Fly Fishing Season Preparations
April 1st is always regarded as the trout opener in New York State. While this WAS the case for many streams, creeks, and rivers throughout the state, a number of others remained open for year-round fishing. This year was really no different, except with a new inland trout and cold-water management plan and new regulations in place, there is no longer a “closed” season on inland trout streams. April 1st – October 15th now represents the season in which an angler can harvest trout. Inland streams are now open to year-round catch and release fishing. There are a few other specific details and regulations in play, so please read the new regulations before heading out. If you’re a catch and release angler, you can fish freely, but just be sure you’re on public water.
Remember, as a responsible outdoorsman, it's YOUR responsibility, and your responsibility only, to check the regulations and check where you stand to make sure you’re legal.
We reverted back to winter with April 1st arriving yesterday. I wimped out. It was cold and I had been out the previous few days, taking advantage of the spring-like temperatures. I had a guest with me on Tuesday and it was an excellent day. It felt more like June than the end of March and the trout cooperated as well. They were pretty willing to take a nymph, so long as you could slow the drift down and get the fly to the bottom. It’s still early and the water is still cold.
In my last post, I talked about preparing for the upcoming season. I’m sure many anglers have been preparing hard, while others may have gotten to the stream and realized it was a shake-out trip. Hopefully nobody shrieked entering the water, discovering leaky waders. That’s a dreaded discovery nobody wishes to find. There are a few tips I recommend before your next trip, if you haven’t already gotten on the water or if you haven’t already done so. They may save you a shortened trip ending with cold, wet feet and help prevent a dandy trout from breaking off.
I’ll start with waders. Nobody likes wet and cold feet. Nobody likes cold feet, period. Hint hint… Switch to wool and save yourself a lot of discomfort. Cotton and cold feet are synonymous. Getting back to the waders, check them for leaks and make your patches before heading out or before heading back out. If you have Gore-Tex waders, like Simms, this is pretty easy. I can’t speak for other brands on if this tip works or not as I have not tried it.
Clean out a small spray bottle and poor in a little rubbing alcohol. Make sure your waders are good and dry doing this. Have a permanent marker handy. This is important. Spray and mist the waders with the rubbing alcohol. Any pin holes and leaks will turn dark. With your marker, draw a small circle surrounding the leak. This is how you’re marking the area to seal. The alcohol will dry fairly quickly, so work in small sections going through your waders, marking any leaks along the way. Once you’re confident you’ve marked all the pinholes, let the waders dry thoroughly before sealing. For small pinholes and leaks, Aquaseal is hard to beat. Once dry, pop open your Aquaseal. I suggest reading the safety jargon on there. I don’t want anyone having some kind of reaction to touching it. Being honest, I hardly ever read the safety jargon on most things and have not with the Aquaseal either. It hasn’t bitten me in the a$$ yet, but I do advise reading it (I sound like a doctor or politician… “do as I say, not as I do”). In any event, I put a little dab on my finger and rub it around, covering my little circle spot I marked on my waders. I let them dry for 24 hours, and they are as good as new. I do this a couple times per year.
Check and change your leaders. I cringe when I hear or see someone using a leader or tippet on their rod that hasn’t been changed in 6 months. I check leaders frequently and change them often. Losing fish because of something I overlooked, or ignored, is not acceptable. I hate losing fish myself and I’m even more careful about this with guests. If my leader or tippet is chaffed or damaged in any way, I change it. Leaders and tippets don’t last forever. They do break down with water, time, UV light, and temperature changes. I can’t always control a fish in a stream, river, lake, or ocean that wraps around a rock, catches a tooth on the line, or wraps around a tree or piling. That’s part of fishing. But, I will not be happy if a guest loses their first fish or the fish of a lifetime because of a bad leader I carelessly overlooked or a lousy knot. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from checking leaders and tippet and starting fresh is that you have confidence in your gear. When you a hook a fish, you know and are confident that your gear will hold if you take the time to check it and change it.
I just brought up knots, so I’ll touch on them quickly. Tying good knots takes time and practice. Tying them correctly can save you from a break off as well. If you have an old leader, or an old spool of tippet that is no longer good, use it to work on knots and becoming proficient with them. A well tied knot vs. a poorly tied knot can be the difference between landing a fish and KNOT landing a fish, HA! Again, this is a confidence thing as well. If you are confident with your gear and knots, you are more confident fighting a fish. I can tell you from experience that it is zero fun to have a fish on your line and question whether or not your knots and leader will hold up. Working to tie clean and solid knots will pay off. A few that I use frequently are the improved clinch knot, triple surgeons knot, albright knot, and the double uni knot.
We check our rods for damage constantly. We examine them each time with rig them up or break them down. If we notice our rod has visible damage or a crack in it, we don’t use it, don’t trust it, and we fix it. Why wouldn’t we do the same with our leaders, tippets, and knots?
A good week of weather is coming again and the streams are in great shape, albeit quite low for this time of year. It’s great news for fishing now, but we do need some good soaking rains to replenish the groundwater supply for good fishing heading into the warmer spring months. Patch those waders, check those leaders and practice those knots. Thanks for reading and best of luck on the water!