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Published by Maurice Chioda [Maurice] on 11/30/2017 (708 reads)
Fly fishing during the winter can be an enjoyable endeavor if you put some effort into finding where the wily trout feed during the cold water temperatures. An important “hatch” in winter is that of the early black and brown stoneflies.

Stoneflies both little and large are the canary in the coal mine for water quality. They are one of the first species to disappear on impaired streams. They thrive as nymphs in highly oxygenated fast moving waters like rapids or heavy riffles and often where the thick moss grows on the rocks. I presume this helps them keep their footing while foraging on the bottom in the fast water. This is where I always find them and where I look for them to be effective when fishing larger freestone streams.

"Little Winter Stones" Illustration by Dave Weaver
"Little Winter Stones" Illustration by Dave Weaver


Limestone spring creeks are slow moving with low gradient and few if any riffles over their short length. This is why you don’t see them in great numbers there. Larger freestone streams are more likely to get too warm in summer and are not great fall or winter trout streams, unless they receive a fall stocking or have a limestone spring influence (i.e. Penns Creek).

So where you find little black stonefly "hatches" to be prolific you likely are not fishing because they are mainly stocked trout streams. And few are stocked in fall or winter after the summer "trout drought."

Their onstream behavior is an egg laying, more than a mating ritual or traditional hatch. That's why they are seen as solitary, usually downstream and across courses where the fly daps the water or skitters. If you observe their behavior and how the fish take them it’s pretty easy to mimmick but it is not a typical mayfly behavior to be sure. But it is similar to caddis fly egg laying.

This hatch is more like fishing a streamer or a wetfly that doesn't sink. I really enjoy this hatch and fish it with a #16 black bodied Henryville special with a Z-lon wing. Sometimes I trail a black bodied soft hackle on a dead drift while waiting for the initial reaction strike and then I slowly lift and drop the rod tip as the fly swings across the slower waters where the stoneflies lay their eggs. Most of the strikes come on the swing to be sure.

If you see half a dozen at a time in the air and hitting the water at a time during a still, sunny period of the day, you've hit it right.

There are several stonefly species that hatch in the winter/early spring. The tiny winter black / snowflies, aka needle flies that are smaller and hatch in the middle of winter are a good example. You can often see them crawling on the banks in the snow.

Usually a little later in the winter to early spring, the early brown and black stoneflies hatch. They are a little larger.

I have had little success fishing the tiny winter blacks vs the early brown and black (nymph or dry). The main reason, in my opinion, is the lower water temps in mid winter vs. late winter when the days are longer and temps warmer. But to be sure, often the best results come on sunny, snowy days with temps above 45 degrees, regardless of the water temp.

So find a big freestone stream with a fall/winter stocking of brown trout (more likely to rise) and on a warm sunny day in the winter/late winter, January through March. Swing ‘em if ya got ‘em.

Published by Tom C. [afishinado] on 11/26/2017 (664 reads)
There are quite a few beginners on the board so I thought I would post a little on how I approach a day on the stream. I would be very interested to read about how others on the board approach a day of FLy Fishing.

_DSF0909


The success or failure of a day on the stream (although no day on the stream is really a failure…unless you drown I guess) is often determined before you even leave home. I check flows and temps on the USGS; conditions can differ in certain areas and streams. For example, if the water is high or low, perhaps a more stable stream like a limestoner would be a better choice. I also check the weather and find out the temperature high and low, cloud cover or sun, and rainfall info. I include all this info to make my decision on where to fish.

In addition, If I’m planning to fish an ATW, I will check of the PFBC site for stocking info. Actually, I’m not really a white truck chaser, quite the opposite. I try to avoid freshly stocked fish because I hate the crowds they attract, and I really don’t like fishing for freshly stocked fish, but that’s just me. Some may even use the Internet to find some hotspots (believe it or not!). IMO, posting a good report about a certain stream does attract anglers, especially in the short term. Again, I often do the opposite, if the word is out on hot fishing on a certain stream, I’ll often try to guess where the least amount of pressure is, and choose accordingly. Hatch info on the Internet is useful though. Even if the reports are from a different stream, I can “interpolate” and guess what’s hatching on some streams I know.

Once I pick where I want to fish, if it’s not an all-day trip, my next decision is when to fish; morning, afternoon or evening? As a general rule, in the winter the warmest time of day (afternoon) is usually the best, and in the summer the coolest (early am or pm) is usually best. Also I think about the hatches, for example with Hendrickson’s, I want to be on the stream mid-morning to early afternoon, but if sulphurs are hatching, I would plan a late-afternoon/evening trip, etc.

Okay you make your decision on the stream to fish based on flow, temp, weather, hatches, etc. and you’re there. Now what? I usually cruise around the stream in my truck a bit to check out the different parking areas and sections to evaluate stream conditions, fishing pressure, rising fish, etc., and I pick a spot based on what I’ve found.

_CDK1236


It’s best to go to the stream bank before you rig up and decide what would be best to start with. Of course, if there’s rising fish, I would try to determine what insect is hatching and how/where the fish are taking it. Ideally I would capture an insect first. If I can’t capture one, I’ll at least try to ID the type of insect (mayfly, caddisfly, stonefly, midge) and estimate the size and color. Often I will tie on a dry with an emerger, pupa or unweighted nymph on a dropper to see what they are taking. I will continue to try to capture an insect with my little insect net while I’m fishing. I will change flies and presentations until I hit it right.

In non-hatch situations you must “prospect” to find the fish. Some FFers start with streamers first to find fish. It is a good way to locate fish, but since it’s my least favorite type of fishing, I will nymph first in non-hatch situations. I usually will try two or three nymphs or a nymph(s) and a wet. I most often will tie on a weighted generic nymph like a Hares Ear or a Phesant Tail nymph along with a nymph that matches what should be hatching in the stream. I will usually stick with the generic pattern and change off the other fly or flies until I find the fly combo that works.

Also, it is important to fish in different types of water to try to hone in on where the fish are, or at least where the feeding fish are located. I will probe the riffs, runs, tails and heads of pools, deep pools. I use all types of nymphing methods depending on the water: euro, high-sticking, indies, etc. If I begin to catch fish in a certain water-type, I try to seek out similar spots and concentrate on them. If fish begin rising, I will go to my hatch-matching mode as described earlier.

If nothing is happening after fishing through all types of water with nymphs, I may switch over the streamer tactics or wet flies to cover a lot of water and find fish. As mentioned earlier, it’s a great way to locate fish. Also, there are times where dries work well even when nothing is rising. A dry dropper can be a deadly combo especially in low flows. In addition, small brook trout streams are one of the few places where I will start the day (and usually end the day) using dries to prospect.

Sometimes fish are feeding, but not on the surface. Signs of this are fish flashing or seeing a fish holding and feeding in mid depth areas. In this case I will try wet flies or emergers and drift, swing or retrieve it to get some strikes.

_CDK9712-Edit


In a nutshell, try fishing all types of water, at all depths (including on top) with different types of flies and presentations until you begin catching fish. Just remember there are no magic flies or techniques, and often many will work.

Not long ago I fished the Breeches. As usual, there were quite a few anglers on the stream. I worked my way downstream and caught fish regularly using a nymph rig. A guy working behind me was catching fish stripping a bugger, and the guy below me was catching fish on midges. Some days a lot of things work, while other days, nothing seems to work. I keep trying different stuff in different spots until I either catch fish, it’s too dark to see, or my wife calls to find out where the heck I’m at!

Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 11/16/2017 (863 reads)
The chart below includes the total number of all macroinvertebrates in seine. The July sample in Letort may have been impacted by dense weeds producing a reduced number.

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 8.04.10 AM


This survey sought to identify macroinvertebrate populations in three different central PA stream types over the course of a year for the purpose of shedding light on nymph populations that might be of interest to fly fishermen. Three streams were chosen reflecting a freestone stream (Conococheague), a semi-limestoner (Yellow Breeches), and a limestoner (Letort).

I attempted to ensure that each kick seine survey was done in as close to the exact spot in the riffle each time I conducted the survey. These surveys were done in January, April, July, and early November. Although I don’t claim that this effort was entirely scientific, the results do shed some light on nymph numbers and characteristics. Moreover, the results bear out fly fishing conventional wisdom: that nymphs are more numerous and larger in springtime. In all three streams, the macro biomass was highest in April. The graph above reveals the fluctuation in the riffle by season. Of note, the Letort far exceeded the other streams in total biomass, although as one would expect, this difference was largely due to scuds and cress bugs. If one were to break out scuds and cress bugs from Letort, the number of nymphs would have been less than Conococheague. If you’re a limestone stream nympher, Letort in particular, scud and cress bug patterns are well known for a reason.

Among general observations of the streams’ combined results that I think merit note are a couple things:

1. The relative scarcity of stoneflies and caddis compared to the much more numerous mayflies.

2. The generally small size of these nymphs throughout the seasons, but especially in summer and fall. Most of these bugs averaged only about a quarter of an inch or less in body length (not counting tails) and would be imitated on hooks around #18 or less. Only the rare stoneflies and a few of the largest march browns would match a #14 nymph hook.

For comparison, the images below show the relative difference in size of nymphs in Yellow Breeches in April (upper image) and late November (lower image).

For more detailed information with bug numbers broken out by species and discussion, please feel free to check out the discussion in the Hatch and Entomology forum here.


Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 8.04.33 AM

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 8.04.42 AM

Published by Dave Weaver [Dave_W] on 10/31/2017 (1196 reads)
Susquehanna River, Lancaster Co., 10/21/17

WEATHER: Blue bird skies with highs in the 70s.

WATER: 3.2' at the Harrisburg gauge, gin clear, 60 degrees. A few boaters and yakkers but not a lot of activity.

HATCHES ETC: Nothing significant. A few scattered bugs, no rises; large schools of small minnows around 2" in length around shoreline areas. No crayfish seen. One bass caught in a riffle today had multiple caddis larva in his mouth and gullet. These caddis were dark colored and about #16.

Teamed up with Afishinado today to put some autumn hurtin on the Susky bass.
We arrived at mid day about 11am and fished until 5:30pm. It was a tough day. The bright sun and very clear water seemed to have the river switched off. We fished some very good sections with little success. Around 4pm, with the sun lower in the sky and softened by haze, the river seemed to wake up. We found active fish in fast water, mostly along current seams but also in shallow riffles. I had expected to find SMBs around ledge rock and and deeper tailouts today, but these spots didn't produce. The active fish were in pretty fast water. Had luck high sticking a helgy nymph and swinging a Clouser. I tried poppers briefly with no success. I managed about eight fish with three in the mid teens. Afish got fifteen bass with one at 18 inches.

A very nice day to be outside, but fishing was sub-par for what I'd expect on the big river in October. Nevertheless, with water levels still quite low, if you're a wading angler, the Susky is in great shape for FFing right now.

Members can follow along with comments in the forum here.

"Susquehanna>


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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 10/26/2017 (1062 reads)
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