Spring Conditions In August?
Conditions on the streams/rivers, at the moment and locally, couldn't be better. Conditions on the expansive sand flats of Cape Cod were excellent a couple weeks ago. July has been a wonky month with nights into the 40s and monsoon rain conditions. In Central New York, fly fishing has been better on select days in the last two weeks than it was all spring. It's been great to have so much water! The trout are loving life and are in great shape. I'll enjoy it while it lasts.
The upcoming weekend is back to seasonably hot and humid weather, typical of August. We'll be back to using a thermometer and only fishing when temps are cool enough to allow best practice and safe catch and release trout fishing. However, the cool weather in the last two weeks has been spectacular. Water levels have been up consistently and higher than they were all of May and June. Water temperatures have fallen so morning temps have been between 55 and 60 degrees. The higher flows have moved trout from the holds they were locked tight into in June and have fish out in feeding lanes and up in some faster, skinnier water as well. Nymphing and jigging buggers has been key. While there are some bugs around, there has been no surface activity to speak of (at least for me), though terrestrials such as grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles are all fair game at this point.
I've taken advantage of some really nice days and gotten out myself a few times as conditions like this in July and August don't come around regularly. On one morning, I chose to wet wade as water temps were in the 62-64 range and the air temperature was around 65. It made for a pleasant morning. With coffee in hand, a rod in the other, and my pack full of anything I might need for the morning, I jumped in the water and started working my way upstream. It didn't take long to find fish willing to play. It was a fun morning with a very healthy mix of wild yearling brown trout and bigger 17"-18" wild trout alike. This is exactly what I was hoping I'd find. The diversity in the sizes of fish is a sign of a healthy fishery. There were a few stocked browns sprinkled in here and there, but no crazy numbers. All fish, wild and stocked alike, were extremely healthy and full of spunk. It was a great morning.
After that morning, I was heading up to the Adirondacks for the weekend with my Wife. My Wife's family has a camp we head to several times a year. I brought gear to fish, though I've always struggled on that lake to find and catch trout. Acidity has always been an issue, but the loons and mergansers might be the bigger issue. The lake is stocked with several thousand brook trout each spring, all in the 6"-8" category. It's a buffet for the loons and mergansers. Yellow perch were illegally introduced years ago, and they outcompete trout for the little food there is in the system. I can catch hundreds of 4" perch, no problem at all. I brought my ice fishing electronics with me, however, as my target was the lake trout that were stocked several years ago. A few thousand were stocked and I haven't seen one since, nor heard of anyone actually catching one. It's a small lake and it's not hard to find the deep water drop offs and zones where a lake trout might be in July.
I brought an ice fishing rod with me as well. If you've every fished out of a kayak, you may know it can be a bit awkward with long rods. Ice fishing rods work great when I'm just jigging over the side below my electronics. I can make some short casts in a pinch, but for jigging purposes in a kayak, ice fishing gear is the way to go. You might get some odd looks from people going by as I did, but it's more comfortable and efficient.
I didn't find any trout. I had a few marks on my screen and a single bite that acted and felt like a lake trout, but that was it. There is only one area in the lake deeper than 25' and I didn't see anything in that area. The water temperature at the surface was in the 60s and with cooler temperatures I suppose any lake trout left could have spread along other drop-offs and structure. My one solid mark on the screen and bite came on drop-off from 18' - 25'. Other areas I knew to try proved very perchy. With a lot of small perch caught and 5-6 fish on the screen at any given time, I was on piles of 4" perch. I've decided to say I was skunked.
We also did some hiking, as we always do. Smoke from the western fires had been creating hazy conditions for several days. The day we hiked, however, the haze was minimal.
Another week of rain continued as we returned home to Syracuse after a fun weekend in the Adirondacks. The creeks and rivers swelled again to unfishable levels and more trips were postponed or cancelled. Cool rain in July is a beautiful thing, but rivers at or near flood levels keep me off. Once they receded, I jumped back on the them with my brother, Brandon. The morning that Brandon and I fished, I wimped out and did not wet wade, though I was wishing I did by late morning. When I left home to meet Brandon, the temperature was 46 degrees! That meant the water temp had fallen into the 50s. I threw the waders on for the first time since the end of May. The fishing was great and more of the same, a lot of nymphing and jigging buggers. Again, it was a healthy mix/variety of wild browns with a few stockers scattered in there. It was a fun morning to be out. I started with small nymphs, but bigger and heavier proved to fish better.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent some time to Cape Cod visiting my cousin. We get out and do a lot of fishing. Conditions were very good for mid July. Water temperatures were great. We did really well in some areas and totally skunked in others. We were fortunate to have a really fun day on the flats. It's always a fun time visiting out there. We fish pretty hard for about 8-10 hours each day, until the sun and heat drains us. Then, we change out of the low tide smelling clothes (sometimes) and head to meet our wives for dinner or out to a brewery.
We were fortunate to have some good fishing on the flats. It was quite foggy upon arrival. We headed into a dense cloudy with not much visibility, hoping it would burn off as the sun got higher. Thankfully, it did. Had it not burned off, it would have been a long day. We followed the tide out as the sun the got higher and started to burn off the fog. As the sun got higher and we waded further and further, the dark shapes appeared cruising along the sand flats. I picked out a small school of stripers heading toward me about 40' away. I made a quick cast and dumped my fly about 15' in front of them and let it sink just a second. As they closed in, I gave my sand eel pattern a couple of quick strips and, "WHACK!" I saw the fish's mouth open and eat the fly. I felt its weight, gave the line another hard strip, but the fish was already taking off for open ocean. It wasn't a huge striper, but was 25-26" of attitude. I picked up another fish in similar fashion before the tide went slack and the activity was dead. After the tide turned and began chasing us back toward shore, it was on again. Hundreds of fish flooded onto the flats as the incoming tide covered the exposed sandbars. Alan and I had a great morning/afternoon with loads of schoolies. Tired, thirsty, and sunburnt, we retreated before we had to swim back to shore.
I guided a day while I was out there. I had the pleasure of teaching three new fly casters. Conditions on that day were not as nice as the wind was ripping and a few rain storms blew around us. We made the most of it. In tough conditions for anyone, let alone new fly anglers, they fished tough, kept good attitudes, and worked hard throughout the day. Their hard work paid off in the end as they landed 4 or 5 stripers and each person at least came tight with a fish. We had some shots and opportunities at others as well. In challenging conditions, it's important to keep things in perspective. There are no guarantees in fishing and especially as a new fly angler. Fly fishing can be a challenge and a lot of things need to happen and go correctly for an educated fish to eat a hook with some hair on it. However, keeping a positive attitude, working hard and sticking with it usually pays off. It was a challenging grind, but a fun day nonetheless.
As we get into August, as I mentioned previously, the forecast is for the weather to get back to the seasonably hot, muggy, and dry conditions we are accustomed to in August. I prefer the rain and cool temperatures, but... nature always wins and it was unusual to have such a cool spell. The gardens loved it. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes loved the wet conditions and they have been absolutely atrocious. Between greenheads out to Cape Cod and mosquitoes and deer flies here, I think there are some days I looked like I had a skin disease. A thermometer to check the water temperatures in the trout streams is always your friend and will be important going forward from this week. With water levels dropping and temps on the rise, I expect mornings to be strong until the weekend and then it will be back to standard August conditions. The tailwaters and spring creeks should be good to go, however.
As always, thanks for reading. Please keep checking back as I'll have more material posted in the coming weeks. August is looking a little light for me on the water and I'll have more time to work on other projects. Please feel free to shoot me an email with questions or comments. See you on the water!