Early Season Fly Fishing

Posted on March 12, 192000 at 08:36:48:

Early Season Fly Fishing

The opening day of the season finds many a dedicated fly angler braving the elements for a chance to feel the rod load, try out the new flies tied over the winter, or just plain get out of the house. Two things that you can count on every April is that the wind will never stop blowing and the water will be cold. As a matter of fact, water temperatures may start out in the mid to upper thirties in many of Maine's rivers streams and brooks. Lets add to that a nice wind chill, frozen rod guides (not to mention feet), and possibly a little snow and there you have it, every fly anglers dream.

Many experienced fly fishermen do not expect miracles in the month of April. The bait fishermen, on the other hand, find April the opportune time for catching trout. Same fish, same water but uniquely different perspectives. Why?

Remember that day in June when the trout were rising everywhere and you couldn't keep them from destroying your Royal Humpy ? The water temperature was probably in the low to mid sixties, somewhere around a trout's optimum metabolic temperature. Your forty degree April trout stream is a long way from being close to optimum. Fish are lethargic when it comes to feeding in very cold water. They are not nearly as aggressive when it comes to pursuing food.

Another challenge facing the early season fly angler is the increased flow of water. April often finds our favorite rivers and streams bulging over their banks. High fast moving water can make it nearly impossible to get your fly down to the appropriate depth to catch fish.

To get back to our bait fisherman: A worm and a well placed split shot can be lowered in front of a trout's nose and dangled for some time. The depth and speed of the water does not effect the placement of the offering to the trout. Although we cannot expect to do the same with traditional fly gear we can understand the challenges of cold, high, and fast water and modify our technique to be successful.

High Water

My favorite early season setup includes a sinking tip line of which I will attach a sinking butt leader with a short tippet. I then attach a weighted or bead head fly to this. It is not the easiest set up to cast but it sure beats staying home. Remember that all sinking lines need time to sink. Adjust your presentation so that the fly has enough time to sink before reaching the target. This often means casting considerably farther upstream than the fish.

Fast Water

The surface of the water does not always indicate the nature of the water below especially when it comes to speed and direction. Unfortunately flyline carries the fly in the manner that the surface is moving creating drag. If you want your fly to really run deep try a direct upstream cast and try to keep as much line off the water as possible to eliminate drag.

Cold Water

The great majority of primary trout foods in the early spring may be found in juvenile stages clinging and moving along rocks and vegetation. Just like trout, the organism's metabolic processes are effected by the cold water. A trout feeds on these benthic (bottom dwelling) organisms differently than it would feed on these same organisms later in the spring when they are drifting and emerging as adults. Keeping this in mind can make a big difference in early season success. One technique that has worked well for me is to cast a heavily weighted stonefly nymph directly downstream. Allow it to sink all the way to the bottom and bring it in very slowly as though it were crawling. The combination of the water speed, depth and weight of the fly must all contribute toward the fly dragging along the bottom. Do not allow the fly to be suspended midway in the water column if using direct downstream presentations. Remember that you are trying to imitate organisms that are clinging and crawling along the benthos with this technique.

The rule for April is to be patient. Every fish brought to net is a great accomplishment during this challenging time of the year. Tight Lines !

Return To Northeast Anglers' Articles and Stories

Post-It © 1997, All Rights Reserved.
DBasics Software Company P.O. Box 6034, Alliance, OH. 44601