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During the summer months, everything about the river environment happens at a much slower pace. Every year by our current date the insect hatches and the trout’s behavior fall into a very predictable daily routine. In stark contrast to the slower trout fishing, it is prime time for pursuing smallmouth bass with the fly. The warmer section of the river system is alive with active smallies, and they are eager to chase a variety of flies.
First let’s talk about the trout.
If chasing trout is your passion there are several great options at this time. For at least the next month, the action will be on the Upper East Branch, Upper West Branch and at the top of the Main Stem Delaware. These are the areas influenced by the icy cold-water releases from Pepacton and Cannonsville reservoirs. While trout elsewhere are sluggish, the trout here are active and on the feed.
For the remainder of summer, anglers can take advantage of the predictable routines of the trout. If you are a morning person, there is a good hatch of trico’s every morning, and in the areas that have good populations of this tiny mayfly, the best action for match-the-hatch dry fly fishing will be from 8 to 11 a.m. These tiny insects thrive in areas of mid to slower water that has at least some aquatic vegetation present. The more weeds the better. Grass-lined river banks are also a big part of this insect’s life cycle. If you can find an area with an abundance of all three, you are in the right place.
The next periods of activity are mid-afternoon and just before dark. During these periods, anglers can expect to find mixed hatches of summertime sulfurs and blue wing olives. This action is very reliable most days. The best areas in the afternoon hours are in the coldest waters. The first five miles or so below each reservoir’s spillway are the places to target. In these areas, the water temperature rarely fluctuates, so the insect hatches and trout activity repeat daily. Anglers should make sure they have a good assortment of tiny sulfur and blue wing olive patterns to work on the fussy trout in these areas.
Toward dark, almost all sections of the East and West branches will see an increase in insect and trout activity. Most days, there are steadily emerging sulfurs and olives. Toward dark, isonychia and cahills will be about as well. The evening is also the time when most of the spinner activity will take place. Almost every night heavy spinner falls will blanket the water’s surface. The trout will line up in the slower pools just below riffles to take advantage of the influx of food. Small hackle-wing rusty spinners are a great choice during late-day feeding activity.
Lastly summer is also terrestrial time. There are a few species of land-born insects that find their way to the water and become important fish food. The most common are ants and beetles. inchworms, crickets and hoppers. This summer seems to be an above-average year for hoppers in our area, so I am sure the trout are seeing them.
For all-day action on the fly rod, smallmouth bass are the smart choice. Catching is a given, as these fish are active and aggressive under the current river conditions. Right now, the best action is from Long Eddy downstream. Recently my guide staff has been targeting the area from Callicoon to Narrowsburg and finding lots of fish for our guests.
Most any streamer fly, popper fly or big nymph will get you some action. On recent trips our guests have been having good action with poppers. We use these surface flies often, since it is super exciting to see the fish hit on the surface. When popper action is slow, fish deep around rocks, grass and other structure. Clouser minnows, wooly buggers, circus peanuts and crayfish imitations are working great.
Some tips for great action with the popper: Take lots of pauses in your retrieve. Most of the fish hit on the pause. With streamers, try very slow swinging retrieves that put your fly near the bottom. Sometimes less action produces more takes with resting fish.