Fishing Season in Pennsylvania opens this Saturday, April 3. For April Fool's Day, today, the weatherman gave us an inch of snow and night time temperatures in the 20s. That means that even if we get a warm sunny day Saturday, the water will be cold and the fish will be sitting on the bottom. With that thought in mind –
Here are a 10 Quick Tips for early spring fishing:
Early season fishing often makes us to think “out of the box” and to be open minded to making adjustments in our fishing style if we are to catch fish. The techniques from last fall may not work now if we have typical spring conditions of cold water temperatures, higher water levels, and lethargic fish.
1. Fish streamers using a heavier rod and a sink-tip line to get “in the zone” quicker. Using a lot of split shot on a floating line is hard to cast, hard to control, and it is not going to sink as quickly as a sinking line.
2. Avoid false casting which will wick the water out of the fly. Keep it wet so it sinks quickly on the next cast. At the end of the drift strip in a little line while keeping the rod tip raised and roll cast while the standing line is close to the surface. Be careful, this of often when the fish will hit the fly.
3. Fish your flies deep and slow. Fish are lethargic in cold water and don't want to move fast or far to get a meal.
4. Try dead drifting streamers or nymphs – or both. Trail a nymph a couple feet behind the streamer and use a strike indicator. Slow down your cast and open the loop to prevent tangles or use a roll cast.
5. If the water is off color, try a black streamer or flies with a bit of dazzle to get the fish's attention.
6. Know where the fish are likely to hold in high, cold water. Look for seams, cut banks, deep pockets, boulders. In these conditions fish will look for “soft spots”, places where they can sit out the high water while expanding as little energy as possible. These are places where they won't be in normal flows – eddies, back sides of islands, side riffles that are normally too shallow to hold fish.
7. Switch from your streamer rod to a longer, softer nymph rod and swing wet flies or soft hackles. 10 to 11 foot rods for 3 and 4-weight lines are popular and effective for this type of “European style” nymphing. Start with a yarn or clear or cork strike indicator, a 9' 5X leader and a soft hackle, add 3 feet more of 5X, and a tungsten bead head PT (pheasant tail). Start at the head of a pool and cast across stream, give the cast a few seconds to sink, mend line upstream if needed to slow down the cast, and study the indicator. Keep the rod tip just high enough so that the leader is drifting freely with no tension. You want as little fly line on the water as possible to avoid tension. This works best when you can get fairly close to the fish. Beware, often the takes are light and gentle. Use a roll cast to prevent tangles.
8. If you're getting stuck on the bottom, move the indicator closer to the fly. If you're using split shot, go lighter. If you're not ticking the bottom, move the indicator further back or add shot or use a heavier fly.
9. Don't hesitate to change flies or change the indicator type or position if you've gone a half hour with no hits. This goes for streamers as well as dry flies. Change, change, change.
10. Be patient – lower, warmer water is coming along with hatches and dry fly fishing.
Now, where did I put my longjohns!