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 firstname.lastname@example.org.