Greetings Compleat Anglers! While we are still in the very earliest stages of fishing season picking back up, we wanted to send out a report focused on some of the local streams in our area. If you're looking to shake off some rust or are looking to get a mental health break from worrying about the coronavirus, there are some great ways to steal a few hours of quality fishing. As the fishing picks up across the Northeast we'll be adding further information on other rivers and fisheries. Read on for the latest!
March signals the official start of our local stream spring fishing. With catch & release only, DEEP stockings, and the Stonefly hatch in full swing, this may be the best month to hit the local stockie streams in our area. It is still a bit on the cold side for prime-time tailwater fishing which only makes these stocked rivers a more attractive option. Many anglers will hit these stockie rivers in March and April to dust off the cobwebs from the winter. If you do decide to venture out and fish any of these rivers, you will find accommodating fish willing to take a wide variety of flies. And lots of them!
We are fortunate enough to have had a phenomenal early Stonefly hatch in the smaller streams throughout Connecticut. At times, the number of Stoneflies falling from the trees has been astounding. And the hatch is well underway. I was on the water this past Monday and the Stones were popping on a regular basis. Needless to say, the fishing was great. The fish were more than eager to hit a well skated adult stone. The hatch will continue to build until the end of this month so now is the time to capitalize on this great early season dry fly action. Throughout the state you will see these stones in a number of smaller streams, including the Mianus, Mill, Salmon, Naugatuck, Saugatuck, Norwalk, Moosup, Yantic, Salmon, Pequabuck, and many others. The Farmington and Housatonic certainly gets Stones too, though the Farmington is still quite cold so fishing will be delayed a bit. Not so much because of the number of bugs. It is more a water temperature issue. They are hatching strong right now. However, few fish are on them. Reports from the water are a fish or two rising but sparse dry action at best. On the Housey the Stones will pop but depending on CFS, it may not be a viable angling option. The This river warms up faster than the tailwaters such as the Farmington so if it's your local stream it could be decent fishing but, if not; no sense is driving all over the state trying to find a good hatch. Stay local. The best ones are right in your backyard.
As far as strategy goes, Stoneflies like warm sunny days with little to no wind. Rain, wind, and a drop in temperature will snuff the hatch quite a bit. So, we recommend targeting those sunny days with temps over 50, which will ensure a thick and sustained hatch. Shallow riffle sections that dump into deeper water is where you should set up in anticipation for the hatch. The Stones hunker down in the faster riffles as larvae, crawling to the bank to hatch when conditions are right. They then fly up into the trees, mate, and the females return to erratically disperse their eggs into the water. They actually act much like caddis on the water, hopping and skittering on the surface in all directions. Although a dead drift will often get hit, skating your fly in an effort to mimic this erratic behavior can make all the difference.
There is some debate about whether these small local stones actually emerge in the typical fashion versus crawling out like every other Stonefly species. I personally have seen these stones pop right out of the middle of a run. But I can neither confirm nor deny whether this is a unique trait to this species or just a few flies that get dislodged from the substrate during their bankward exodus and are simply forced to make a run for it. For you cerebral anglers, keep an eye out during the peak of the hatch and try to observe this behavior. Maybe a stonefly emerger should be a thing.
For those of you out there who are new to this hatch, these are not the typical stones you may be thinking of. They are not giants. They are quite small when compared to many of their brethren. They max out at a size 14 and will drop to 18 or 20 during the initial and final phases of the hatch. A size 16 has always been the sweet spot for the majority of the hatching period. It is wise to have a variety of sizes and patterns as the real bugs can vary depending on conditions. They typically have black bodies and slate colored wings. It is difficult to find a good dry that will mimic this Stonefly species. We had to get ours custom tied and it has been a very effective pattern. If you can’t make it to the shop to pick up a few, a black Elk Hair Caddis can work in a pinch but we highly recommend tying or purchasing the right pattern. The hatch is going strong and will continue for the next three to four weeks. No time like the present!
The Farmington has been stocked so if that’s your local river, the fishing should be very good. The upper sections got the majority of the fish in preparation for the opening day melee and with catch and release only at the moment, it should be easy fishing. The stockies will hit a wide variety of flies. All of those “junk” flies will work initially so try starting with those. Mops, worms, weenies, and eggs should all get hit. As the fish get smarter, downsize the flies. If the fish are finicky, try dropping an 18 or 20 back zebra midge off the back of your larger mops, or squirmies. This will give you a good idea of how selective the fish are. Not much in the way of hatches yet. Some caddis, BWOS, midges, and a stonefly here or there. Nothing too exciting. If dry flies are your game, then the Hendrickson’s and March Browns are a little ways away. If you are thinking about heading up there, tight lining will be the most productive method until things warm up. If you are thinking about targeting larger fish, then lower down in the system is where you want to be. New Hartford and Collinsville will have warmer water and the larger fish typically hold down here. Early season can often yield some of the largest fish of the year as reduced angling pressure and a long winter can make these normally reclusive and picky fish uncharacteristically grabby. This gives the average Joe a shot at some of those larger fish before a few captures sends them back into hiding. Stonefly nymphs are a good starting point and never discount a good ol’ fashion caddis pupa. Tan is our favorite but any reasonable and well-presented fly could produce one of those 22” fish.
The Housatonic has yet to come to life. The Stoneflies are beginning to hatch so we should see some activity in the next week or so depending on weather and precipitation but the action has been sparse when it comes to trout. Nymphing will prove fruitful for those willing to put in the time and cover water. But it won’t be a numbers game. Streamers have been taking a fish or two when conditions are right. Slightly turbid water and cloudy days are when you could throw bigger streamers with some success, but again, a few fish would be a good day. All that said, we should see a dramatic improvement in the fishing as the weeks progress. Things are already slowly beginning to pick up. If you are looking to get away from the Farmington crowds the Housey will be an increasingly good option. The Pike fishing has improved substantially in the past few weeks, with the toothy critters coming out of their winter dormancy and starting to feed. Multiple shots per day are the norm, something not always the case at other times of the year. As always, when it comes to Northerns covering water is key. Big and bright flies are the name of the game and be prepared to cast all day. The odds of success go way up if you put a full day on the water and keep casting. A few Smallmouth have been taken recently but it is still a bit early. We are right on the cusp of prime time for this river so be ready. If we get some warmer temperatures in the next few weeks we could see things improve quite quickly.
It is still early for our annual Striper run. We are still about a month away.
Most “trout” streams in the state are still closed. April 1st is the kickoff date for most of the popular trout streams throughout the state and we will certainly keep all of you informed as the fisheries open up. A few special regulation sections of some streams are open in the Catskills but reports are sparse at best. It is still pretty early and we recommend fishing elsewhere at this point. A good option would be late season Steelhead. Steelhead anglers are still having success on Great Lakes streams and this past month saw some very consistent fishing as the weather has been quite mild in that region. The Salmon river, one of the more popular rivers in the area, has been fishing quite well. Fresh fish continue to move into the system and while double digit numbers are not realistic, a handful of fish per day is the norm. A wide variety of flies have been taking fish. Down in the DSR swinging intruder and tube-style flies has been producing nice chrome fish recently. Egg flies are still taking a few as well when conditions allow. Stoneflies and various nymphs have also been accounting for their fair share of hook ups. It is not a bad idea to have some natural and realistic patterns for this time of year. These fish have been hammered all winter with flashy egg flies so a sneaky little Stonefly is often just what they are looking for especially when the water is clear and high. Unfortunately, the water on the Salmon river climbed to 2,900 CFS on Tuesday making the river essentially unfishable. We will see what the water does in the coming days but if we have anything over 1,500 expect tough fishing. Once the water drops a bit the bite should pick right back up so keep an eye on those gauges.