at that. It looks like the required Trout Stamp has paid off. Fat Brookies and bows 12-16 inches are the norm not the exception this year! The stocking this year was not great in terms of fish dispersal throughout the park, though this is by no means the fault of the DEEP. When they put the fish in, it had rained the day before and the stocking truck was unable to get all the way up on the dirt access road. This means that almost all of the fish are concentrated in the lower half of the park so focus most of your attention there. The deeper runs and holes hold most of fish. Getting deep is key early or late in the day. A good-sized nymph under an indicator should provide plenty of action provided you are getting deep enough. Switch flies frequently. These fish will get a lot of pressure everyday so throwing something that they have not seen before will be just as important as presentation.
The Mianus River Stonefly hatch is one of the best in the area. When conditions are right, this hatch can be downright amazing. These flies will typically hatch mid-day and continue late into the afternoon. Temperatures around 45 degrees and higher will get things going. Bright sun and no wind are also important. If all three things line up, prepare for a great day on the water. These stones are small, typically size 14, 16, or 18. Make sure you have all these sizes and multiple variations to choose from. The fish can be very picky especially as the season progresses. Target the slower deeper water directly below fast and shallow riffles. That fast, shallow stuff is where the Stonefly nymphs spend most of their lives and as they hatch they will get swept down to hordes of waiting trout in the deeper water downstream. Stoneflies flutter vigorously across the water once they hatch, and again when they descend to lay their eggs. It is important to move your fly in the same way. A dead drift will rarely get a hit. Skate that fly at the same speed as the surrounding naturals and hang on.
The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) has done a phenomenal job getting fish in early this year. For the catch-and-release minded angler, this is the time to capitalize on some of best trout fishing all season. And that’s not just for the local fisheries covered here, as numerous streams have been stocked state-wide. The same strategies apply for all of the stockie streams: target deep holes, find slow water, switch flies regularly, be ready for Stoneflies, and get there early! And of course, make sure to pay attention to rules and regulations. Trout Management Areas (TMAs) are the only legal areas to fish at the moment (with a few exceptions). Make sure you renew your license and purchase the 5 dollar Trout and Salmon Stamp to avoid a hefty fine.
This is one of my favorite times of the year to fish locally and would strongly encourage you get out sooner rather than later. More often than not you will have a productive day on the water with all techniques working well at different times of the day. It’s a great way to dust off the cobwebs from the winter and get back into that fishing mentality. There are mostly fly anglers on the water this time of year and it’s a great atmosphere out there. You will run into all the regulars and it's a great time to fish with like-minded folks. Stop by the shop if you need fly recommendations, terminal tackle suggestions, or advice on where to fish. We are happy to help. Get out there and I will see you on the water!