via WSC's Mike Fisher
by James "Chubby" Damron,
President -Thomas Jefferson Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Trout streams across the area and the region are low, running about 30 percent of normal which is not good as we look at the short spring season leading into summer. Being the middle of February there are just three months to go before we reach the late May time frame when summer-like weather starts to show up and stream flows start their drop to low summer flows.
No snow to speak of and little rainfall thus far is somewhat concerning with March approaching. There's still time to catch up so we'll just need to be optimistic and, hopefully, it doesn't get too warm too fast and the rains return.
Again streams are lower than we have been used to seeing this time of year for several years now and low, clear, cold, water can be tough to fish when the trout are spooky on top of being apt to take your flies slower and softer when water temps are in the high 30's and low 40's.
The low flows do help the streams warm up a little more and quicker on the nicer days which has led to some already decent dry fly fishing on the mountain streams.
The mountain trout streams have a lot of different nymphs active in them now as we get closer to the spring emergences of mayflies, caddis and stoneflies which will likely get started a little early if the current conditions continue.
Days are getting longer, the sun a little higher each day and with clear skies, warm afternoons and not so cold nights stream temperatures don't drop back as far at night. Brook Trout are out and actively feeding on warm afternoons.
Best catches will still be on nymphs as this is still the main phase of the aquatic insects they are feeding on at the moment as the major spring emergences of mayflies and caddis are still to come.
With the warm weather expect to see a few scattered Quill Gordon's from this point. The next one to follow is the Blue Quill which is usually well imitated by using the same patterns used to imitate the Quill Gordon, just a size smaller in 16 or maybe 18 if the trout look and don't take.
In the mornings when streams are as low as they now start with a dry/dropper that imitates a Quill Gordon, a size 14 Parachute Adams, Royal Wullf, Grey Wullf, or the standard Quill Gordon pattern. On the dropper use a standard Hare's Ear Nymph size 14, have them with and without a beadhead.
By using this set you have an indicator with a hook in it and until the day and water warm up a little the trout will most likely take the dropper so you'll be covering the water on both levels.
Once the trout start taking the dry fly take off the dropper and have fun. Fishing this setup, when conditions allow for the best results, will typically catch good numbers of trout of all sizes. If you are inclined, using emerger patterns on different levels in the stream, depending on the flows and where the trout are holding, can put more of the larger trout on the end of your line.
Same flies and tactics work on the stocked streams, too, in lower, clear still somewhat-cold streams where you'll likely find stocked Brook, Rainbow and Brown Trout.
There are a few stocked for harvest streams that I like to fish occasionally even though I don't keep trout because they are great places to fish and offer a great trout fishing opportunity. The best way to fish these streams and have a great time and do well without a lot of company is to wait and fish them about a week after the stocking when the fishing traffic has died down. Plenty of trout will remain and they'll act more like trout and prefer to eat a well-presented fly than a piece of brightly colored bait. Saying their natural instincts have returned or awakened may be is the best description of what happens. They get smarter with each passing day.
Going out and searching on these harvest streams, for hold-over trout especially as the spring wears on and more trout are stocked to hold over, great fishing can be found where no one else goes until the truck shows up again.
Even though Spring is trying to get a head start on us it can all change tomorrow. A quick return of winter can happen anytime. A few cold days and nights and we're right back to where we should be at this time of year, waiting for a warm spell.
It seems I remember over the last five or six years we've had a good amount of snow in March. Winter seems to come later and stay later each year…, but who knows? Just in case, I wouldn't mind waking up to 2 feet of heavy, wet, late winter snow in the mountains to make the spring flows last a little longer.