Hook, Line and Sinker: March 26, 2008

The countdown to Opening Day of the trout season is growing shorter – just a few more days till we can shake off the winter blues and officially ring in the promise of Spring with our first casts of the season! And what a winter it’s been – a good, old-fashioned one, with ample snow and cold weather – and enough snowpack still on the mountainsides to keep our rivers and streams fairly full. Coupled with good amounts of rain, the reservoir is in good shape, as are the East Branch and West Branch of the Delaware and their many tributaries. We were fortunate to have ‘dodged a bullet,’ so to speak, with all the snow remaining on the ground not to have experienced major flooding this past month.
Due to the amount of snow and ice still melting and entering the streams, water temperatures are very cold, barely a few degrees above freezing, so that the trout, which are cold-water species and therefore adapt their body temperature to that of their surroundings, will still be pretty logy and slower moving. As a result, Opening Day fishing will be more for the tradition than for the prospect of good catches.

What to use?
Early season fly-fishers can expect to do more below-the-surface fishing (with nymphs) for their best success. The use of weighted nymphs, such as the Zug Bug, which has the weight incorporated into the body of the fly; or other nymphs such as the Hendrickson or Hare’s Ear coupled with split shot on the leader, are early-season favorites for fly fishers. Just lob the fly out in a short cast across the stream from where you’re standing and maintain a bit of tension on the line – letting it be carried along with the current to the end of its ‘swing’ – then retrieve slowly, giving a little ‘twitch’ to enable the fly to appear as though it is a living nymph swimming through the water. Be prepared for any hesitation in its travel, and strike if you see or feel it ‘stop.’ I just spoke with a friend who had fished two weeks ago on a Catch-and-Release section of the river, who had hooked a large brown using a Black Woolly Bugger. This fly is a favorite of some who like to try for large trout, and is effective especially in dark and roily water.

Strong sun
If the sun is strong, by afternoon there might even be a few rises if any aquatic insects begin to hatch. You might want to bring along a few midge imitations or early-season dries, such as a Quill Gordon, Blue Quill or Blue-Winged Olive if you notice any rises.
Spin fishermen will also do best by keeping their lures down as close to the bottom as possible; worm fishermen can add split shot to their line to get it down deep, making adjustments for whether or not the line is bouncing along the bottom or getting hung up. Spinners, especially silvery colored spinners, are effective, as the silver shine imitates the black nosed and long nosed dace, shiners, even alewives and smelt that might be present and attractive to hungry trout. Undercut banks and ‘flat’ areas behind obstructions such as boulders or logs are a favorite destination for early-season trout fishers.
Pepacton Reservoir still had ice in the middle as of last week, but there is enough open water for early season fishermen to be able to cast from shore; the trout will be in close during the early season. Using bait (sawbellies if available), spinners and spoons should be productive.
Don’t forget to get your gear ready before April 1 so that you won’t spend valuable fishing time searching for necessary items. Go through the pockets of your fishing vest before washing it, throwing out all expired or near-empty products, and replace with new. Be sure to have plenty of tippet on hand, as well as a fly or tackle box filled with early-season offerings. Check those waders for leaks and last but not least, have your 2008-season fishing license ready to go. Good luck and happy fishing!