Come Memorial Day weekend, most fly anglers have wet a line, and no doubt at least a few times, if not more, for trout. Trout are, after all, the quintessential spring-time quest for fly anglers. Their voracious appetite for nymphs of all kinds, caddis, mayflies, and stoneflies as well as terrestrial insects plays well into the nets of fly fishermen.
In the Southern Tier, early spring fly fishing – characterized by stonefly nymphs, stoneflies, and some mayflies – transitions to spring fly fishing with the Hendrickson hatch. Along with the Hendricksons are some other mayflies such as the Blue Quill and Quill Gordon. But not long after that, hatches more common to late spring take place – and those are the ones area anglers are enjoying now.
With the waning of the Hendrickson hatch come some great late spring / early summer hatches. These include March Browns, Grey Fox, Light Cahills, Green and Brown Drakes, Isonychia (Slate Drake) and, undoubtedly most famous of all, the Sulfurs. Caddis continue their showing, transitioning from the Little Black Caddis, Shad Fly, and Apple Caddis, to the Tan Caddis and Charcoal Caddis. And the Golden Stone is a warmer weather stonefly that can take trout looking for a big meal. Blue Wing Olives are always around when spring / summer weather turns cloudy, cool, and/or rainy.
Fishing methods consist of the usual fare, but with ‘tuning’. Nymphing in the mornings and into early afternoon is always effective. As the day warms, emergers, wet flies, and dry flies can be used and normally in the late afternoon into evening, it’s mainly a topwater game. Lower flows and clear water necessitate downsizing and lengthening of leader and tippet.
Don’t put away the streamer box just yet. While early spring can often be streamer time, most anglers put streamers away come warmer weather and lower flows. But three options for streamers can be effective this time of year. The first is to fish streamers with a slow strip during periods when the water is high and discolored. Depending on clarity, darker streamers might be the best choice. The second option is to fish streamers dead drift. The third option is to fish a streamer just to mix things up – even during a hatch that can’t be figured out. In all cases, retrieves should be slow and very different from fall techniques that aim to trigger a spawning brown’s aggressive behavior. Streamer size should also be smaller.