Ramblings of a catskill flyfisher

The waiting game

By TONY BONAVIST
Posted 6/17/20

As a group, it seems that fly fishers are always waiting. In the early spring, they wait for the equipment they might’ve ordered for the coming season. Then they wait for April 1, the opening …

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Ramblings of a catskill flyfisher

The waiting game

Posted

As a group, it seems that fly fishers are always waiting. In the early spring, they wait for the equipment they might’ve ordered for the coming season. Then they wait for April 1, the opening of trout season. Once the season opens, fly fishers wait for water temperatures to rise so trout will begin to feed at the surface on the first hatches. Quill Gordon begins the procession of mayflies, starting in mid to late April when Catskill winter still refuses to relinquish its hold on the region.

As fly fishers, we eagerly and impatiently await those first hatches. In late April, we wait for Blue Quills and Hendricksons to emerge, hoping for some of the best fishing opportunities of a new season, provided the weather cooperates. A bit later, around the middle of May, we await March Browns and Gray Foxes; they hatch sporadically throughout the day beginning in late morning. The spinner falls can provide excellent fishing for large trout, provided anglers are patient and the spinners actually fall. Then, right around Memorial Day, Green Drakes will carpet the water and hatch in such large numbers that fishing can be difficult. Green Drakes are the Catskills largest riverine mayfly and can cause the trout to become full very quickly. A bit later in early June, anglers will look for Pale Evening Duns and Little Sulphurs to appear at near or at dusk. Pale Evening Duns provide some of the best dry fishing; the trout fixate on the duns, eliminating the sub-surface feeding activity associated with other species of emerging mayflies.

As June progresses, anglers will enjoy the most hours of daylight for the entire year when the summer solstice arrives on the 20th. The next day, the minutes imperceptibly begin to decline; summer has officially arrived. Like most fly fishers, I look forward to the increased hours available for June evening fishing. However, there is a twinge of sadness because, once the solstice is over, summer begins to ever so slowly wane toward fall: The end of another season on the river. That being said, there are more hatches on the horizon that we wait for. On some streams, notably the Esopus Creek, there will be a late June hatch of Isonychia mayflies. This is an evening emergence; nymphs migrate to the shallows where they climb on stream-side rocks to hatch. These large, juicy mayflies are a favorite trout food. There will be aggressive feeding on the migrating nymphs and slashing rises to the duns as they briefly ride the water. Next, fly fishers will look for Light Cahills at the end of June and the beginning of July. This species is the last of the large mayflies of the spring/summer season to appear on Catskill rivers. Most emergences begin at dusk, so anglers should be prepared for late nights on the river.

As summer progresses, stream flows will become dangerously low with water temperatures rising to lethal levels in the lower reaches of some Catskill freestone rivers. As a result, fishing will be relegated to the various tailwaters. With the exception of a few oddball insects, the mainstay of the late summer season will be morning hatches of tiny tricorythodes mayflies in July and the beginning of Blue-Winged Olives in August. Some but not all Catskill fly fishers await these hatches because they are about all that is left of the season’s mayflies. These insects are very small when compared to the early, larger flies and present challenging fishing for anglers.

Sadly, by mid-October, the waiting is over in that most streams are low; even the tailwaters and most hatches, with the exception of a few Blue-Winged Olives, are also over. So it is at this time that most of us case our rods for the last time and begin the wait for the next season. It seems with fly fishing, the waiting never ends! Maybe it is the hope we all have as fly fishers that brings us back to the river each year, and waiting is just part of the process.

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