May 14, 2020 12 min read
Greetings Compleat Anglers! Statewide closures of businesses are still in effect, but just a reminder: we can take orders over the phone (or web) and ship directly to you. If you need something in a hurry (and are local) we will also have curbside pick-up available. Just give us a call, let us know what you need, and by the time you get here it will be bagged up and ready for you and we will bring it right out to your car. As always we appreciate your business!
And of course, a friendly reminder to make sure you are staying safe out there and taking the necessary precautions - for yourself, for other anglers, and for the public more generally. We have many fellow anglers, friends, and family members who are at high risk so please be mindful of others. We’re all in this together.
Now, on to the fishing...
The Beaverkill and the Willowemoc are both fishing quite well when the conditions are good. On colder and cloudy days we are seeing high water temps in the mid 40’s but when it is warm and sunny the water is getting up to the mid-fifties. On these warmer days there are fish up and taking bugs off of the surface later in the afternoon. It is still a bit early but conditions are trending in the right direction. Early morning has been almost devoid of action with things picking up substantially later in the day. There is no need to get on that water early and even nymphing has yielded little in the early morning hours. When the temperature swings 5 degrees or more the fish simply don’t feed much during the colder periods. At this point it is best to wait for the fish to begin to rise. It is all about the dry flies right now and on the right day the dry fly fishing can be quite spectacular, especially if you get a good stretch of river without a ton of anglers on it.
This can be hard to do on both of these rivers but if you manage to pull it off on a warm day, the fishing should be very good. The Hendricksons will be the hatch you should focus on and we are seeing a ton of light Hendys at the moment with a few darks coming off right as the hatch begins. When the hatch is good the spinner fall has been good as well, and many anglers will leave too early. If you are fishing this hatch be sure to stay until dark. Often fishing the spinner fall right until dark is when action is best and also when the largest fish are caught. Aside from Hendricksons there are also Quill Gordons and Blue Quills coming off in the afternoons. It seems that the fish are mostly ignoring these flies but it is always a good idea to have a few on you just in case the Hendrickson hatch is weak that day or the pressured fish start taking smaller flies.
The Delaware watershed is looking good! As of 5/12 we are seeing great flows and great water temperatures and the forecast is looking good as well. It seems like things are going to begin to kick off in a big way. The Lower East, Lower West, and the Mainstem are all looking great. There are fish rising on a variety of bugs including Hendricksons, Blue Quills, Quill Gordons, and a variety of caddis. The Apples should be on the way so be prepared for that hatch as well. The Hendrickson hatch is the big one at the moment. The hatch has been building and should be in full swing any day now. I recommend having a wide variety of Hendricksons to choose from. As many of you know, the Delaware is an extremely technical dry fly river so be prepared if you are new to this watershed. I recommend having emergers, duns, cripples, and spinners in any fly you expect to encounter up there. It will pay dividends. In the past week, we were hearing that the Blue Quill (Paralep) hatch was the hot bug and that there were fewer Hendricksons so expect the trout to shift their focus to the larger of the two mayflies as things progress. The Upper East and Upper West are still on the cold side but nymphing should prove productive. But with the hatches so good at the moment, why drown a nymph? The Lower East is the most wadable at the moment with great flows for those anglers on foot.
The situation this week is almost identical to last week. The Striper fishing along the coast of New York is still going strong and we are now in the heart of the Spring Striper run. The larger fish in the river are spawning and should be left alone. Some larger schoolies are proliferating outward and can be targeted on Long Island and the Western Sound. The night time surfcasters are getting into some very big fish and while the fly anglers are not catching as many, we are hearing that some very big fish have been taken on the fly recently. Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic side of Long Islands are great places to get on some of these larger Stripers. If you are fishing from a boat be sure to have a full sink line and a weighted fly. Getting down to the fish is equally important as fishing during the right tide. Far too often anglers are simply not getting down deep enough. If you are fishing from shore then an intermediate line is plenty but a weighted fly is always helpful. These fish will not be that picky this early in the season so almost any fly will work. A standard issue Clouser Minnow in a wide variety of colors should do the trick, and if you have a small number of sizes to choose from, so much the better. It seems like Long Island is where most of the fly fishing action is. Rockaway Point (Breezy Point) on the Western end of Long Island has been fishing very well. Rockaway Park just to the East and the adjacent Jamaica Bay Wildlife refuge has seen quite a few fish being taken when conditions allow. This whole area is right in the path of the larger fishing entering the Hudson to spawn as well as the smaller wintering fish that are leaving to feed. So, if there was one place to fish on Long Island, this would be it. Silver Point on East Rockaway Inlet is another good option as is Rockaway Beach itself.
We have some great news! The CT DEEP has determined that things have calmed down enough to begin stocking Fairfield County again which is great for local anglers. Thus far we know of a few rivers that have been stocked and have confirmed that the Saugatuck Fly Fishing Only Area has received fish, as has the Norwalk River. So if you are in the area these will be the two best options. These freshly stocked fish will hit a wide variety of flies which mean you do not have to be too concerned with fly selection. Streamers, mops, worms, and a wide variety of other nymphs will all work on any given day. We have not heard of much in the way of dry fly action yet. I would recommend fishing with nymphs for the time being and maybe having a few BWOs or caddis dries in your back pocket. Outside of Fairfield County there are still plenty of options as well. The stockie streams are all fishing well and should continue to fish well for the next month or so. Water levels and temperatures are looking great and highly conducive to actively feeding fish.
The Hendrickson hatch is still going strong. The hatch is well upstream at this point and within the entire catch and release only section. We are seeing the heaviest hatches around 2pm give or take an hour. Mild days with no wind will have the strongest hatches and the most fish up on the surface and rising. Colder and cloudy days will still see a few bugs come off but the hatch will be significantly reduced. As we’ve been saying the last few weeks, before the bugs come off consider fishing a Hendrickson nymph in a size 12 or 14. A wide variety of patterns will work such a pheasant tail or even a dark hare's ear. That should yield some fish and is a great way to bide your time as you wait for the flies to come off. As the hatch begins it is a good idea to fish emergers or wets flies. Even though the fish may look like they are taking bugs off the top, they will most likely be taking the emerging Hendricksons. Once the hatch is in full swing, switching to Duns will be advantageous and those upright wings are a dead giveaway. At the tail end of the hatch, usually late in the afternoon, switch to a spinner and you should be right back on the fish. So, get those flies ready to fish through the transition and remember to bring dries, emergers, wets, and nymphs. That will ensure a fun and productive day on the water. Water temperatures are peaking just shy of 50 degrees with a low of around 46. Because of this, later in the day is when the fish will be most active so consider concentrating your efforts from 12pm onward. Although the mornings can be productive, especially with the stocked fish, later in the afternoons will be when all fish are most actively feeding.
It still seems that nymphing is the most consistent method at the moment. Tight-line and indicator anglers are catching quite a few fish with those larger holdover/wild fish mixed in. Hendrickson nymphs are also taking quite a few fish and are a great option but that is not the only pattern producing at this point. The Farmington has a great diversity of insect species so don’t be afraid to fish stones and caddis as well. These patterns in all different sizes and colors will take fish. Midge nymphs are also producing. A go-to pattern on this river, it’s a rare day when a black zebra s20 doesn’t take at least a few fish. Keep all of this in mind.
The water finally came down to a much more manageable level on Monday making almost every spot very accessible and fishable. We are not seeing a ton of precipitation in the forecast so flows should be great for the coming weekend and well into next week (provided the forecast does not change). The lower water levels makes all methods of fly fishing viable whether you decide to nymph, swing wets, or fish dries. Really the only thing that won’t produce well will be streamers (however, depending on where you fish and what patterns you throw, you can still get some fish to commit to a larger streamer - it’s just lower probability at this point).
We are hearing about some very large crowds and a lot of pressure on the Farmington. It has always been a very popular stream but it seems like this year has been especially bad. So there are a few options you have to deal with. First, there is the tried and true tactic of getting to the stream early. The earlier the better. This will allow you to nab a good spot or at least check a few before deciding on the best option. Second, you can go on a weekday. That’s usually a bit better in terms of crowds, though these days it still pays to get there early, even on a weekday. And third, you can vary your fly selection a bit more than the average angler. Uncommon or unique patterns are always a great thing to have on this river. These fish see a ton of flies so getting away from copper johns and pheasant tails can be a big help. If you tie flies, get creative and experiment with less common colors and profiles and if you don’t consider ordering patterns that look fishy but may be a bit unorthodox. These adjustments can mean the difference between a good day and a great one on the Farmy.
The Housatonic continues to improve! The Hendrickson hatch is happening right now and with the water dropping we should see fish up and rising. Right around 2pm is when the hatch really kicks off and will hold for the rest of the afternoon.
The water is still a bit on the high side. It is running 1420 CFS as of 5/12 and seems to be on its way up after the rain we had recently. I don’t think it will go up too much but with rain in the forecast who knows. I recommend spending the majority of your time nymphing until the fish begin to rise. A Hendrickson nymph is a great option if you decide to go subsurface and bigger stoneflies are not a bad idea either. Pick and choose your battles. If you want to get fish on dries then your best bet will be the warmer and sunnier days with little-to-no wind. If it is cloudy and a bit cold then it will be a subsurface game.
The Smallies are becoming more and more consistent. Granted it is still on the early side but the water is warming and the fish have become more active. If you do decide to target these fish, a slow retrieve down deep is critical. You do not need to crawl the fly but be sure to give the fly nice long pauses. Target structure especially in locations sheltered from the bulk of the current. Also, be aware of areas that will warm faster than the rest of the surrounding rivers as fish will congregate here and feed more aggressively. On the right day, we’ve heard of fish being taken on poppers, a strong indication that they are becoming much more active. It won’t be too much longer until the late spring bite is on and the smallie fishing will be at its best.
The Pike fishing has been picking up too and some really nice fish have been taken in the past week. No surprise here as the water is warming and the fish are post-spawn. That means they are feeding heavily and on any given day the fishing could be lights out. As I have mentioned in prior reports, it is all about covering water. These fish will be holding in ambush locations in an effort to put on the pounds after the spawn. They will be far less temperature and location sensitive as they were in previous months. It is all about food and as such, where you fish should hinge on baitfish concentrations and concealment that Pike will use as ambush points. The fishing will continue well into summer so things are just getting started!
The river mouths are still producing Stripers on the right day but it seems as though things are slowing quite a bit in these locations. At this point, it is advantageous to spread out and fish bays, structure, and beaches. Most of the fish that have wintered over seem to have left the rivers and proliferated outward in search of food. As such, areas like Penfield Reef should be fishing well right now. Connecticut as a whole is in a bit of holding pattern at present. Larger fish are spawning and it’s going to be a schoolie fishery for at least the next few weeks. But there will be plenty of fish around and lots of action when conditions are right. We have been seeing quite a few fish off the beaches too as they seem not to have moved into deep water quite yet and are still tucked in relatively tight. That’s great news for us fly anglers! As I’ve mentioned before, it’s probably safe to put those 10wts away and grab an 8 or a 9. Nothing has really changed as far as fly selection goes either. Clouser Minnows in a size 1/0 have been extremely effective and is probably the only fly and size you need at present. A few color options is helpful though, something natural and something bright for differences in turbidity. Deceivers will work as well but more often than not, a weighted fly will out fish an unweighted one since getting down deep enough is the key. An intermediate sinking line with a weighted fly seems to be the sweet spot. Colors we recommend are Olive/White and Chartreuse and White. However, you will find these fish to be quite aggressive toward many patterns and colors. The key is getting the fly out far enough and deep enough.
The Falling tide is always the top producer for shore-based anglers but that does not mean the rising won’t produce as well. Really, as long as you have moving water you should find actively feeding fish provided the area you are fishing is holding them. This time of the year I tend to downsize my flies and leader. With the odds of hooking a bigger fish greatly diminished (unless I specifically target them) I will drop down to 15lb Fluorocarbon and a size 1 or 2 Clouser. Especially if the water is very clear. They can get a little leader shy right now and a more subtle presentation is often the key to success.
In the weeks to come we will start to see these larger migratory fish move into the area. As we wrote last week, it’s probably a good time to plan where you would like to be when they arrive so that you can make the most of it. There is a pretty short window for fly anglers in terms of targeting these larger fish and the end of May should have them along our coast. Once the fish move in it is a small window of opportunity.
We're just starting to get word from some guides and friends on waters to the north of us as well, and will start adding those more regularly as conditions improve. Most recently, we got a nice note from friend and guide Eric Gass of GS Outfitting, who said that the action on the Deerfield River has been fantastic. They are still catching lots of fish on streamers and nymphs but have been seeing the Hendricksons starting to kick into action as well. Here's a nice brownie from one of his recent outings: