ramblings of a catskill flyfisher

Trout-stream fishing, 2021

By TONY BONAVIST
Posted 4/7/21

As a columnist who writes about fly fishing for River Reporter, it has been my tradition to include a piece about the opening day of trout season each spring. Unfortunately, here in the Eastern …

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ramblings of a catskill flyfisher

Trout-stream fishing, 2021

Posted

As a columnist who writes about fly fishing for River Reporter, it has been my tradition to include a piece about the opening day of trout season each spring. Unfortunately, here in the Eastern Catskills, an issue arose that involves an application for a new pumped-storage, electric-generating facility proposed for the upper basin of Ashokan Reservoir in the Town of Olive. It is a controversial project—one that required me to make readers aware of some impacts associated with pumped-storage operations on the upper Ashokan’s ecosystem. That article appeared in the March 24 edition of the paper.

So, by the time this column appears in print on April 7, opening day will be a week old. And knowing what I know about fishermen, those hearty anglers amongst us will have gone forward—regardless of the weather, low water temperatures and the possibility of high flows—to make their annual pilgrimage to a favorite trout river. For those fly fishermen that braved the elements, it meant plying the deep, slow pools with weighted nymphs or wet flies with the hope of enticing a trout or two. Even at its best, it’s tough fishing during these first weeks of April.

 While most of us are anxious to hit the river, past experience gained over the years—with ice in the guides, cold fingers and feet—dictates patience. We’ve learned that it is essential for water temperatures to rise and river flows to recede before going fishing. For most of us, that means waiting for the first mayfly hatches to begin. In normal years (if there is such a thing), Quill Gordon will be the first hatch to appear, sometime in mid to late April, followed by blue quills and Hendricksons later in the month. Of the early hatches, Hendricksons are the most eagerly awaited. We’ll know when these hatches begin; these days, fly fishers get the word out through the internet. There are very few secrets in the fly fishing community!

Once the Hendricksons begin, water temperatures will have risen above 50 degrees and, with a bit of luck, the flows will be normal, perhaps a bit low, and the trout will rise. Conditions have to be just right to take trout on a dry fly at this time of year. Sadly, more often than not, high flows and cold water temperatures are the norm, and dry-fly fishing is difficult or nonexistent. And of course, there are those years in which the early hatches are complete washouts due to high water. So this spring, after a long winter and months of lockdown due to COVID-19, let’s hope for some decent weather, water conditions and rising trout to begin a new season.

Now, as we wait for the first hatches, anglers need to keep in mind that April 1, 2021 brings a number of very important changes to New York’s trout stream fishing regulations. I detailed those changes in a previous article. For the first time in my memory, trout streams will now be classified based on the quality of their habitat. Each classification will have its own regulations and trout stocking policies where appropriate.

 In my view, one of the most controversial changes will allow anglers to fish almost all the state’s trout rivers from October 15 to March 31 on a no-kill basis. In other words, there is no closed season. There are pros and cons associated with this kind of management. On the plus side, it allows fishermen, including fly fishers, the opportunity to fish for large, lake-run trout in most streams that were previously closed. On the downside, it will also allow anglers to fish in the very small tributary streams where trout actually spawn. Many of us that fish Catskill rivers and streams do not believe that folks should be fishing where and when trout are spawning. In many instances, trout have traveled long distances to reach the rivers of their birth, which are often tiny tributaries less than 10 feet wide. I’ve actually observed trout spawning in these small streams. And it’s not unusual to see lake-run fish up to 10 pounds, with parts of their upper bodies and dorsal fins out of the water, during the act of spawning. I don’t know of anyone who supports fishing these fish at this time, even with no-kill regulations in place. Trout are under enough stress during spawning and don’t need the extra pressures caused by a bunch of eager anglers flinging flies and lures at them. And of course, this type of regulation provides incentive for those few amongst us who are inclined to take fish in or out of season, despite the regulations. Several of us have advised the bureau of fisheries of our sentiments regarding this issue, but so far, the regulations stand.

When I checked with the clerk’s office in my town, it had not received the 2021 Fishing Guide yet, so I’ve attached a copy to this column online for reference. A quick review indicates that anglers should check the guide for rivers they intend to fish for specific regulations. There are many. Find it at www.riverreporter.com/outdoors.

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