What a difference a month can make
from Chubby Damron, President, Thomas Jefferson Trout Unlimited
In last month's update on area trout fishing conditions I was quite concerned with stream flows. In the typical year, we're hoping the rain would slow so stream flows would drop to more favorable levels for fly fishing.
Soon after last month's report went out we finally got some much-needed rain, a little high elevation snow, and just enough smaller rain events since that stream flows have come up and, although still below normal, are not at unusually low levels for this time of year.
As I sit here typing this report looking out the window it's a gloomy Saturday afternoon, thirty degrees cooler than it was less than twenty-four hours ago and we're at the beginning of what looks to be three days of rain.
With upwards of three inches or so expected and, hopefully, it comes and comes down in a manner that causes no problems but does recharge our headwater streams and keeps good flows in the picture for the weeks to come.
This'll be one of those late winters/ early spring rains we've missed too many of in recent months so we'll be glad to take a few days of high water given the benefits a good soaking rainfall will bring.
Last trip out a few days ago on an area mountain stream the ride out there was quite amazing in one of the most beautiful months of the year with the Spring bloom in full force on different levels throughout the area.
From the lower elevations in the urban area where the leaves on many trees went from the size of a squirrel's ear to three-quarters mature in less than a week to elevations a few hundred feet higher where it looks as it did here in town a week ago you get the see the progression of the season as you drive towards your mountain destination.
Spring Fishing is a Joy
I've often said if you've never seen Charlottesville in April or October or any other month for that matter you have no idea of what you're missing and the same holds true for the fishing.
With several types of aquatic insects emerging, good stream flows and water temperatures in the most favorable range for trout activity all in such a beautiful setting, April is the one month to be out there if there was only one month to choose from. And then there's May.
So yes it's the end of April but there's still May to come and then there's early June and so on, and for me, being a year round trout fisherman, each month has its own allure and streams to fill the need.
There's plenty of great trout fishing out there in every month of the year but these special couples of spring months and those days of October and early November when the season of growth is ending and the changing seasons again make it hard not to be out there casting to trout in scenic Blue Ridge of Virginia.
Mountain Streams - Native Brook Trout
Flows are about half of normal across most of the region. Half of normal is good in some streams, not so good in others. In the lower stream reaches where flows are larger the tree canopy over these stream sections has come out quick in the last week and added some shade to the water which helps keep the trout out and feeding in the open during the middle of the day.
Mornings have been great for fishing, but as the sun gets up high and shines down thru the leafless tree canopy in these lower flows the trout sulk back out of the brightness into the shadows while its bright and are quite spooky and hard to move.
During these bright times before the leaves fill out, and the Brook Trout are not rising to your flies in the usual places, start looking for the shadows and undercuts, the deep holes behind boulders, and corners where a feeding trout can hide.
Taking your time and quietly approach each pool and run as you fish along. If you're spooking trout pay attention to where they come from. Look for similar spots as you fish ahead. Keep your shadow and the rods off the water ahead of you, avoid clanking rocks together and use smaller flies and longer, lighter tippets.
If you're not catching or seeing trout on the tails of the pools, look for those aforementioned spots, the deep cuts along mid pool runs, the tail end of deep seams and shady corners at the sides and heads of pools where the trout can sit in a protected lie with overhead cover and shade and easily see what drifts by.
Later in the afternoon, once the sun angles off, the water and the shadows return, the bugs get more active, and the trout come out to feed. The time frame between 4 pm and dark is great right now but, as said before, anytime you can be out there is a great time so just go do it.
March Browns are emerging in many streams at the moment, although the amounts emerging on any given stream and day can vary quite a bit. You'll definitely see a few emerging early and those coming back as spinners in the evening are often what really gets the trout's attention best.
Use size 12 and 14 patterns to match the naturals, Parachute Adams and Para Hare's Ears along with Grey Wulffs are choices.
Grey Fox mayflies are also emerging, you'll likely see them if the conditions are right. Size 16 patterns such as a Parachute Adams medium gray or tan body or the comparison style caddis in tan or medium gray.
I tie a deer hair emerger /dry mayfly pattern that tied in different sizes and colors matches any mayfly and caddis I'm likely to see anywhere I fish. It makes it easy to keep from having to tie so many different patterns to cover all the various hatches.
Yellow Stoneflies are starting to be seen which come in a yellow version, a pale light green and tan version so catch a couple to see what the likely main color is. I use a size 14 or 16 yellow or creamy tan bodied elk hair style dry with no hackle. I tie versions with squirrel or rabbit dubbing bodies and some with foam bodies which float better and require less drying out.
Sulfurs should be picking up soon and time is now that on our healthier mountain streams from now to mid- to late May seeing as many as 7 different types of insects emerging or egg laying on the stream at the same time can occur.
Keep it simple. Tie flies that look like bugs and learn how to fish them is the secret to success.
Terrestrial insects such as ants and beetles are also becoming more active and prevalent along our trout streams so look for opportunities to try those patterns as the weather warms. I saw a small swarm of winged ants a few days ago in the yard and it reminded me of times its happened over a trout stream I was fishing. You shoulda been there.
If you keep an eye on the VDGIF trout stocking page it's easy to see the spring stockings are in full force as we head toward the last month of stockings this spring.
This year's spring stockings will end on May 31 and resume again on October 1 leaving about 51/2 weeks to go with many trout and streams left to be stocked for those who enjoy fishing these streams.
The lower North and South Forks of the Moorman's, Sugar Hollow Reservoir, Mint Springs Upper and Middle Lakes and Scottsville Lake have all been stocked recently and will receive at least one more stocking in May so there's still plenty of good trout fishing out there to enjoy for weeks to come.
South of Charlottesville the lower Tye River and lower Piney River are good bets too with recent stockings and north of town the South River above Stanardsville and the Rose and the Robinson Rivers are good places to go spend a few hours fishing.
If you don't like the crowded water on the first few days after stocking wait a week or so and go, by this time the crowd has moved to the more recent stocked waters and leaves a large number of trout for those of us that wait a few days for things to calm down.
You can often have these streams pretty much to yourself a week after they've been stocked and find many nice trout left that act like a trout should after surviving the first few days.
These trout spread out, find good holding spots and offer good fishing into early summer many years in these lower elevation waters that see very little pressure except for those 2 or 3 days after each stocking.
Small egg patterns in yellow or orange 3/16 diameter, San Juan worms in wine red and worm brown, Hare's Ear Nymphs size 12/14/16, Brown Pheasant Tails size 16/18, yellow stonefly nymphs size 14, crane fly larva in tan and cream size 14 and tan and green caddis larva in size 14 and 16 are all good underwater patterns.
Wooly Buggers in sizes 6/8/10in golden tan, black, white, yellow and olive are good patterns to have along as a searching pattern when conditions are right. These along with Chubby's Xmas Tree in the seasonal color of olive and kelly green or the light brown bodied version with the standard hackles takes them from the deeper lies.
Searching with an attractor dry fly and a dropper nymph on large stocked streams can move a lot of trout on any given day. Use a size 12 Yellow or Tan Stimulator with a 12-18 inch dropper trailing a size 14 Hares Ear and cover the water.
Again, mornings before the sun gets up overhead and late afternoons after the shadows return or anytime you can find shade and cover and a flow bringing food to the trout be there and usually the trout will be too.
Large Stocked Streams/Delayed Harvest/Special Regs Waters Nearby
Now is a great time to get out on the large trout streams such as the Maury River stocked section, the Jackson River Hidden Valley Area and Special Regs and the Bullpasture River, where you'll find good numbers of trout and some nice sized ones too.
Flows are such that getting around on them is easier and reaching trout with shorter-lined presentations is much easier and effective on these larger waters.
Searching with the small woolly buggers mentioned above or the dry /dropper rig will fool good numbers of trout just match your patterns to the food sources you see on the stream.
TJTU Moorman's Special Regs Section
Flows are much better in recent weeks with more inflow from the North and South Forks into the reservoir. Still, it's less than we've been accustomed to over the last few years in the spring but, at least in the big pools, you can get a drift where a month ago the stream seemed nearly dead still in these areas.
The same insects hatching further upstream hatch here too but not always as many or in as concentrated numbers as in the higher elevations above the reservoir.
Midge larva are still good producers and take many of the larger trout but you can catch them on larger patterns now too not having to resort to size 22-26 patterns to get the trout's attention.
San Juan worms, caddis larva, midge larva and small woolly buggers will catch them you just gotta be patient and get a good drift.
Not seeing a lot of rising trout recently so there's plenty of food sub- surface to keep the trout happy. Feed them the right flies the right way and you'll be happy too.
Although I have not tried it lately as I seem to get away by 5 pm as that's all I got most days anymore like many places this time of year those last couple of hours of daylight can bring the best fishing of the day.