Another opening day

By TONY BONAVIST
Posted 3/25/20

Each year at this time, right around the end of March, anglers eagerly await the start of another trout season. In some angling circles, that is all the talk is about. I know I’ve been hearing …

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Another opening day

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Each year at this time, right around the end of March, anglers eagerly await the start of another trout season. In some angling circles, that is all the talk is about. I know I’ve been hearing it since late January—the time of the annual fly-fishing show in New Jersey—which just seems to enhance the excitement. In fact, most fly fishers have been awaiting the new season since the last season closed at the end of September. Yet some anglers are so inclined to go trout fishing, that they fish throughout the winter in those rivers that remain open year-round. Others travel south to fish in the salt for bonefish, tarpon and snook. Still, others take it a step further and head to Chile, Argentina, or even New Zealand where our winter is their summer.

As an angler that bounced weighted nymphs along the bottoms of rivers from Montana to the Catskills, with a stiff north wind, snowflakes in the air and ice in the guides, I’m more inclined to sit by the fire and wait for warmer weather and hatches to come rather than brave the elements.

All that being said, there is a certain ceremony associated with the opening of another trout season here in the Catskills. It is a tradition that goes back to the early years, when the Antrim Lodge in Roscoe was the meeting place, the watering hole for cold and weary anglers that had plied the waters of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc, braving high, frigid rivers with little success. Many a tale of a days fishing was spun at “Keeners Pool”—as the bar in the “Antrim” was known—over a few adult beverages. 

And, of course, there is the famous “Junction Pool” which joins the upper Beaverkill with the Willowemoc to form the main Beaverkill. That pool will receive a lot of attention on April 1, even if the weather is not great and the fishing accordingly difficult, if not downright impossible. Nevertheless, fly fishers will go forth with great hope and anticipation as a new season begins. Unless there is an unseasonably warm spring, lower than average streamflow and higher than normal water temperatures, there will little or no surface activity. That will mean fishing the deep, slower pools with a weighted nymph, and perhaps a split shot or two in order to get flies at or near the bottom: difficult fishing, but it does work for the patient and experienced angler.

Fishing on opening day is seldom easy. The water is cold, usually high and trout not very active. And while many will be out at the crack of dawn, wise anglers will wait until midafternoon; that is when water temperatures will inch up a notch or two. Even a few degrees can stir lethargic trout to begin to feed. There are other options for those anglers willing to forgo the big rivers and fish the smaller tributaries. Many of these small streams support wild populations of brook trout, which are generally more cooperative even under opening day conditions. Then there are the ponds, some of which also support wild brook trout. Anglers inclined to fish these waters, unless intimately familiar with the area, will need to do a bit of research. Checking the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website or a search for “Catskill brook trout waters” are good places to start. 

Me? I’ll be tying flies and thinking about the Hendrickson hatch which, if on time, is only a few weeks away. 

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