Hating Nice Weather

UPDATE: Catskill Streams in the 50s in Mid-March
Daily Gazette article
Thursday, March 15, 2012

Leave it to a trout fisherman to complain about weather everybody else loves.

High 60s in mid-March? Shirt-sleeves for St. Patrick’s Day? People like me go around brooding and mumbling about trout streams getting too warm and too low, too soon.

What we anglers think of as the ideal natural rhythm goes something like this: early April, streams high and cold, well under 40 deg­rees; early May, streams at good levels, water just above 50; early June, easy wading, water still under 60.

Warm, dry, sunny days are nice for the beach (if you don’t care about fishing at the beach), but the best kind of summer for trout is cool, gray and rainy, and so that’s the best kind of summer for trout fishermen, too.

Mild springs with little snow on the ground and infrequent rain make me worry that we’ll have one of those seasons where the streams are bony and close to 70 degrees by June. Summers that start that way are bad for trout.

Update: It’s March 20. The West Branch of the Delaware is flowing at 377 cubic feet per second (normally over 1,000 on this date) and is already 51 degrees. The East Branch and the Neversink are 53 degrees. This is cause for real concern.

But I’m trying to curb my ten­dency to find the cloud around every silver lining. The fact is, despite the mild winter, hydrologic conditions right now don’t seem too bad.

Most streams have flows fairly close to average for this time of year, and they’re still plenty chilly — well under 40 in the Catskills. The streams will begin to drop when the trees get their leaves in a few weeks, but the U.S. Geological Survey shows water tables across the state are at or above normal levels, thanks to all the rain we got in 2011.

So instead of fretting about the summer, I’ve decided to look forward to pretty good conditions for the start of the season.

Normally, at this time of year, fly-fishermen resign themselves to dragging heavy flies around the bottoms of cold, brown streams, hoping against hope that a trout will decide it’s more hungry than cold and bite.

This year, we may have clear water and fairly moderate temper­atures. The insects may be active, and trout may actually be comfortable enough to feed on them with some enthusiasm.

And once the fish begin biting in a serious way, the fishing may be better than average. All that high water last summer spoiled a lot of anglers’ weekend fishing plans, but it kept the trout nice and cool and ensured a steady supply of food.

“The 2011 summer was generally a wet one throughout Region 4, which bodes well for the upcoming trout season,” the Department of Env­ironmental Conservation said in its annual news release on conditions for the upcoming season. (Region 4 is generally the Capital Region and the northern and western Catskills.) “Wet summers result in better stream flows and generally cooler water temperatures which benefit wild trout populations and enhance survival of stocked trout.”

A trout-friendly summer, followed by a mild winter, with ang­ler-friendly spring conditions may add up to some better-than-average fishing in April. If things hold up, we could have a bang-up Hendrickson hatch at the end of the month and the beginning of May.

At that point, I’ll start hoping the weather clouds up, cools down and rains once a week. Until then, I’ll try to make like Dr. Strangelove: stop worrying and learn to love the nice weather.

Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at morganlyle@gmail.com.

7 responses to “Hating Nice Weather

  1. Great post! I had been thinking about this same issue. Last Thursday I checked the NYC reservoir levels because I have been worried about the lack of precipitation this winter and spring. I was surprised to see that the levels are normal for this time of year. I was puzzled by this but the answer is probably in your post: the excess of precipitation from last year may have made up for the deficit we have seen this year. However, the NYC reservoir levels page also reveals that the precipitation for past three months has been well below average. If this trend continues through the summer, I do wonder if we will see problems in the Delaware River basin. We should enjoy the nice weather though! Last night I fished the Farmington until dark without wearing a jacket. And I was fishing dry flies on my 4 weight in mid-March!

  2. Let’s just hope precipitation is there when we need it going into summer. BTW, the weather has the Early Black stoneflies on the Kayaderosseras hatching like mad, crawling on my neck as I fish.

    Morgan, maybe you can answer a quick question. The Kayaderosseras has no special regulation sections on it, and has no closed season above the first railroad bridge. I know of no other trout stream open all year without some special reg sections on it. Just wondering how it came about and/or why.

    • Paul, I’ve often wondered the same thing. It would be nice to have a stretch of the Kayaderosseras be catch-and-release.

  3. Another oddity possibly related to the warm spring we are having: When I was on the Farmington last weekend, there was a bat flying around at mid-day picking off stoneflies. I suspect the warm weather caused it to come out of hibernation much earlier than usual. I wonder if the unusual daytime feeding behaviour was caused by the fact that there may not be many nocturnal insects this early in the season? It may have been a very hungry bat that was forced to hunt during the day!

    • Doug, that sure sounds like a solid theory. They say the bears are up early this year too, and breakfast isn’t ready yet!

  4. Brilliant post…I struggle with the same feelings towards “nice weather” too. Colorado early April in the 70s today. Less than average snowpack after last year’s record. And I’m trying to stop the worrying. 😉

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