March, April, and May are quite possibly the best three months of the year to find yourself out on the water doing some form of fishing. Sure, there are other times during the year that can be magical, but these months offer such a variety of possibility that is tough to discredit them as the best time of year to fish. Lakes and ponds are warming up, which brings waves of bass, crappie and panfish into the shallows. Trout streams also get a big boost from the amount of insect life that starts to pick up this time of year. Typically caddis and a variety of mayflies start making a daily appearance that puts the trout in a good mood. So, generally the toughest thing to figure out is just what fish to chase on any given day. I usually try to fit it all in if I can, making the most of the fabulous conditions. Some trips on the lakes, and some trips on the rivers, and do it as many times as you can before the hot summer sets in. Some really nice bass can be caught this time of year as they start their shallow migration looking for spawning areas.
Always a great time to be on the lake, and by the month of May, the top water bite will kick in which makes it even more fun. The first heavy waves of bedding bluegill typically happens here in the month of May as well, so there is no better time to probe the shallows with a fly rod on the local lakes and ponds. The trout streams start to warm up in March, and the added insect activity usually means more aggressively feeding trout. I usually see caddis hatching before the majority of the mayflies start to take over. Plenty of caddis out this past week as I was on the river, and an elk hair caddis trailed by a soft hackle did the trick more than once.
Caddis do not float along the surface of the river and dry their wings before flying away like mayflies do. Instead, caddis will bust through the surface film already flying, and have a very erratic flying motion as they dry their wings in mid flight. Because of this, trout are usually taking the emergers just under the surface during a caddis hatch, and that makes the soft hackle a good option to trail behind a dry fly during these hatches. Spring is for sure an awesome time to be on the water, so I encourage to get out there and give it a go if at all possible.
Such a great time of year, at least I think so. Fall colors with the leaves changing, cooler air, trout fishing, deer hunting, and football! Great times to be had for sure. Fishing on the lakes can be good as well, so let me not forget to mention that the bass action can be great this time of year too. But for me, trout fishing tends to be my choice of outings in the Fall.
Oh sure, it might be a stocked fish, but the colors on this brook trout are still awesome, and there are plenty of these guys in the rivers this time of year. Delayed Harvest rivers in NC have gone back to catch and release only and have been stocked with fish. The SC Delayed Harvest rivers will follow the same in November. Keep it simple with fly selection, a few wooly buggers, some worm and egg patters, a few stonefly nymphs, and some size 16 and 18 natural colored nymphs for the picky eaters and you are good to go. Wild trout waters will fish great now as well, although lack of rain has really lowered the flows in most places down to a trickle right now. Water temps are good, but flows, not so much. Hopefully we will get some much needed rain to help the stream flows out. In the mean time, the fish may be a little spookier than normal so you may need to go with longer leaders and drop the pound test size to get bites. Check the short video of one of my latest outings on the Facebook page.
Deer hunting also is in full swing, and I got on the board already this year with some meat for the freezer. And football is well into the season and there have been more than a fair share of entertaining games. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all just add to the magic of this time of year. Enjoy.
The month of May is always a fabulous time to be on the water. Warming water temps brings plenty of fish up into the shallows, which makes them more accessible for a fly rod. Bass and panfish of all sorts move up onto the banks and can be caught using a variety of flies. Typically I will attack the shallows with a combination of a top-water popping bug with a sinking wetfly dropped off the back. This two-fly combination can be very effective at catching the fish roaming the banks this time of year. One of my first good bass taken on the fly this year actually came on a wooly bugger, I spotted this fish cruising the bank and dropped the fly out in front of it and it was game on:
I have been breaking in a new boat this spring, thanks to guys at East Cape Skiffs in Orlando FL. The Lostmen they built me has been seeing plenty of action so far. I researched these boats for about two years before finally pulling the trigger on one. This boat only needs about 5 inches of water to float in, and is very stable with a large casting deck. It also has a raised, removable casting platform and poling platform over the motor that will aid in sight fishing in the shallows.
I have been spending time mostly out on Lake Bowen and Lake Blaylock getting the new motor through its break-in period. We have been doing some bass fishing and going after the bluegill in shallows. The family got the the first test of the new boat out on the lake, just a quick trip to get the permits purchased and get the boat on the water.
My buddy Fred and I both got into some decent bass on our day out on the lake.
I also got to try out a new fly rod recently. I picked up a 0wt fly rod, very light weight and a whole mess of fun. Got a crappie on it, as well as a bass the first time out. Plenty of bluegill on it as well. All of these fish were taken with the popping bug/dropper combination. Get out and do some fishing now if you have the chance, as it is prime time for action!
Sometimes you have the luxury of planning an outing based on the best weather conditions. Other times, you just go when you have the chance, and deal with what comes. This week I was dealt a balmy 22 degrees and plenty of ice, but I decided to give it a go on some blue line wild trout water.
I started out with a double rig of a small black stonefly nymph trailed by a micro egg pattern in size 20. I have always have good success with a micro egg in wild trout water during cold winter months. I typically use the micro size because these fish tend to run in the 5 to 10 inch range, and larger egg patterns are difficult for the smaller fish to get hooked up on. The micro egg paid off again on this outing, as it was responsible for many of the fish I caught. I should take the time to mention that I used the largest sized split shot I had on me, as the fish were all holding in the deeper runs and pools.
Most of these fish required multiple drifts through the deepest runs and holes, and the takes were very soft and subtle. I was high stick nymphing without an indicator with my 8’6″ 3wt St. Croix Imperial rod. The rod has just the right amount of length to high stick fish with in the tighter wild trout streams. The Imperial also has a nice soft tip to it, making a good choice for protecting light tippet, as I was using a 6X fluoro tippet in what was very clear water. A few notes about fishing in these cold conditions: First, it is a good idea to take an extra set of clothes and leave them in the vehicle, just in case you take an unwanted fall and end up all wet. I did have an extra set of gloves in my pack as well, and needed them after my first set of gloves had gotten wet. Wet gloves do you no good in sub-freezing temps. A day in these conditions can be ruined quickly with an untimely slip. And speaking of slip, my next note is that you need to pay close attention to where you are stepping and walking. Most every surface that is wet, but not in the water itself, is covered with ice. So, when walking, you need to keep you feet in the water itself, or be stepping on dry rocks. Pay attention to what you are doing, fish thoroughly in the best areas and you can still have a very productive day.
I’ll be honest, Mother Nature has not exactly been kind to me on my last few fishing outings. In fact, last time I had the day to go fish, it rained hard all night and by the morning of, all the rivers were completely blown out. I even drove to 4 different locations, just to see if anything was low enough to fish. This week, conditions were a little better, but still far from ideal. Recent rains again had the rivers high and murky. And it was a nice 27 degrees when I arrived. Not to mention the river itself looked a little different as some areas had been silted in from high waters. I started out throwing streamers and located a few fish scattered in the middle of the river. As I worked my way into deeper water, I caught the best brookie of the day on the streamer:
Once I had fished the streamer through the area, I switched over to nymphing with a larger black stone fly and a worm pattern. After about 30 minutes of fishing this rig, it seemed apparent that the fish only really wanted the worm pattern. After changing the worm up a few times, it also seemed that the fish mostly wanted a red one. So, for the rest of the day, that is what I used. I had to adjust the amount of split shot on occasion, and the depth of the indicator. In a few places, I went without the indicator and just did some high sticking. Keeping the worm near the bottom on a good drift produced a good many fish, and I was able to complete the slam with a brook, rainbow and brown trout all of decent size. The higher murky water was surely dictating how I had to fish, and what the fish were responding to, but as long as you experiment and adapt to conditions you can have a productive day.
This is certainly one of my favorite times of year, for a variety of reasons. October through December just seems to have so much to offer between college football, deer hunting, and great fishing. Combine that with the leaves changing color, cool temperatures and great Fall harvest foods and I am one happy camper. I got out this week and did some trout fishing, my best fish was this decent rainbow:
Many rivers in SC and NC will get stocked pretty heavy this time of year, and the DH regulated streams are back to catch-and-release only. Plenty of trout in the rivers means more opportunity for catching. My recent outing on the river started a little chilly, at 31 degrees outside. Switching between olive and black streamers to dragging a stonefly and lightning bug nymph around produced most of my fish. I did manage two fish on an elk hair caddis dry fly at one point when I wanted to just try something different. I did not see any fish rising to bugs, but figured I would give it a shot and I the two fish took the dry fly in a fairly shallow riffle, but that was the only surface action I got. One of them was a decent brown trout.