Monday, January 7, 2013
New York Spring Steelhead
This new beginning will see flows constant and clear, steady and even air temperatures and a fresh run of the largest fish of the year to keep things interesting. The exact start and conclusion, before the melt and spawn begins, can not be exactly predicted. It must be recognized and acted upon. I make sure I am ready by the middle of February and most likely look to the first week of March.
On one trip to South Sandy Creek in New York I had fished most of a day without much luck. One fish had come to hand yet I continued working hard. The snow was high on the banks and the river was flowing normal and clear. To look at the river you might have the word perfect pass your lips. It was about two o'clock and the magic started. For one full hour I hooked eleven fish all with the same chartreuse eztaz egg pattern. It was like a switch had been thrown and the sky parted and heaven was shinning on me.
This was that time of pre spawn when the fish are waiting for the water to feel just right. The snow in the hills hasn't started to fill the rivers and the daytime temperatures don't cause what is on the banks to melt in and cause colder flow. The range of air temperature you are looking for will be in the mid twenties at night and raise to thirty nine during the day. This will cause a gradual rise in water temperature from the deep winters blast that can be measured in very small increases per day. It is these quarter degree increases that will put the fish on the bite. Too warm and the melt reduces the water temperature. Too cold and the water stays that way.
This is also a time when the big waters will have an ice cover and the ability to make lake effect snow will be diminished. The rivers will have the greatest number for the season in the runs and pools and the males will start to get aggressive.
This short window can produce some of the best action of the winter and will only last a very short time. As the sun gets higher and days warm the rivers will start to fill and the fish have spawning on their minds. By the beginning of the third week of March, depending on water conditions, some of the fish will have spawned. They become very hungry and will take a fly with passion. Drop back season through the middle of April becomes a great opportunity for hooking numbers of fish per day.
Within each and every season there a window that can be open. Sometimes for a day and maybe a bit more. Sometimes as short as an hour. The keys to taking advantage of these times is our willingness to study and make the trip happen. If the window closes, don't worry, it will open again for the post spawn drop back frenzy.