Early season trout fishing
April 1, opening of trout season in New York State, arrived in my neighborhood with bright sunshine, a stiff wind and a reading of 21 degrees on the thermometer. A little later that morning, I spoke with a friend who lives near Roscoe who said, “It’s snowing.” When I asked if he was going fishing, he laughed. Hardly the kind of weather one likes to see at this time of year, yet, after a long cold winter, most anglers are itching to go fishing. Even though it was snowing in Roscoe, I’d bet if you drove by Junction Pool, where the Willowemoc and Beaverkill join, that day, you would’ve seen heavily garbed anglers casting their lines to the frigid water.
For some, opening day is a tradition where many anglers go forth to regard favorite rivers and renew another season—they don’t fish. Others actually go afield, regardless of the weather and go fishing. I used to do that, but not anymore. I’m more inclined to wait for the trees to leaf, daffodils to bloom and a few mayflies to hatch before loading the car. All that being said, it is actually possible to catch a few trout during April, provided anglers follow a few, well-established but simple, guidelines.
In previous columns, I’ve written about the impact that water temperature has on trout feeding, especially early in the season, when temperatures can be in the 40s. With water temperatures at that level, trout will be lethargic and not feed actively. That does not mean they don’t feed, it just means they eat less than when temperatures reach the mid-50s. So, where to begin?
Since water temperature plays such a significant role in early season trout fishing, anglers should try to be on the water during the warmest part of the day. In most cases, that will be mid- to late-afternoon. As biologists, we target 50 degrees as the temperature at which trout will begin to feed more regularly. Just keep in mind that the drop in early season nighttime air temperature can lower water temperatures as much as 10 degrees, which impacts morning and early afternoon fishing.
Another factor for anglers to keep in mind is where to fish in the early part of the season. The closer to the head waters, the colder the temperature, especially if elevation is an issue. To combat this, seek out streams and rivers that flow through low-lying areas. The further downstream and the lower in elevation, the warmer the water will be.
The next important consideration is the type of water to fish. I believe that most seasoned early season fisherman have learned that, because fish are sluggish at this time, the deep, slow pools are where trout will lie; fishing the riffles and heavy runs will not be as productive.
So, regardless of whether you are using a worm (the small garden varieties are best), a lure, or an imitation nymph, the bait needs to be fished near the bottom. Be prepared to lose a few hooks, lures, or flies; if you don’t, you are not fishing deep enough.
Because of the conditions, early season trout fishing can be difficult. But, if you fish at the right time of day, in the right type water, with your bait or lure near the bottom, you may be pleasantly surprised just how productive fishing at this time of year can be.