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The late summer doldrums

By TONY BONAVIST
Posted 8/28/19

Looking back, one has to wonder where the 2109 trout season went? April and May were cool and wet, rendering stream flows too high and cold for fishing, with fly hatches repressed or lost. The …

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The late summer doldrums

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Looking back, one has to wonder where the 2109 trout season went? April and May were cool and wet, rendering stream flows too high and cold for fishing, with fly hatches repressed or lost. The Hendrickson hatch was certainly compromised on most rivers. My first trip this spring was May 22 on the upper East Branch—a month later than normal. As the season progressed, fly hatches began much later than usual, too. For example, the pale evening dun hatch, which generally ends by the first week in June, continued well into July. Green drakes normally emerge right around Memorial Day, but they were also found emerging late, almost into July!

Well here we are, in late August, with September just a few days away: a period of time I call the “Summer Doldrums.” The freestone-rivers are low and warm with fishing all but impossible. In fact, checking water temperatures for the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls offered afternoon recordings that reached 80 degrees. Those high temperatures are lethal to trout. Fortunately there are seeps, spring holes and tributary mouths where fish find refuge to survive the onslaught of summer heat. The DEC closes sections of the Beaverkill to fishing during these periods.

With major insect hatches behind us and fishing opportunity limited by low flows and high water temperatures, are there options for anglers at this difficult time? There are, and those options and opportunities lie within the Catskill tail waters. Unless weather patterns change dramatically, there should be adequate bottom releases from the DEP reservoirs to sustain the trout fisheries and provide fishing opportunity for the remainder of the 2019 season. It will however, be a time of limited hatches, small flies and fine tippets.

Olive mayfly (Baetis tricaudatus) hatches have already begun and can be found, depending on the day and river, at different times and in different numbers. As a group, the Olives are consistent, with the best hatches occurring on cool or cold gray days. Olives come in a variety of sizes from 18 down to 24 with several species sometimes hatching together.

Then there are the diminutive Tricos (Tricorythodes stygiatus). These little mayflies hatch early in the morning, rise above the river, transform from dun to spinner in the air, mate, return to the water, lay eggs and die. My friend, Bill Dorato, once told me that Tricos drop when the air temperature reaches 69 degrees. From my experience, these little flies begin to fall to the water around 9 a.m. with fishing ending around 11. Trico hatches can be huge, with large numbers of male and female spinners on the water, creating difficult fishing conditions. It is a time when anglers will find their fly among hundreds of naturals. So, accurate casting, patience and persistence will pay off. Fly fishers will need Trico imitations in size 20 to 22 and use 7x tippets for these tiny flies. Wind is the enemy of Trico spinners, driving them to the riverside vegetation to egg lay another day. So be aware that a windy morning will severely impact Trico fishing.

August and September are also the time of year when anglers need to be aware of terrestrial insects. It is the time when little ants, both black and red, find their way to Catskill Rivers. These insects are also very small, requiring imitations from size 16 down to 22. The smaller ones are very difficult to see on water.

So as the season comes to a close, anglers will find fishing on the tail waters challenging, requiring tiny flies, fine tippets and perseverance to achieve success.

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