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An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Now is the time to learn fly fishing

Have you ever thought that you would like to get involved in fly fishing? Spring is the prime time for fly fishing since many mayfly or other aquatic insects will be hatching and trout will be eagerly feeding on them. The hatches create enough action that even a beginner can have fun catching fish. Of course, some of the recent weather with cold temperatures and strong winds definitely was not fly fishing weather.
Fly fishing is fun and it is easier than you might think. How should you get started? The best advice is to ask a friend who is an experienced fly fisherman. By asking a friend, professional instructor or local sports shop you will probably get the best advice on what type of equipment to purchase and how to get started. Lessons from guides or pro shops can be very helpful.
Locally there are several groups that can offer advice, support or even assist you in learning to cast properly or get started in fly tieing. Mohawk Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited ( welcomes new members and is very helpful. The Madison County Chapter of TU ( is involved in casting clinics and fly tieing, in addition to its stream improvements and stocking.
For most of the trout fishing in this area, an 8 and 1/2 or 9-foot rod, balanced with a 5 or 6 weight line will be ideal. Fortunately, it is easy these days to balance equipment - i.e. the proper weight line for the rod. Simply match the number on the rod with the weight of the line. You will want a heavier weight for bass or steelhead fishing.
You should have a good quality reel with sufficient capacity and drag control, but basically they are just used for storing line. A single action reel with interchangeable spools for using different types of lines (sinking tip, weight forward, etc.) is what most of us need.
The variety of lines can be confusing but most of your fishing needs will be served by floating, weight forward lines. These are easiest to cast and allow for delicate presentation. Level lines are cheaper but should be avoided for most casting purposes since they don’t give you the distance or delicate presentation.
The last part of the equipment is a tapered leader. This allows you to present the fly so the fish will not see the connection. Although experienced anglers may opt for longer leaders, most of us will do fine with a 7 1/2 or 9-foot tapered leader. The tippet (end) should match the size of the fly you are using. Smaller flies call for more delicate tippets. You can attach the leader with a nail knot, but many people use various commercial leader connectors to easily attach the leader to the end of the fly line.
The third part of the equation is choosing the proper flies to use. This can be the most intimidating or frustrating part. When you see fish rising all around you but ignoring your offerings, you wonder if it is your casting techniques, fly selection or a punishment for not mowing the lawn before you left. You may not have to match the hatch exactly but the closer you come, the better your success will be. When in doubt, just try to come as close to the size as possible, then try to match shape and color and this usually produces some fish.
You don’t need an overwhelming number of patterns and sizes to catch trout. Most of the trout in this area can be caught on dry flies in Adams, Light Cahill, Hendrickson, Caddis, Gray Fox, March Browns or Elk’s Hair Caddis. Your wet fly selection should include Wooly worm, Royal Coachman, Dark Hendricksen and Hornberg. Toss in some Wooly Buggers, Muddler Minnows and Hare’s Ear and some streamers and nymph imitations and you are on your way.
Most of the significant hatches on trout streams are mayflies or caddis flies that occur as the water warms. Generally, the following major hatches occur within a week of these times each year: Hendrickson - early May to mid June; Blue Winged Olive – May 1 to June 30; March Brown – mid May to mid June; Light Cahill – early May to the end of June; Sulphurs – early June to mid July; Green Drake - mid June to July 1; Isonychia early June to mid July; Golden Drake – early to mid July; White Mayfly - August and September. Not all Central New York streams have these same hatches.
Many years ago Pete French, an excellent fly fisherman and guide, gave me good advice. Pete said that the first thing he did when he arrived at the stream was nothing. Essentially, Pete was saying that he sat an observed any activity of mayflies hatching and emerging, or dying and floating on the water, and signs of whether the fish were feeding on the surface or on emerging hatches beneath the surface.
In addition to fishing dry flies on the surface, or trolling streamers, a common tactic of fly fishermen is to use wet flies like the Muddler Minnow, Hornberg or Wooly Bugger. These are best fished with a sinking line near the bottom of the pond and gently twitched or moved with the drift of the canoe. If you don’t have a sinking line, you can use a split shot on your leader to get the fly down.
It is true that the better you are at casting and fly selection the more fish you will catch. But you get better by practicing it on the stream or pond. Thus you can catch fish and have fun while learning. So join the growing number of people who find that fly fishing isn’t a difficult challenge - it’s just plain fun.
Short Casts
Save The Date: The Madison County Friends of NRA Banquet will be held on Saturday, June 7 at the Rusty Rail in Canastota. Contact Ralph Meyers (363-5342) for more information.
Record Striper: The first new record fish of 2014 was a striped bass caught in the Hudson River near Newburgh on May 14. The new record fish weighed 60 pounds and was 53.4 inches long with a 33-inch girth. It surpassed the old record set in 2007 by 4 pounds, 10 ounces. Eric Lester was fishing alone when he hooked the monster striper and then began a comedy of errors with the reel coming off the rod. He managed to re-attach it but found the line snarled around the engine prop. He untangled that and managed to land the fish alone. Photos of the record fish are available on the DEC website.
Spey Nation: The 2014 Spey Nation weekend will be June 20–22 on the Salmon River with three days of fun at no charge. There will be free movies Friday night at Tailwater Lodge in Altmar, presentations all day on Saturday at the Pineville Boat Launch. The free lunch will be catered by Tailwater Lodge and at 4 p.m. there will be the drawings for the raffles which will benefit the Fish Creek Atlantic Salmon Club. Sunday will be free fishing at the Douglaston Salmon Run or lessons from Spey Casting.
Fenner Fur Rondy: The Independent Fur Harvesters of Central NY will hold their annual summer Fur Rondy on July 11 and 12 at Nichols Pond. There will be family fun, trapping business and a Trapper Training Class. Contact Al LaFrance (682-2050) for more information.
Wild Boars Off Limits: As reported earlier, the hunting or killing of free-ranging wild boars is illegal in New York State. Although NYS wants to eradicate any wild pigs, the shooting of them by random hunting is counter-productive. The pigs are extremely wary and intelligent and if one is killed the rest scatter and become more difficult to trap or kill. The state has been able to eliminate all of most of them in various areas of Central NY but some areas of wild boars apparently remain. It has been an expensive process but the free-ranging hogs do incredible damage to the environment, wildlife and agricultural crops. Any Eurasian boars that are in enclosed hunting preserves may still be hunted but those are scheduled for elimination by next year.
Deer Take: According to results released recently by the DEC, the total deer harvest was slightly above the previous year and an increase from the previous five year average. The number of bucks killed was down by about 4,000 but the number of does killed on DMU permits rose by over 5,000. However the DEC was disappointed that the DMU desired quotas were not reached in many units, especially in western NY. We will have a breakdown on local figures later or you can check the reports on the DEC website.


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