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The last hour

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On Catskill Rivers, once the spring-fly hatches are over, much of the daytime fishing has ended. The evening fishing has begun: Pale Evening Duns, Sulphur Duns and Green and Brown Drake mayflies, along with some species of caddisflies, hatching late in the day or at dusk. Angler friends are sometimes perplexed when I explain this seasonal change to them, as they generally prefer to fish during the mornings and afternoons rather than evenings. There are some exceptions: cool, cloudy and even rainy days may find trout feeding at the surface to a hatch of Olive mayflies. Olive’s, begin to hatch in July. Other possibilities are the tail waters, where cold, bottom release water may cause some species of mayflies like Sulphur’s to hatch in the early afternoon.

Even by late May, the best angling opportunity is late in the day and at dusk. Sadly, those fly fishers that begin fishing early may be tuckered out by dinner time, perhaps somewhat dispirited, and ready to head home. While they are leaving, I’m just putting on my waders! As June approaches, I’ve learned, mostly the hard way after many years of fishing Catskill Rivers, not to begin fishing until at least 6 p.m., and even that is on the early side.

In other articles, I emphasized the negative impact that sunlight has on trout-feeding behavior. As the season progresses, day length and sunshine increase while flows decrease, and brown trout become more and more wary and light adverse, particularly the larger 18-to-20-inch fish. It has been my experience that these fish do not begin to feed until the sun is well off the water. Couple that with evening fly hatches, spinner falls and caddis egg laying, and it is the time—the last hour—that most large trout begin to feed heavily. Most anglers are long gone by then.

It is during this small window of time, late in the day, when the dead and dying mayflies and caddisflies provide the most abundant and reliable food supply, giving fishers the best opportunity to hook very large trout. Why? There are no emerging insects that, more often than not, create their own set of problems for anglers, thereby eliminating some of the issues associated with hatching flies. The egg laying and dying of mayfly spinner falls and caddis, with some exceptions, do not last very long, so feeding is concentrated. The sun is behind the mountain and off the water, so light sensitivity is no longer an issue. This means that big fish are on the prowl and about as easy to take as it gets. That’s right, as easy to take as it gets, and perhaps easier to catch than smaller trout during the day. See what I’m getting at here?

Due too low light, little hatching, a concentrated food supply and short feeding time, large trout are actively feeding and will take just about any properly presented fly that enters their feed lane. I use a Rusty Spinner in sizes 12–16 depending on the species of flies on the water at that time, but I believe almost any pattern that floats in the surface film will work because of the trout’s aggressive feeding behavior. Granted, as night falls and light diminishes, anglers will not be able to see their fly on the water. Essentially, they will be fishing “blind,” so to speak. However, fly fishers that take up the challenge and learn to fish under low-light conditions, will be handsomely rewarded. Those anglers will find a quiet, peaceful night on the river with little competition and hungry, active large trout.

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