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Southern tier fly fishing: Summer fly fishing, warmwaters in great shape

The Susquehanna river in Vestal has been see-sawing down all spring and summer and is finally in great shape for fly fishing.
The Susquehanna river in Vestal has been see-sawing down all spring and summer and is finally in great shape for fly fishing.
USGS

Summer seems to be slipping away. It's been a cooler one so far with good water flows almost everywhere. Trout remain happy and hungry, and bass are getting that way too. This is a laid back time for fly fishing. The pace is relaxed maybe because the pent up energy from a winter off the water is largely gone.

Trout fishing remains very good in the Catskills. Flows have been rock-solid on the West Branch of the Delaware and pretty decent on the other rivers as well. Water temps are reportedly edging up in the Lower East Branch and Main Stem. It is always best to fish under low light conditions when the water temps are closing on 70 to assure good catch and release. The same applies to fishing area creeks. Hatches remain sulphurs and light cahills, with isonychia still around as well as the usual tan caddis and BWO's. Anglers looking forward to fly fishing the Salmon River for salmon have only a little more to wait. The Douglaston Salmon Run salmon season opens on August 14th. There have been no salmon sightings to report just yet.

Most of the warmwater rivers are in great shape right now. The Susquehanna, as of this weekend, is at a comfortable wading level with good clarity. This should only get better provided we don't get hit with the remnants of a hurricane. And when the Susquehanna is good, it's two big feeders, the Chenango and Tioughnioga typically go hand in hand. Oddly enough, while the Chemung has been very well-behaved for most of the summer, it is currently murky and coming off a surge of water from last week's rains.

Water temps are still on the cool side for summer. Readings of 70 - 75 degrees are what I've measured while out on the water. Smallmouth can be taken during the day on big nymphs and streamers fished in the riffles and runs. Early or late in the day is the time to focus more on streamers and topwater flies. The white fly hatch is on and reaching peak if the action on the Susquehanna River on Sunday night is any indicator. The hatch started slowly around 7:30 pm, but by 8:30 pm, was very heavy. Granted, it was not a blizzard in terms of quantity, but it was surely the equivalent of a "snow squall". The hatch was also on at about the same time on the Tioughnioga river on Friday evening with the better part of a long pool dimpled with rising bass. The Tioughnioga's hatch was not nearly the magnitude of the Susquehanna's, going to show that this hatch is quite variable, even on the same river system.

And speaking of smallmouth... While wading the Tioughnioga recently I was reminded of a few important tactics to keep in the back pocket when fly fishing our rivers for smallmouth.

  • Don't ignore the feeders. Particularly as the light gets low - either early or late in the day - smallmouth will move into these tribs to feed. Currently these waters are host to a lot of juvenile crayfish and minnows and where the water is shallow and narrow, hunting is a lot easier. One pre-caution, be careful not to spook the fish.
  • Don't ignore riffles and pockets. Faster water provides overhead protection, cooler water temps, and a feeding lane. I stripped a streamer through one such small pocket upstream of a pool and was rewarded with a nice bass that hit with gusto. Most anglers might bypass such a spot with such a large pool just below it.

The week ahead will start off warm but end up on the cooler side. Early in the week, there is a good chance of thunderstorms and highs in the mid seventies. Temps will be cooler Thursday and Friday and then warm up to 80 for the weekend. The chance of precip at week's end is very low. Provided we don't get dumped on early in the week, fishing should remain very good.