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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lansing

Spring Flingin' - Central NY Fly Fishing

Spring fly fishing in Central NY is upon us.  It has been periodically since about January…  There was no winter to speak of this year.  Trout had a pretty easy winter.  Rainbows spawned early and browns were/are a little more active than a typical late winter/early spring season.  There was only a handful of days where I was out on the creek and thought it was a total struggle.  That said, and as always, water temperature is a huge determining factor in their mood.

 

For those of you reading that follow me and my ramblings on this blog, it probably comes as no surprise that it has been a looonnnngggg time my last writing and post.  Now is as good a time as any for updates and stories from the previous seasons and months.

 

My last post was from August, 2023.  Since then, we’ve been through a fall fly fishing season, a fall hunting season, a winter fly fishing season, and zero ice fishing seasons.  We’re getting into spring fly fishing quickly.  The 10” of heavy wet snow recently delayed that by a week or so, but the future weather forecast is promising with warmer weather.  Let’s hope there is some rain in there.  After all, trout need a continued supply of water.  Dry Aprils, Mays, and Junes don’t bode well for the fisheries.


Brown trout caught fly fishing in Central NY
A great fall day of fly fishing in Central NY and a great fall brown trout.

Fall fly fishing in the area was good.  Water in the creeks helps.  Some really quality days and some really quality fish were caught in October.  While fall isn’t the numbers game like it can be in the spring, fall – winter tends to be a quality over quantity game.  Catching trout is fun.  Catching a lot of trout is funner, but catching trout 18”, 20”, or larger is funnerest.  However, when you spend enough time on the water, you take whatever you can.  No two days are equal.  Just because conditions are ideal, doesn’t mean the trout have to eat.  I just don’t like being skunked.

 

My month of November was dedicated to hunting.  My brother and I drew elk and mule deer tags in Montana.  We had been planning this for several years.  We were gone for 2 weeks.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the mountains.  I always do.  The outdoors is good for a person.  We camped on National Forest Land each night.  We hiked and hunted every day.  Hunting was tough, as it should be. 


sunset on a day of hunting in Montana
Sunset on a day of hunting in Montana

I’m still new to western hunting and I’m not sure I’d be getting the full experience without the hard work, long miles, sweat, the burning of my unconditioned lungs at 8,000 feet above sea level, being outsmarted by an old bull, making mistakes, the mind games and turmoil of passing on animals hoping a better specimen and opportunity presents itself later in the hunt, and the complete sense of defeat after finally pulling the trigger on the last day only to miss an animal that you would have been ecstatic to harvest (missed a big buck on our last day).  You could call it enduring a type of misery, but a beautiful misery and not the miserable kind of misery, if that makes sense.  Missing that buck that we worked hard for nearly two weeks to find was heartbreaking, but my experience and trip off the grid in the mountains and back country was the opposite of miserable.  I would have stayed longer.  I can’t wait to go back.


Montana mule deer
My brother, Brandon, with his Montana mule deer.

It was great weather in Montana, which made life easy for us, but made tough hunting.  50 degrees and sunny everyday with minimal snow makes for challenging elk and deer hunting.  We did see animals.  We stalked elk in the timber, only to be busted and outsmarted.  My brother was fortunate to harvest a nice mule deer buck.  I passed several mule deer does, holding out hopes for a buck.  I missed my opportunity, but misses happen.  We never did have a shot at an elk.  We saw wolf tracks, black bear sign, grizzly sign, big horn sheep, and other mountain critters.  It was a great trip.  I purposefully left my fishing gear home because I did not want my hunting trip to turn into a fishing trip.

 

Back to Central NY.

 

Ice fishing didn’t exist on Oneida Lake, or many places for that matter, and I’m not convinced we’ll see many true long ice fishing seasons on Oneida Lake going forward.  There isn’t much else to say about that.

 

I spent the majority of my winter tying for the spring season to stock up on flies and in the wood shop building nets to sell throughout the spring.  All of my nets are for sale either through me directly or through my woodworking site, Edgewood Outdoors.  If you’re in need a new fly fishing net, please check out my check handcrafted nets!  In addition to building nets, I had a booth at the Western NY Sport & Travel Expo.  I talked to a lot of people and it was a great experience.  Hope to see some folks join me on the water this spring!


Wild Central NY brown trout
Me holding a wild brown trout I caught fly fishing with some friends recently here in Central NY.

That brings us to present day.  When the weather has been favorable and water levels have been favorable, I’ve been on the creeks throughout the winter and spring.  Some days were great and others were tough.  I think I’ve written about managing expectations previously, but I try not to have any in the winter months.  I try to focus on just one fish at a time.  Winter and early spring can be tough.  Water temps are cold.  There are fewer fish in the systems in winter than at any other point throughout the year.  Higher water and cold water mean heavy dense flows.  The key has been to slow your presentation down.  You just have to work harder for your fish in winter and early spring.  Drifts have to be precise.

 

I expect heavy flows and cold water for another week or so.  Streams are coming down and may be in great shape for “opening day” on April 1st, though rain and snow is in the forecast again for the majority of next week.  Hit/miss conditions is pretty normal for early April.  By mid-April, it should be game on.  Guided trip bookings and fly fishing classes are booking quickly, but there are still plenty of open dates throughout spring.

 

Before I wrap things up with this post, I’ll touch on something that gets brought up frequently in questions I get about fly fishing and discussions about conditions.  That subject is water levels in the creeks and how they pertain to conditions.  We’ll consider this the educational portion of this post.  It’s important to understand water levels and water temperature have everything to do with how I expect conditions to be on a given day.  I’ll use an arbitrary number/flow of 200cfs (cubic feet/second). For the sake of this discussion, we’ll say 200cfs may be a lot of water on a creek.  However, 200cfs in March and 200cfs in May on the same creek can be very different.  Typically, in March, water temps are still cold and there probably isn’t as much food in the system.  The colder water is heavier at 35 degrees than it is at 60 degrees.  The fish know and feel all of this as well.  They are content to just hang out away from heavy flows in the cold water as they have no reason or desire to be out in the heavier flows.  However, in May or June, as the water temperatures increase a bit and there is more food in the system, the trout will move.  With water temps at 55-60 degrees and bugs in the system, they are happy.  200cfs at 55-60 degrees may fish extremely well in May or June, but you could be wasting your time in the winter months.  All of this factors into where I might decide to fish on any given day.  All of that said, a fly angler still has to learn and figure out where the fish are and how to fish their creek in those flows.  Creeks and streams all fish differently.  I’m using flows, water temp, and current weather as tools to help me decide where and when I’m fishing that day.  200cfs in June and 200cfs in January mean very different things.  Hope this helps some of you readers and fellow fly anglers.

 

The spring season is going to get busy in a hurry.  I can’t make any promises about keeping this updated, though I’m going to make it goal to keep updating and writing this blog more frequently.  As you can see, I kind of suck at keeping it updated anyhow, ha!  I’ll try to post shorter posts about conditions and quick tips.  As always, thanks for reading and good luck on the water this spring!


Brown trout caught fly fishing in Central NY
Wild brown trout I caught fly fishing recently with friends here in Central NY

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