the sulfur season
Summer is here, and the big insect hatches of spring are just about over. For us fly fishermen, summer fishing is a much more laid-back time to fish. The choices for trout fishing are far more limited than during the cooler months, and the insect hatches are much less diverse. Summer fishing is however very reliable, and most days the action starts and finishes up at nearly the same times.
Summer is sulfur time in the Upper Delaware River system. These bright yellow insects will be the main staple in the trout’s diet every day from now through fall. Anglers will find the most reliable action on the Upper East Branch and Upper West Branch. These icy cold rivers have nearly perfect habitat for the sulfurs and so far, this season the action has been good. On most days there are also blue-wing olives in the drift. The intensity of the blue-wing olive activity varies from day to day. The best action with these insects is always on overcast, rainy days.
The best time to get out is from mid-afternoon until dark. Recently the bugs have been appearing between 2 and 3 p.m. There is usually a good period of match-the-hatch dry-fly fishing at that time and again just before dark. There is normally an hour-long lull between the early and late periods of activity.
I have been having success with a variety of sulfur and olive dry-fly patterns. The most reliable patterns have been tiny hackle-wing cripples and spinners, and CDC knock-down duns. These smaller dry flies are best fished on very long leaders tapered down to 6x tippet.
Another summertime target for fly anglers in the Upper Delaware region is smallmouth bass. Targeting and chasing these exciting game fish also puts you back on the “big river.” The Main Stem is now smallmouth bass central. We have been taking guests out targeting these fish regularly for two weeks now. The action has been very good. We have been hitting them on popper flies and a variety of baitfish imitations. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a smallie explode on a surface popper.
Currently the best action has been downstream of Callicoon. We regularly target from Callicoon down to Lackawaxen and find steady action daily. With the weather forecast predicting very hot weather in the coming days, the areas upstream of Callicoon may also produce some bigger fish.
My favorite flies for targeting smallies include traditional Bass poppers. I like chartreuse, orange and red/white. Gurgler flies also make a big disturbance on the surface and provoke some bigger fish.
Below the surface clouser minnows, bead-head buggers, zonkers and crayfish patterns will draw attention. Another favorite of mine is the circus-peanut articulated streamer. This very busy fly has lots of rubber legs that bass can’t seem to resist. For targeting Delaware-sized smallies, I like to fish a 6-weight rod with a floating line. A simple 9-foot leader with 10-pound tippet will work well on most days.
For steady mid-day action look for the smallies around the fast water and rocky areas. Toward dark, the bigger eddies will be where the action happens.
Wade safe and good luck!