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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lansing

Late Fall Fly Fishing In Central New York

A big brown trout caught fly fishing in Central NY.
Austin's first trout on the fly was a trophy.

It’s been quite some time since my last post and I hope everyone had a good, healthy Thanksgiving. My last post was in the middle of October and time has flown by. It’s been a fairly busy stretch on the local streams for me. I’ve been fortunate to meet and share the water with some great guests. Trout have cooperated, for the most part, and there have been some really great days on the water. I’ve had the opportunity to teach quite a few first-time fly anglers recently and it’s been very fun being there with them as they’ve caught and released their first trout. As we jump into December, there will be many more good days on the water, just a touch cooler.

November was a dry month, filled with up and down weather patterns. Water levels continue to be pretty low given our lack of rain, but trout have been pretty active. The weather man continually lies about rain events and says “there is a potential for heavy rainfall”, but we proceed to get sprinkles instead. We are slowly inching closer to normal seasonal flows, however. At times, trout have seemed a bit confused by weather patterns. At one point, water temperatures had dropped 15 degrees and below 40 degrees in just a few days, flows were low, and trout were fired up and spawning. Some fish were in fast water. Some fish seemed to be competing for winter holds and some fish were spawning. I’d be a bit ornery too. As with any kind of fishing, it’s important to cover water to find active fish.

A nice, wild brown trout caught fly fishing in Central NY
Jon's first trout on the fly smashed a nymph as it swung at the end of the drift.

There was sporadic brown trout spawning activity earlier in November, but it has increased significantly in the last couple weeks and is now in full swing. I’ve taken the time to show guests what trout redds look like and point out spawning fish on redds. I then explain why we’ll be moving on to another location and avoiding actively spawning fish to help conserve and protect our wild trout fisheries. Watch your steps on streams everywhere right now so as to not trudge through and destroy redds. We don’t have wild, spunky, colorful trout without spawners and redds.

A brown trout caught fly fishing in Central NY.
Mike with a dandy brown trout caught nymphing.

With the lower water, nymphing tactics have been best on the local trout streams. While I really enjoy throwing big articulated streamers, there just hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to fish that way with low and clear water. Small nymphs and jigged buggers are always a good bet, along with small egg patterns now that systems are full of eggs. On warmer days, we’ve found some small pockets of rising fish and had fun and success throwing small caddis. It certainly hasn’t happened regularly, but when you have an opportunity to fish dries in late November you take it. On one morning in particular, a guest had the opportunity to catch trout with a nymph, a streamer, and a dry. It was a fun morning.

Salmon River brown trout caught fly fishing.
A shot of me releasing a Salmon River brown trout caught Thanksgiving morning. Thanks to my Brother, Brandon, for snapping to the shot.

I have not spent a ton of time chasing steelhead yet this fall. When I have gone out for steelhead, it’s been a little tough and hard work for a couple fish. Two fish and you’re doing good. Flows on the Salmon River have been low all fall and that likely plays some role. The water release from the dam is finally back to the seasonal minimum flow of 335cfs. A few browns have been mixed in with the steelhead too, but overall, both numbers are currently down. Generally, by-catches of smaller jacks, smaller brown trout, and fallfish are encountered as well, but I haven’t seen any of them either. We’ve done best tight-line nymphing with jigged buggers. I’ll be spending some more time up there through December.

a colorful salmon river steelhead caught fly fishing
Brandon with a nice colorful Salmon River steelhead.

We are quickly approaching post-spawn and winter fly fishing. It’s getting colder and as the water temperature dips into the 30s, trout are going to get a little lethargic when eating. Nymphing is the name of the game as we get into the colder months and getting the presentation low and slowing it down will produce fish. It’s the season of frosty mornings, maybe a fresh snow, cold toes, cold fingers, and not changing your fly because your fingers are too cold to tie a quality knot. However, good wool socks, cozy waders, a warm jacket and hat, fleece pants, handwarmers, hot streamside coffee, and setting the hook on a feisty wild trout isn’t so bad. I’ll see you on the water!

Thanks for reading.

Brian Lansing

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