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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lansing

my month of may, fly fishing in central and upstate new york

For the readers who follow along consistently, my apologies for just realizing I haven't put anything together since the tying tutorial on jigged buggers. The month of May slipped away quickly, like a healthy wild trout does when it's being released or when it manages to rocket out of your hand like a war missile during a photo op. However, there was a bit that happened in May worth noting.

The first bit is that I am currently able and legally allowed to guide in New York. The guiding industry opened in our region and others on May 15th so long as some distancing measures and precautions are taken as mandated by the state (example: face coverings to be worn within 6 feet). The gear is ready for action and the fly boxes are full. Lessons and classes are available for anyone new to the sport as well. For anyone interested in trips to Cape Cod, please reach out since I am still learning what is allowed in Massachusetts. If I am not able to do the trip, I'll put you in touch with another guide who can. When I am able to guide out there, I am ready to rock and roll.

A colorful Central New York wild brown trout.  It's a great time to be on the water!
A colorful Central New York wild brown trout. It's a great time to be on the water!

Second, streams in Upstate New York are in excellent shape for fly fishing. Flows for May have been slightly above average, though are a little low right now, and the trout fishing has been very good. Bug activity has been abundant and all size classes of trout have been active. Though water temperatures have soared into the upper 60s and have reached 70 in some areas, the heat wave ends tonight with significantly cooler temperatures arriving for the foreseeable future. Water temperatures will drop back through the 60s quickly and with night lows in the 40s and 50s, streams will be in great shape for the coming weeks. It is a fun time of year to be on the water, especially when temps fall back into the upper 50s. Trout are active and streamers, nymphs, and dry flies are all fair game. The weather has been wild with the temperature swings. Mother's Day weekend had fairly significant snowfall for much of Upstate New York with water temps in the low 40s and upper 30s. Fast forward 2-3 weeks and we have water 30 degrees warmer in the freestone streams. Tailwaters have been far more consistent.

This colored up steelhead was caught nymphing at the Salmon River.
This colored up steelhead was caught nymphing at the Salmon River.

Unfortunately, the shutdown surrounding Covid-19 coincided with spring steelhead season. I fished a few times myself to the Salmon River and had some good days. The water was cold, very cold, into May and I did not come tight with any fish swinging flies. However, I was fortunate to have success taking contact nymphing techniques from the trout streams and applying them to steelhead. The gear and leader is a little stouter, but the nymphing dynamics are the same. As an added bonus, I also brought several brown trout and smallmouth bass to the net. I'll give a little plug here to the guys at Thomas & Thomas fly rods for making the ultimate steelhead nymphing stick, the T&T Contact 10'8" 6wt. I'll have a review on that in the future as well as some other rods and gear, but for now I'll leave it at the Contact is a phenomenal nymphing rod. I'll be offering guided trips later next fall, winter, and spring for steelhead and I'll have a page dedicated to that on the website coming this fall.

A native Adirondacks brook trout.
A native Adirondacks brook trout.

I did some Adirondack brook trout fly fishing, and hiking, early in May before the black flies were out in force. The fishing was good and still is if you're willing to accept the bugs. I'll be adding another page to the website dedicated to fly fishing the Adirondacks and offering guided trips there as well starting this summer.

Lots of flies.  I'm all stocked up after doing a lot of tying this month.
A swarm of bugs. I'm stocked up after doing a lot of tying.

I've continued tying flies and filling boxes. There are never enough bugs or baitfish patterns in my fly boxes. Fish with teeth pop them off from time to time or the easy to catch and find tree trout collects their tax as well. If you aren't fishing tight to cover, you're missing out on trout. Cover such as branches, logjams, rootballs, and boulders are important habitat to trout. Please do not remove cover from the streams... I understand the frustration of losing flies or plugs or spinners, but I've seen plenty of anglers on streams this year decide to get rid of the cover causing them a problem. I've seen supposed conservation organizations do this in the past and it irritates me. Clearing out logjams and cutting branches or trees not only gets rid of shade and quality habitat, but increases water velocity and can lead to further problems with erosion further down the line. As a former geology major, I could get all nerdy about the science, but that's a science lesson for another day. There are actually programs in various places throughout the country that use old Christmas trees along stream banks to help stabilize the bank, decrease erosion, and help provide better trout habitat. By getting rid of the cover, you make trout find a new home. Your secret spot that held trout no longer holds trout. There is a reason why they were in that spot.

I spent an evening with my Brother on the lake walleye, pickerel, and bass fishing as well. He had the hot fly and hot hand and I was SKUNKED. I couldn't have asked for a nicer evening on the water though. The water temp on the lake is still keeping the air temperature down. So while it was 89 degrees and high humidity on shore, it was quite comfortable on the lake with a few fair weather clouds passing by and a golden orange sunset.

New York State DEC has released a draft of it's new inland trout management plan. Some changes are ahead starting 2021. Perhaps the biggest change is every stream in New York will be open to catch and release fishing year-round unless otherwise noted. Many streams locally have been this way for years, but it's nice to see the change statewide now. Changes in stocking, trout breeding, and stream classification are all coming as well. Harvest limits are changing in many areas based on each streams new classification, Wild Premier, Wild Quality, Wild, Stocked Extended, or Stocked. The draft is available on the DEC website. A word of warning, have a pot of coffee ready to get through it if you decide to take on the full 77 page draft. It's quite a bit of reading.

Lastly, I have a public health recommendation. If you've been wading, walking, working, putting docks in, or anything of this nature where the stupid geese and their babies have crapping, wash and towel off immediately after being in the water. Duck itch sucks and luckily I only had it mildly on my lower legs and was able to use over the counter anti-itch spray and goop to deal with the itch.

Thank you for reading and I'll have more posts for you next week. Thanks again and hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.

Brian Lansing


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