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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lansing

October fly fishing report for Central New York

October has a been a beautiful month. It’s been filled with cool mornings, sunny and warm afternoons, trout, and baseball. Streams are still on the low to very low side, but recent rain has provided some relief for trout fisheries that desperately needed it. Conditions are improving just as the weather looks to be turning quite a bit cooler. We can’t have everything, right?

Before we get too far into the conditions and report part of the post, I’ve received some positive feedback on other posts I’ve written in the past, specifically the review of the Thomas & Thomas Zone 10’ 4wt. I’ve also received a number of questions about more reviews or if I plan to continue to add more reviews of gear I use. First and foremost, I want thank all who read my blog and posts. I appreciate everyone’s time, interest, and continued support. It’s always nice to have some feedback, especially when it’s good feedback. I do plan to be better about updating the blog with more reviews, tidbits, stories, and tips on a more frequent basis. As an avid fly angler and guide who chases everything I possibly can with a fly rod, I use a variety of rods of different lengths and weights, reels, lines, waders, boots, etc. I’m always happy to make recommendations or give my thoughts on gear (as long as I’ve used it) and I’ll always suggest heading to your local fly shop or dealer to get set up, see products, or make purchases. I’m also always happy to then provide tips on what to do when your Wife comes home and sees you with another new rod… as if it’s somehow possible to have too many… The concept is like someone telling you the Astros didn’t steal signs and bang trash cans… laughable.

Sorry to any Astros fans reading this, but as much as I dislike the Rays, I was not sorry to see Houston be ousted from the playoffs. The careers of those involved in the scandal will be tarnished forever and should be more clouded than any player named in the Mitchell Report or who used steroids. As a former pitcher, I would always rather throw to The Hulk than to a batter who knew what pitch was coming. Who’s everyone got in the World Series? I’m thinking the Dodgers take it in six games.

Back to the fly fishing. A majority of my time and guided trips in the past month have been on bigger water and tailwaters with more consistent flows. My favorite small to medium sized streams have been running at 15 cubic feet/second (cfs) for the last few months. While the trout are there and have hunkered down to endure the low water, it’s been best to leave them aside until increased flows offer then some level of relief. When the water gets low and clear like that, the trout tend to be pretty fickle and don’t want to eat anyhow. The large freestones and tailwaters are lower than normal, but there is a big difference between 200-350cfs vs. 15cfs.

Before venturing out to your favorite stretch of river/stream, be sure to check the angling regulations. The statewide trout season closed October 15th, shutting down quite a few fisheries for the year. However, there are still a lot of options with extended seasons and year-round catch and release areas. To make things confusing, some of these year-round catch and release areas are on streams or rivers where a vast majority of it is already closed for the season. Check the regs book and be sure of where you’re standing (sound advice for those hunters out there reading this as well). Also, be cognizant of spawning areas and redds as well. Brown trout have started to spawn and will continue to spawn throughout the fall. In some systems, they spawn a bit earlier, and in other systems they might not spawn until December. Please be aware of where you step in gravelly areas as this is where you’ll find the redds.

Robin with her first brown trout on the fly!
Robin with her first brown trout on the fly!

I’ve been spending the most time fly fishing on West Canada Creek and the Beaverkill. Fly fishing has been consistently inconsistent. There have been days where guests on guided trips have endured tough mornings and afternoons with just a few bites and hookups, but there have been days where the fish are far more cooperative and have been more willing to play along. When fishing alone, I’ve seen a similar pattern. Nonetheless, I’ve been fortunate to have some nice trips, meet great people, introduce new anglers to the sport, and see anglers catch their first trout on the fly. I love it.

A big beaverkill brown trout caught fly fishing with caddis pupa
A big beautiful Beaverkill brown trout found munching on caddis pupa.

Trout can still be found on top here and there throwing caddis and isonychia patterns, but nymphing and streamer fishing has been significantly better. The streamer fishing will improve drastically with more water. Pheasant tails, stoneflies, caddis larva, and caddis pupa have been the winners for me in the nymphing department, while the streamer fishing has been too inconsistent to name a winner there. However, a flashy black or brown jigged bugger has produced trout when all else has failed.

Covering water and changing flies/tactics is important as not all trout have been eating the same bugs. If you’re not seeing action on a dead drift, don’t forget to try swinging the fly. We’ve seen some takes at the ends of the drifts as the fly starts to rise off the bottom. A jigging action can also generate a strike, especially when fishing a bugger pattern. Work all water types. With the cooler water, trout will move and feed anywhere. Don’t overlook the fast water. Look for any current break in the fast water, no matter the depth. Plenty of trout can be found in shin to knee deep water. Also, I’ve mentioned “jigging” a number of times in this post. This is done most effectively with contact nymphing. Many of you know, this is my preferred method of nymphing and allows an angler to fish a fly more effectively in a number of ways, while maintaining direct contact with the fly, controlling the direction of the drift, and controlling the speed of the drift.

I’m sure by now I sound like a broken record. Conditions will improve with more water. We need the rain. I know I’ve been saying we need rain for at least three months. Luckily, it has rained for a few days now and it is raining again today! Rivers and streams are on the rise and the best fishing is coming. Leaves may be a bit of an issue some days. It always amazes me how much a big poplar leaf or maple leaf pulls like a small trout. I’m ready for higher flows and to see trout move around and become more aggressive. We really haven’t had much opportunity to throw big articulated streamers, but we may soon. If you’ve followed along in the past, you may remember that I love streamer season. I enjoy walking the banks, covering water, and ripping big white and gold articulated flies as fast as I can and feeling the direct connection with a trout destroying the fly.

new flies for fly fishing ready to be eaten
new flies ready to be eaten

In the past few days with the rain, I’ve been catching up on sorting gear and tying flies. I’m ready to go the rest of the fall. Bring on the rain and bring on the trout. As always, thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more posts and please feel free to reach out with any questions.

Thanks so much and until next time, stay healthy and stay safe!

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