April 1, that special date that trout fishers dream of during those long cold winter days, seems to be pulling an April Fools joke on trout fishers here in the Catskills. Despite the calendar revealing that spring has arrived more than a week ago, we are still feeling very much in the throes of winter, with single-digit wind chills over the past weekend and inches of freshly fallen snow during the beginning of the week.
Checking on the rivers as of Monday, March 30, most are still filled with ice and snow. In fact, the USGS website showed that the gauging station on the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls was encumbered by ice and no flow information was available; as was the case on the East Branch Delaware River at Downsville and Fishs Eddy.
This surely has to be one of the coldest opening days in recent memory - and those who like to fish the small streams will have to struggle through a foot of snow in places in order to reach their favorite spot - a far cry from just a few years back, in 2012, when we enjoyed great fishing and 70-degree temperatures during the month of March!
However, over the past week fishermen have been seen in the Special Regulations Catch-and-Release (No-Kill) areas of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc. Despite freezing temperatures and being bundled in heavy winter coats, last Friday evening we saw a fisherman standing on the big rock in the center of Hendricksons Pool – a favorite place known by many. And on Monday afternoon, as we were driving over the Willowemoc at Hazel we observed two hardy souls casting their flies just downstream of the bridge.
The water temperature in tailwater rivers such as the East and West Branches of Delaware will be a bit warmer, as water is released from the bottom of New York City’s Pepacton and Cannonsville reservoirs at about 41 degrees, compared to free-flowing streams such as the Beaverkill and Willowemoc, whose water temperatures may hover in the low 30s, barely above freezing. Just a few degrees of warmth may make a difference in your fishing success; as trout are cold-blooded animals and as such, their body temperature will match that of the waters that they inhabit. Understandably, when water temperatures are barely above freezing, the trout will be sluggish. Their digestive enzymes will be slowed and as a result, not many trout will be very hungry. But given a few degrees of warmer water, they may be more receptive to eating or taking a lure.
There may even be hatches on the East and West Branches of the Delaware, particularly of small Diptera, or two-winged flies, which may appear when air temperatures are above 32 degrees, especially if it’s sunny. Tiny dry flies in the size #22 category, will work under these conditions, using fine tippet of 7X. Look in the flat, slow-flowing sections of the pools for hatching flies and rising fish.
For fishing success, the best bet on the smaller tributary streams will no doubt be using worms with split shot to add weight; fish ‘low and slow’ in the pools and holes, any place where there is deeper water for the fish to congregate.
Reservoir fishermen will have to be satisfied with starting their fishing season from shore, as there is still a good amount of ice cover. Reservoir levels are low – just 74.5% capacity, as compared to the “normal” level of 92.9% on this date.
Information provided by the DEC states that anyone 16 years of age and older who desires to fish in New York must have a New York State fishing license, available on line at www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6101.html or by calling 1-86-NY-DECALS. Fishing licenses can also be purchased from the 1,500 license issuing agents located throughout the state (town and county clerks, some major discount stores and many tackle and sporting goods stores). An interactive map providing the locations of these agents is available on line at www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/42978.html. Reservoir fishermen will need a NYC DEP permit. Reservoir licenses may obtained online and printed out. Visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/recreation/recreation_rules.shtml
Scroll down and click on “Access Permit.”