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Early Season Fly Fishing

 

After a long cold winter many anglers are eager to get out fly fishing at the first sign of spring. Unless you are lucky enough to live where you can fly fish year round, or have the means to travel somewhere warm during the winter, you are probably in this group, which includes me. Unfortunately less than ideal conditions and large numbers of anglers many times doesn’t make for a very pleasant experience. Many of us when asked how fishing was will simply shrug our shoulders and say, "it was just nice to get out". Very early you will be facing very low and clear water conditions but, for the weeks leading up to, and after run-off, high, murky and cold water is what awaits you. While early season fly fishing will always be challenging there are a few things you can do to make you early season trips more enjoyable and hopefully successful.

Early season fishing is a challenge but can be rewarding.

Early season fishing is a challenge but can be rewarding.

Water conditions are one the biggest challenges you are going to face. Early season trout streams are usually running high, dirty and cold. Going further upstream sometimes the way to avoid or at least lesson the effect of run off. Most streams usually have feeder streams that enter into them, every time you get above where one of these enters you will usually find the water a little clearer. The time of day you want to fish at is also a factor in the spring, later on in the year the cooler morning and evenings are best but in the spring you will want to fish during the mid day hours, when it is warmest. Another strategy is to fish tail waters below damns, where the flows, clarity and water temperature are mitigated by the damn, these often provide year round fishing opportunities and are always a good bet in the spring. Another option, if you are lucky enough to live near one, are spring creeks. As the name implies these creeks originate from underground and are usually clear, or clearer than freestone streams, and have consistent water temperatures year round. If you don't have a spring creek or tail water near you hopefully these tips will help you catch a few trout.

Tailwaters below damns can be your best choice if available to you.

Tailwaters below damns can be your best choice if available to you.

Nymphs In fly fishing nymphing is always a productive way to catch fish, and early in the year it is probably going to be your best bet. How fish feed at this time depends a lot on water temperature. While most trout will start to get active at 6^ C, optimum feeding temps are more like 10^ C, so in early season you’re going to be fishing for sluggish fish. While fish still need to eat at this time of the year the colder water temperature means they will eat less. Putting a nymph right on their nose is sometimes the only way to go. Make sure you are using enough weight and getting a drag free float so that your nymph gets down to the fishes level and they don’t have to move too far for it. I like to use a Stonefly nymph at this time of year. These bugs live as under water nymphs up to 4 years, and once mature get very active in the spring as they prepare to crawl to shore and hatch into winged adults.

They are a large insect making them easy for trout to spot even under dirty water conditions. They are a good sized meal for the trout and when they start to get active many of them will get washed away, as they don’t swim, drifting helplessly downstream. They are always a good searching pattern but are especially effective in the spring. It’s important to get a good drag free drift with these imitations so cast upstream, let the nymph dead drift back towards you. Use strike indicators in combination with split shot to get the fly or flies down to the fish. Remember to keep up with the slack in your line when nymphing this way or else you’ll never be able to set the hook.

Nymphing is often the most productive method in the spring.

Nymphing is often the most productive method in the spring.

Streamers While early season streamer fishing can be challenging due to water conditions, it is also a good bet for larger fish. Getting the fly down to the level the trout are at, usually near the bottom, can be difficult. Look for soft edges and slow pools where the fly will have time to get down to the fishes level. Fish need shelter from the strong currents at time of the year and will not chase your imitation very far so your presentation must be accurate. Softer water with some depth to it is ideal at this time of the year.

Below riffles is a favourite spot of mine to fish streamers, lots of oxygen, break from the current and food being dumped produces ideal conditions. Try different retrieves and lengths of strips, I find usually under these conditions that 4"-6" slow strips with a pause in between works well. Strikes will not be as aggressive at this time of the year so stay in contact with your fly. Start right below the riffle and slowly fish your way down stream fishing the areas where you can get a good presentation. You will probably find the fish are a little downstream of where they are in summer but is best to cover the whole area.

Streamer fishing can be rewarding.

Streamer fishing can be rewarding.

Dry Flies Whatever you do at this time of the year do not write off dry fly fishing. Trout are hungry and if the conditions are right success can be had fishing dries. While most people associate early season dry fly fishing with midges, these small insects hatch out profusely through the winter and into the spring, but are extremely it is usually very hard to be successful with any consistency with them. It’s rare to see trout rising with any regularity to these bugs even though at times they blanket the water. If you do find a fish or two rising with some consistency in generally the same area, try using a cheater pattern, a Griffith Gnat in a size #16 or even a #14 will hopefully look like a cluster of midges to the fish.

Learn what a Redd looks like and avoid wading in and around them.

Learn what a Redd looks like and avoid wading in and around them.

Another tactic is to try something altogether different like an ant or beetle pattern. These terrestrial insects are around all year and become active in the spring, some of them will always end up in the water somehow. Once in the water they are trapped and many are destined to become lunch for a hungry trout. You can always fish a double dry rig using both the Gnat and the terrestrial a couple of feet apart. Blue Winged Olives are the first mayfly to hatch in many parts of the west so I’m always prepared with some olive coloured patterns, such as a parachute Adams.

Remember that at this time of year Rainbows will be getting ready to spawn or will be spawning so be careful not to walk on any Redds. If you don't know what a Redd looks like, learn. If you come across fish that are on or around a Redd leave them alone to do their thing. Safety is important at all times of the year but is crucial in the spring, cold high water, rocks that roll under your feet, unstable banks and floating debris can cause serious problems. Never fish alone, carry a wading staff and use wading boots that have a good grip. Inflatable life jackets such as the Mustang MIT inflatables are not bulky at all and could save your life if you should happen to fall in. So if cabin fever has set in and you have a case of the "shack nasties" get out on the water and shake off the cobwebs, who knows you might even catch a fish or too, if not it's just good to get out.



Previous Fishing Articles
(1) Fall brings the big walleye out
(2) Hoppertunity Time
(3) Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler
(4) Make Your Own Fishing Adventure
(5) Early Season Fly Fishing
(6) Walleye Logic
(7) Fly Fishing in the Desert
(8) Grammy’s Fish
(9) Top 10 Trout Lures
(10) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List
(11) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator
(12) What to expect when fishing the West Coast
(13) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing
(14) There’s No Place Like Home
(15) A Golden Opportunity
(16) The Observational Trout Fisherman
(17) Un-matching the Hatch
(18) Alberta Super Bugs
(19) Glass is Back
(20) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca
(21) Speed Kills
(22) Entering the Twilight Zone
(23) Old Man River
(24) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River
(25) Small stream BT fishing
(26) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started
(27) In The Walleye Zone
(28) Zoo Trout
(29) Fly Selection for Beginners
(30) Fly Fisher's Christmas
(31) New Waters
(32) Big Bad Burbot
(33) Looking Back
(34) Out of Africa
(35) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams
(36) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish
(37) The Browns of Autumn
(38) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons
(39) Walleye Town
(40) River Fun - One Bite At A Time
(41) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers
(42) Going With The Flow
(43) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman
(44) Swinging The Fences
(45) A View From The Aerie
(46) Dixieland Delight
(47) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts
(48) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon
(49) Montana's Cool Missouri
(50) Pretty Is As Pretty Does
(51) Toothy Critters
(52) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake
(53) Top Ten Flies
(54) Northern Exposure
(55) Home Water Lessons
(56) Chicken Of The Sea
(57) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish
(58) Deep In The Heart Of Texas
(59) Keep It Up!
(60) River Fishing for Fall Walleye
(61) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood
(62) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity
(63) Hawg Holes
(64) Saltwater Salmon
(65) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing
(66) Down a Lazy River - A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan
(67) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead
(68) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS
(69) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES
(70) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver
(71) Canada's "Other" Salmon
(72) Fall Walleye
(73) Wet Flies
(74) Versatility the Key to Success
(75) Grayling of the Boreal
(76) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish
(77) Size Matters
(78) Fly Fishing Small Streams
(79) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time
(80) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel
(81) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
(82) The Point Of It All
(83) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day
(84) Fall Fly Fishing
(85) Personal Pontoon Boats 101
(86) Big River, Big Fish
(87) Bottom Bonanza
(88) Fishing Small Flies
(89) So Many Choices, So Little Time
(90) Four Seasons of the Bow
(91) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot
(92) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT
(93) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style
(94) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box
(95) Edge Walleye
(96) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER
(97) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge
(98) Four Corners – Four Waters
(99) Chasing Pothole Trout
(100) Springtime Stoneflies
(101) The Torrents of Spring
(102) Drift Boat Fly Fishing
(103) Bust Them With Bait
(104) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book
(105) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months
(106) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout
(107) Terrestrials
(108) Fly In For Fishing Fun
(109) Rocky Mountain High
(110) Reading the clues
(111) Where the Trout Are: The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.
(112) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin
(113) Fly Fishing 101
(114) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod
(115) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay
(116) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder
(117) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead
(118) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital
(119) Eliminating the Spook Factor
(120) Trust Your Electronics
(121) The Most Important Hatch of the Year
(122) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout
(123) Finding Success for Ice Trout
(124) Walleye can be Humbling
(125) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed
(126) Winter Flyfishing
(127) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Fishing Gem
(128) Hot Fall Pike Action
(129) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down
(130) Reading Trout Stream Waters
(131) Frequently Asked Questions
(132) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout
(133) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice
(134) Deep Water Perch
(135) Post Spawn Brookies
(136) A Fisher's Life
(137) The River's Last Stand
(138) The Big Ones Come out at Night
(139) Coho on the Coast
(140) Chasing and Catching Halibut
(141) Summer in the Mountains
(142) Peak Walleye Season
(143) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
(144) Last Ice Rainbows
(145) The Burbot Event
(146) Tackle Matching
(147) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light
(148) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location
(149) The Lure of Brook Trout
(150) The Shallow Water Hunt is On
(151) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now
(152) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies
(153) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan
(154) The Vesatile Plug
(155) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout
(156) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures
(157) Good Fishing at Last Ice
(158) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations
(159) Daily Fish Migrations
(160) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn
(161) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star
(162) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing
(163) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing
(164) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser
(165) The Fun in Ultra Light
(166) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines
(167) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure
(168) Never Stop Learning
(169) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot
(170) Jigging through the Ice
(171) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline
(172) Rainbows on Ice
(173) The Season of Ice Begins
(174) Red Hot Fall Pike Action
(175) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman
(176) Facts On Cats
(177) West Coast Adventure
(178) June Walleye Frenzy
(179) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories
(180) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"
(181) "Northern Exposure"
(182) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish
(183) Early Season Pike On The Fly
(184) Man Overboard