New York’s opening day debuts Friday, April 1. Many anglers fish the opener as part of a tradition; rain, snow, or shine. Past openers have ranged in ‘fisherman friendliness’. Last year, for example, the opener was on the heels of a deep and cold winter. This year looks like it will be a warmer and rainy start to the season with a forecasted high temp of 64 degrees.
March started off pretty “lamb-like” and looks like it will exit that way as well. As a result, water temps will be up and the bugs and trout should be pretty active for early spring. So Southern Tier waters will be in excellent condition for opening day. Flows on area creeks and streams are perfect right now with good clarity and just a hint of that snow-melt green in the water. Snow and shelf-ice are gone. The only obstacle to fishing access might be muddy bank-sides. As always, wade carefully, particularly with the colder water temps. Bring a spare change of clothes in case of a dunking.
Where to go? There are many opportunities for opening day fly fishing for trout. Following are some local waters to try:
- Catskill Rivers – West and East Branch of the Delaware, Beaverkill, Willowemoc
- Oquaga Creek
- Nanticoke Creek, Dudley Creek
- Owego Creek – East and West Branches as well as the Main Stem
- Cayuta Creek, Buttermilk Creek, Enfield Creek, Salmon Creek, Fall Creek
- Chenango Valley State Park, Nanticoke Lake
Early season fly fishing tips? Following are some options:
- For creeks and small streams, a 7′ to 8′, 3 or 4 weight fly fishing outfit will work fine. With water levels as they are now, weight forward or double taper floating lines will handle anything from dry flies to nymphs and streamers. Use a 7.5 foot leader rated at 3X to 4X and add tippet rated the same or lower as necessary. If fishing deeper water, shot can be added to get nymphs and streamers down.
- For the larger streams and rivers, such as the Catskill rivers, a 9′, 4, 5, or 6 weight outfit is ideal, with the 4 weight outfit more slanted toward dry fly and light nymph work and the 6 weight better to handle bigger streamers. Leaders should be 3X down to 5X for nymphs and dries, but a 3X or 2X will be better for streamers. And if truly focused on chucking meat (streamers), an intermediate line or sink tip line in combination with a shorter (5’ to 7’) leader rated at 2X will do the job nicely.
- Given the forecast for opening day, nymphs, wet flies and streamers should all work well, particularly early when temps are down. Worm patterns will also work, particularly for stockies. As the day warms, it might be best to lighten up with nymphs and wet flies. Keep an eye out for little black stonefly hatches as well as blue-winged olives (BWO’s) and even some caddis.
- Typical flies to imitate are little black stoneflies, caddis, or midges. The picket pin or similar wet fly can be deadly as it imitates a drowned stonefly, but a prince nymph is also a great early season nymph. The wooly bugger in black, brown, or olive can be dead drifted like a nymph or stripped like a streamer and will imitate a broad spectrum of early season prey. Streamer patterns that imitate dace and chubs will also work well. Patterns such as a black nosed dace, mickey finn, muddler, and picket pin streamer are typically very good. It pays to experiment with color, retrieve, and presentation.
What to bring? In addition to a good assortment of flies, make sure to have split shot, tippet material, and a few leaders ready. Nippers and forceps are also critical. A landing net is optional depending on the water being fished and the potential size of the trout.
The forecast as of this post is for a rainy start to the opener. Thursday’s low temp will be in the low 50’s so heavy clothing will not be necessary, but a hard shell rain jacket will be, as heavy showers are a strong (90%) possibility. Also remember that damp rainy conditions can make even 50 degree temps seem a lot colder. And even though it will warm up later in the day, remember that wading in cold water can still bring on a chill. Bring finger-less gloves, a warm hat, and changes of good merino wool socks. Sunglasses are a must as is a change of clothes and towel. And one final thing NOT to forget – the most important item of all – your fishing license. Good luck!