Greetings Compleat Anglers! The fishing season is slowing down but that doesn't mean that anglers are out of luck. Those who are willing to brave the weather are doing well, whether it's chasing stripers, looking for trout, or hunting steelhead or browns on great lakes tributaries. Read on for details!
Steelhead and lake run brown trout fishing remains as good as it was last week. Flows have changed quite a bit depending on which river you are on. The Ontario tribs slowed a bit last week but have picked right back up. Low water and the tail end of the major push means that most activity is well upstream. On the Salmon River in Pulaski most of the fish will be well above Sportsman’s Pool. The Lower Fly has been seeing many fish of late. It seems like the majority of the fish will be in the upper half of the river at this point. Right in from of Tailwater Lodge (Schoolhouse Pool) is a killer spot this time of year and where many of these fish will hold. The far side of the river seems to be the best spot with a good steep bank that holds fish all winter. In general we are hearing reports of feast or famine on the Salmon River. Some anglers are doing very well while others are struggling. That could indicate intermittent pushes of fish. More than likely, it has more to do with experience fishing for Steelhead in general. There are plenty of fish in the system and those anglers proficient in finding fish as well as problem solving these fickle fish are doing very well. The Erie tribs are still fishing well. It seems they are having a better year overall. Cattaraugus Creek is one of the more popular spots and for good reason. It tends to have a lot of fish annually and this year is no exception. The run was very good early and is holding well, with lots of fish being caught as well as some really big fish. The smaller creeks have been fishing well too. With a little bump of rain/snow last week flows increased and we saw a good push of fish across New York. The fishing in the Erie and Ontario Tribs will be good all winter so, no time like the present!
New York still has plenty of Stripers to be caught if you are willing to get out there. Both the Atlantic and Long Island Sound side have fish blitzing on schools of Peanut Bunker. However, the recent cold snap seemed to push fish out into deep water and kicked them down South as well. The Migratory fish are still trickling by but seem to be in deeper water. The local fish will begin to congregate around the estuaries making them easily caught from shore by fly anglers. Really, at this time of year it is more about being motivated enough to go. The fishing can be spectacular if you are in the right areas. But weather will keep most people off the water. Montauk has been pretty quiet lately. Out East things are slowing down in a big way. Some scattered action but not much
We are settling into what is essentially a winter fishery at this point. Sure, it’s not “Winter” but expect to fish like it is. Despite being over a month away, the trout are behaving more and more like winter fish. Most of them are beginning to hunker down and we have seen a dramatic change in locations of fish, activity levels, and feeding behavior. On the warmer days a streamer could take a few fish. Dries could as well. But we are seeing fish move far less for a fly - 6 inches is about as far as you will get a fish to move to eat a fly at this point especially on colder days. As the water temperatures drop even further, that target window can often be as little as a 2 inch radius around the trout’s head. So, what does that mean to you as an angler? You will need to hit them dead on the nose with any fly you are presenting. That requires getting down deep and being very mindful of a drag-free drift. This time of year, a longer drift seems to work more often than a short, perfect one so be prepared to work larger section of water per-cast. Get good mends in and drift the deepest sections of a run. Split shot will help get you down as a smaller fly is more advantageous than a large one. Midges and smaller mayfly or caddis nymphs are where you want to be and tiny little stoneflies are a good choice this time of year as well. If the water is stained then a brightly colored fly can often induce a strike. Flies like a Copper John in red or a Rainbow Warrior in a size 18 or 20 can often be extremely productive as it cools down. If the water is clear, and certainly for the next few weeks, a more natural fly should be most productive. There are of course exceptions and it is good to tie on something crazy every now and then. However, a small natural colored fly with little or no flash is what most of your eats should come on. All of the above info will go for stockie streams as well as larger streams such as the Farmington or Housey. This will also apply to wild trout streams. This time of year it becomes a much slower and deliberate fishery across the state. The way you set up your nymph rig is about as critical as fly selection. The anglers who do well in the late fall and winter are experts at indicator nymphing and setting up the proper rig. A critical consideration is understanding that fish are in a transitional period at this point. Some spawning may still be occurring in a few streams across the state, but most fish are looking for good holding water for the long winter doldrums. Locating these areas is the key to success. Deeper sections of walking-pace water speed is a good place to begin your search for fish. Longer and seemingly featureless runs with slow to moderate water speed are almost guaranteed to hold fish. Whether you can get them to eat depends entirely on getting down deep enough with the right fly and a nice, long, drag-free drift.
There is not much angling pressure on the Farmington at the moment making it a very pleasant place to fish. Long gone are the crazy numbers of anglers that have come to define May, June, and July on this river. Despite fewer anglers, plenty of fish are still being taken by those who have been out. The decreased pressure has allowed many of these fish to settle down, making the larger fish more accessible on any given day. The competition for good holes is almost a non-factor as well, making a reasonable AM start an option once again. Colder mornings are seeing little activity which ultimately gives way to warmer and more productive afternoons. When the water has been at its warmest, fish activity spikes and the fishing can be quite good. Streamers are still taking some fish and it may not be a bad idea to have a streamer rig in the car for later in the afternoon. The method of choice will still be nymphing, however, as most of the fish have begun to settle into their winter haunts. Walking-pace water speed above long and deep runs are where these fish will hold. If you are familiar with the Farmington, you know exactly the water I am talking about. This presents a challenge however - these are wider and slower sections of water making longer drifts key. These fish will not be at the heads of pools feeding. They will be stacked deep into the meat of the run, holding right on the bottom. Their metabolisms slow way down and they often only eat a handful of insects a day. So that requires long, drag-free drifts with your flies right on the bottom. The fish will also be reluctant to grab a fly that is some distance away. You often need to hit them right in the face so multiple drifts are key. Give the fly plenty of soak time before switching. Err on the side of caution and fish smaller flies. We recommend a size 16 or smaller. Red Copper Johns, Rainbow Warriors, Frenchies, and a tan beadhead caddis are all good options. We have also found that darker colors work this time of year. Purple, dark olives, and even blues will work. The take will be very subtle so any twitch or stutter of the indicator should induce an immediate hook set. This type of fishing does not lend itself well to tight lining but a trout spey set up will be perfect. Or a 9 footer with a nice deep bellied line to help with mending and long drifts. It is still a little on the warm side so you could still find fish up top. And maybe a few fish pre-spawn. But post-spawn behavior will be the majority of action so keep that in mind. It is a transitional period on the Farmington right now so depending on where you are fishing on the river it may be wise to check some of that faster stuff every once in a while. If you are from Greenwoods up, focus the majority of your attention on that good holding water.
The Housey is a completely different fishery at this point. Water has subsided, cooled down, and the fishing is all about the nymphs at this point. Similar to the Farmington, the Housatonic trout are beginning to congregate in their wintering holes. With cooler water temperatures, the majority of fish activity will be from midday until late in the afternoon. Targeting these fish requires a similar technique to what I described in the Farmington section. Long drifts and small flies in the right locations. Streamers are becoming less and less effective (for trout anyway). They have taken Smallies and Pike recently which have remained relatively consistent. The Smallies are slowing down a bit but the Pike seem to quite active. The Pike fishing should hold until the end of the month. As it always is with Pike, you need to cover water but the fish certainly have the feed bags on.
Our friend Pogo Pike also sent us the following report:
Water temperatures are fluctuating between 34 and 37 degrees depending the day. Northern Pike are still preparing for winter and eating so fish slow! The trout fishing has been decent as well as slower water is definitely paying off! Flows did bump up from the rain on Monday but the Housy is very fishable and clarity is perfect!
The Striper fishing continues to impress those brave enough to get out there. Despite cold temperatures and wind, shore-based fly anglers have been doing very well. It seems like the migration is tailing off a little but plenty of fish are still being caught. The mouth of the Housatonic is becoming more and more productive as our local fish begin to stage for the winter holdover. This is about as good a spot as any to get onto some great fishing. That last half of the incoming and first half of the falling tide have been fishing quite well regardless of the time of day. We are also hearing of some nicer fish in the area as well. The Peanut Bunker are still the most prolific bait in the area so any fly that imitates that will work. We’re not seeing much in the way of Bluefish, at least large ones. It seems that they have moved out of the area. The colder temps seem to have pushed the migratory fish out of the area or into deeper water while getting our resident fish motivated to push into the estuaries. So depending where you are located and how you are fishing, take this into account. If you have a boat then getting offshore into deeper water may be most advantageous, while shore-based anglers should focus on the Housatonic and other estuaries where Stripers winter over.
Rhode Island is thinning out as far as Stripers are concerned. Many of the local fish are beginning to stage for the winter and the majority of bigger Bass have moved South or West. Numbers will continue to decline and despite there being some fish still around, I would focus on the local populations of schoolies that will be moving into the rivers to winter over. These fish will be voracious and can be targeted from shore. Most of the big migratory fish are gone and will stay that way until next spring and early summer. We are at the tail end of the season and with maybe a week or so of viable fishing until next year.