April Stream Reports
If it doesn’t rain – and that’s a big IF! – the streams are shaping up nicely for what is coming into the best part of trout season. Here in the southern part of the state we have the “Early Opener” and by all accounts it was busy. The water levels were up, but not unfishable. If the rain stays away the streams should stay near normal. Watch the Stream Gauge at Camp Hill to get an idea of where the water level is.
As days begin to lengthen and the streams begin to warm up, the natural process that has taken place for countless millennia will begin. Mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies begin the process to ensure the survival of their species.
Here in the Cumberland Valley we do not normally see a lot of Quill Gordons, but a few can be found in the clean headwater freestone streams. They will show up on the first nice April afternoons and for anglers lucky enough to hit one of these hatches the action can be intense.
The first mayflies of importance in the Cumberland Valley streams, particularly the Yellow Breeches are the Hendricksons. This hatch has seemed to have re-established itself over the past decade and it has become a “not to miss” event. Look for the hatch anytime after the first of April and it will probably last at least a week. The big duns, that look like a flotilla of sailboats coming down the stream will get trout looking up. There are no dainty sipping rises. You will know when a trout takes your #12 Hendrickson or #14 Red Quill.
At about the same time as the Hendricksons, Grannom Caddis appear. Elk Hair Caddis in sizes from 12 to 16 should fill the bill. Another oldie is the Henryville Special that is a very effective imitation.
Little Blue Wing Olives will make an appearance on the streams in the valley. The limestone streams, did not have the flooding and high water problems that the freestone streams have had over the past year and this hatch should get fish to look up. A Blue Wing Olive is one of those patterns that a smart angler will carry in sizes 12 to 24. The flies are ubiquitous but the size range is from large to itsy bitsy. Also, be sure to carry some streamers for those days when the water is high and muddy.
Bait anglers should do well with minnows, red worms, butter worms, salmon eggs and PowerBait. We have a full line of bait here in the shop. Stop by and we can give you the latest intel and what our staff experience is. We have a great selection of live minnows, fatheads and shiners. We sell minnows by the pound!
For the warmwater lakes in the area action is starting to pick up. Anglers at Pinchot State Park are reporting good catches of crappies and yellow perch. As these two species get ready to spawn, they will feed with sometimes reckless abandon. Small fathead minnows or white twisters have been accounting for a lot of fish. Look for them in the shallower, warmer water – 4 to 6 feet.
Opossum Lake has been stocked with trout and as of right now, trout are the only fish an angler may keep from the 59-acre impoundment. The Fish and Boat Commission plans to re-survey it later this year. It is believed brown bullheads are such efficient predators on young sunfish that the populations cannot rebuild themselves. Keep checking back here for further developments.
Yellow Breeches Blue Wing Olive 12 – 24
Hendrickson 12 -14
Red Quill 12 – 14
Henryville Special 12 – 16
Green Body Dark Wing Elk Hair Caddis 12 – 16
Pheasant Tail Nymph 12 -16
San Juan Worm 12 – 16
Letort Cress Bug 14 -16
Big Spring Blue Wing Olive 16 – 24
Falling Spring Brassie Nymph 14 – 18
Shenk’s Minnow 6 – 10
Shenk’s Sculpin 6 – 10
As this is written anglers in the northcentral part of the Commonwealth have a couple of more weeks to wait until “The Big Splash.” Thousands of anglers and others will head to the region for the Traditional Opening Day. Camps will be opened, friends will reconnect, and fish will be caught.
It’s been a long winter. Fortunately, the ice jams that much of the region experienced in the winter of 2018 do not seem to have happened. But with all the water, the streams have changed. Some pre-season scouting is in order. If you can’t get out to look at your favorite stretch of stream, then at least be sure to take along a wading staff. What may have been ankle deep riffle last year on opening day may now be a hole big enough throw a Buick into. Streams move and change.
At this time First Fork Sinnemahoning, Kettle Creek and Pine Creek are all experiencing flows below the median for this time of year. That can change with one heavy rainstorm, but it is encouraging. To get an idea of water levels you can check the USGS stream gauges at Stream Gauges – Pennsylvania.
This is the beginning of the best fly fishing of the year. Quill Gordons, Hendricksons, Red Quills, and Blue Wing Olives should be the minimum dry patterns carried by an angler in northcentral Pennsylvania. Other patterns such as Adams, Royal Coachman, and some generic caddis patterns like the Yellow Palmer should also be included in the fly box.
Depending on the weather – which could range from 28o and snow to 80o and sunny – March Browns and Sulphurs may start showing up toward the end of the month. This is the time of year when wise anglers carry just about everything in terms of flies, rods and clothing to make sure their bases are covered.
For hardware casters spinners such as Joe’s Flies and Panther Martins should produce well. For bait anglers Berkley Gulp Alive Maggots, redworms, small fathead minnows, and Mike’s Salmon Eggs will catch trout. Hit Bush Dam at Kettle Creek State Park, Stevenson Dam on First Fork, Little Pine State Park above Waterville or Lyman Lake for some good fishing, as the lakes have been stocked to the brim and because of last year’s high water, there should be a lot of fish that have had a year to grow.
Driftwood Adams 10 – 16
First Fork Quill Gordon 12 – 16
Kettle Creek Hendrickson 12 – 16
Pine Creek Red Quill 12 – 16
Blue Wing Olive 12 – 16
Blue Quill 14 – 16
Grey Hackle Peacock 10 – 12
Brown Hackle 10 – 14
Pheasant Tail Nymph 12 – 16
Gold Ribbed Hares Ear 10 – 16
Wooly Bugger (various colors) 4 – 10
Shad – Shad have been reported in the lower Potomac and the Rappahannock Rivers in Virginia. We are waiting to hear when they move up.
Steelhead – Anglers fishing the tributary streams in Pennsylvania are having some success. As the even semi-experienced anglers know, fishing for steelhead near Erie is a function of weather and water to determine whether or not the fish are in and if they are up the creeks, where they are holding.
March is one of those months that is full of promise and hope as we anticipate the coming of spring. It is also a month that can bring record snow storms. It’s a busy month. The saying is: “If March comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb. If it comes in like a lamb it goes out like a lion.” More than a few have come and gone like lions or lambs with the other in the middle. It is a month of fasnachts, green beer, maple syrup. and being wary of the Ides of March – the ancient holiday and not the 1970s rock band. Well, being wary of them is probably a good idea too.
Sports are in high gear. Spring training has begun and is in full swing. March Madness begins, first with the college basketball conference title games followed by the Big Dance. Hockey is beginning to heat up in the race for Lord Stanley’s receptacle. And that demolition derby that used to be known as NASCAR is revving up to make a whole bunch of left turns and scrap metal. It is a great month for kite flying, and celebrating the feast day of an Irish saint
This is a busy month. By now you should have all your flies tied. If you do not, we can take care of you. Precision Flyfishing Flies. We also have a full line of tying materials for you. Meteorological Spring began on March 1, though the Vernal Equinox does not begin until March 20th, also the day of the full moon. Daylight Savings Time begins on March 10th and the last few banquets and shows of the year are happening this month. Cumberland Valley Trout Unlimited will be celebrating their 50th anniversary on March 16. On March 23 the Yellow Breeches Anglers and Conservation Association will hold its 48th Annual Spring Outing at the Monroe Township Firehall. The Fly Fishers Club of Harrisburg will meet for its annual conclave on March 29th.
As the sun moves higher in the sky warming us, fishing is beginning to heat up as well. Open water fishing for panfish can be quite productive on warm sunny afternoons. Fish a small jig tipped with an insect larva below a small float for panfish. Look for them in 3 to 6 feet of water. Stop by the shop and we can show you how to rig up a system that allows you to fish small flies for sunfish on a spinning rod. Crappies are becoming active as well and can be caught on the same rig as well as small white twisters or white marabou jigs. Look for crappie near wood. A tree in the lake is a sure hotspot. There are some fathead minnows swimming around in our bait tank that are just the ideal size for crappie.
Trout anglers have to either hit the special regulation waters or wait until the Regional Season Opener on March 30, 2019 at 8:00 A.M. We are going to be having a Special Event here at the shop in Mount Holly Springs. Watch this page for further updates.
Hatches are seasonal, weather, and water dependent but things will start to happen this month. After a long winter of watching midges fly over the water fly fishermen will rub their eyes in almost disbelief as they watch the first of the mayflies emerge.
The last of the Little Black Stoneflies will hatch. Those nymphs moving across the stream bed and in the water column trying to get to a rock to complete their emergence will drive fish into a feeding mode. By the middle of the month that hatch will be all but over.
Blue Wing Olive Blue Wing Olive Nymph (#12 – #16) and Blue Quill (#12 – #18) should begin showing up by the second or third week of the month. Quill Gordons and Hendricksons in sizes #12 to #16 should be
hatching by the third week of the month if – and this is a really big IF – the weather acts normal. Grannom Caddis often imitated by an X Caddis pattern or various soft hackle emergers are also in the mix to hatch. An angler who hits the water when these flies are on is in for a treat.
Limestone spring anglers should stick to Cress Bug and Scud imitations as well as sculpin patterns. Shenk’s White Minnow is a productive streamer.
Of course, San Juan Worms, Mop Flies, Walts Worms and Egg patterns can produce fish.
Speaking of worms, garden hackle is probably at its most productive at this time of year. Two inch fathead minnows either fished with a minnow wire or a bait hook can produce some incredibly good fishing. Don’t overlook Power Bait, or salmon eggs. Stop in and we can get you rigged up. Small minnow plugs can prove extremely productive as well as spinners in gold and brass. Fish them upstream and work them back slightly faster than the current.
So, buy your license, get your gear together, and get out there.
Southcentral Hatch Chart
Anglers in the northcentral part of the state will have to wait until Saturday April 13, 2019 at 8:00 A.M. to hit the streams not otherwise designated as Special Regulation Waters. But on fine spring days hitting the special regs areas can be productive. Dredging big stonefly nymphs or Muskrat Nymphs can be very good choices.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has 55 sections of Special Regulations waters that are open to trout fishing in the Northcentral part of the state. Fifty-five! That’s a lot of water. There are all sorts of permutations where bait is allowed and where it isn’t; where flies are the only thing allowed; and where fish can be kept. It is enough to drive one straight to the headache remedy aisle at the local drugstore. If you are confused by all this don’t be dismayed. You can go to the PF&BC Website to get the full list and find maps at PF&BC Maps. There is an app for your smartphone that can also help you. Stream Maps USA is available for either iPhone or Android.
So, your favorite stream may not be open just yet but a lot of water is presenting a lot of opportunity. Reading through this list may seem like you need to take a lawyer along to interpret whether or not you can fish a particular section. Leave the lawyer in the office and just pay attention to the signs along the stream. If there are no special regulation posters along a section of stream it is probably closed until next month. For anglers who like hardware a small plug like a Berkley Cutter 90 Shallow, or a small spinner such as a Sipes Spinner worked slowly with the current might be the ticket to success.
Fly casters might be inclined to try big streamers in darker colors, Wooly Buggers, Matukas and even some of the older more traditional streamers such as a Grey Ghost or Black Ghost. The feather wings provide more movement than bucktail and may entice trout to strike.
For those who just can’t stand it anymore and need to cast a dry fly, a Royal Wulff or an Adams in size 10 or 12 might just bring up those trout out sunning themselves and looking for a meal. Hatches will start, and generally run one to three weeks behind the dates shown on the hatch chart above.
If you are looking for panfish, the ice may still be on the lakes even though there is open water around the edges. Don’t even think it. Ice fishing season is over in Pennsylvania until next winter. Getting on to the remaining ice is a very dangerous proposition. Look for small ponds or larger areas of open water to fish.
Walleye, Sauger and Saugeye close on March 14. The fish are getting active and can be found in some of the larger streams and rivers. Minnows and minnow imitations are usually the most productive baits.
A PDF list of Pennsylvania Fishing Seasons can be found here
Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow the other morning. That means spring will soon be here. Yay! For the first time in a week when I asked Alexa (the computer voice know it all) what the temperature was, she didn’t respond with a teeth-chattering suggestion to do something that is physiologically impossible.
Well at least the ice anglers are happy about the cold weather. Standing on hard water dropping a small jig baited with a maggot down an ice hole is certainly one way to spend a cold winter day. It’s really not as bad as it sounds. The trick is to dress for the weather and be prepared for cold: both physically and mentally. If you have never done any ice fishing you might want to give it a try. If you don’t know how it is easy to learn. Walk out on the ice and where you see other anglers and tell them you are a novice. Those same anglers who may throw rocks at you during trout season, are usually willing to share their knowledge.
If you are not inclined to go stand on the ice and stare down an ice hole, there are other things to do. If – and this is a big IF – the weather warms up and the sun is shining you can go out and try fishing in the waters that are not frozen over bank to bank. Now that being said, never walk out onto shelf ice along the banks. Water moving underneath the ice may have worn away ice that might seem thick enough to support you. A fish of any kind is not worth risking your life for.
Wait until mid-day when the sun has warmed the water, even a degree or two and that may get the critters fish feed on, on the move – and by extension cause the fish to start feeding. But fish are poikilotherms. What that means is fish are an animal whose internal temperature varies considerably based on their environment. The old non-scientific term is “cold blooded.” As temperatures cool poikilotherms become less active. Therefore, ripping a streamer or spinner through the water as fast as you can will probably not produce strikes. Slow is the order of the day regardless of the type of lure you are using. Try big streamers and nymphs if you are a fly angler. For spin fishermen you might want to use a size or two larger with a “loud” blade. The increased vibration might gain more attention from your piscatorial prey.
Okay you don’t want to fish, the wind chill is -20o F., and the television shows are boring if not downright stupid. Here’s a thought. How well can you tie knots? Do you know how to tie a Turle knot? Or how about a Trilene knot, a blood knot, a Becker knot, or even a Palomar knot? Get some twenty-pound monofilament (or whatever you have laying around) and practice, practice, practice. Learn something new. Once you get the muscle memory in your fingers on the heavier stuff, move on to line, leader and tippet material of the sizes you would use. Then practice some more. This will pay huge dividends when you need to tie on that fly as dusk is rapidly approaching later in the year and the fish are feeding.
Now is the time to go through those fly boxes. Discard old and worn flies. Make a note of what you need. Here at Precision we can help you re-stock your fly box so that when warm weather hits you will be ready. If you are the “roll your own” kind of person, this is the time to decide what you need to tie. We have a full line of tying materials and can help you get your fly tying started down the right track. Come in and if you have a question about how to tie a certain pattern or what technique to use, ask. We here at Precision can demonstrate or at least explain how it’s done.
For you hardware anglers, drag out that tackle box. Sort and inspect your lures. Now is the time to sharpen hooks, replace bent and broken hooks and re-stock with those lures that are now property of the Stump Monster. We offer a full line of all types of hardware.
The box that contains your soft plastic is a special treat to go through. Colors may have bled from one plastic bait to another. Some of the lures will have holes from being rigged. You can discard those. Stop by the shop and we can help you refill the missing and worn out worms, crayfish and salamanders.
The Cumberland Valley – Big Spring – Letort – Yellow Breeches – Falling Spring
Deep and slow is the way to go. Think Muddlers, Wooly Buggers, and their offspring, fished deep. Watch for little black stoneflies that usually make an appearance on warmer sunny days. Fish Prince Nymphs, Pheasant Tails, Bead Head Muskrat Nymphs and Montana Nymphs. Weight is usually called for. The limestoners keep a consistent temperature so you may want some Cress Bugs if you head to them. It will also be a good idea to try some of Shenks’s White Minnow or Shenk’s Sculpin streamers in those places.
Above all, be careful out there. Wade cautiously. If you have felt soles on your boots, be aware that snow can rapidly build up on the soles causing problems with your balance.
Northcentral Pennsylvania – Driftwood – First Fork – Kettle Creek – Pine Creek
Cold, cold, cold, cold, cold! Again – STAY OFF THE LEDGE ICE!!! Streamers are the order of the day. Try some of the older patterns such as Mickey Finn, Grey Ghost and Matuka streamers. Brown and white or brown and yellow bucktails in sizes 1 to 8 may also induce rod rattling strikes. Big nymphs (#4 – #10) can produce some incredible results. Tightline nymphing seems the most productive way to produce hookups. Don’t expect a fish every cast – patience is a virtue.
If you are uncomfortable get out of the water. Carry a wading staff and be sure to dress for the occasion. Let someone know where you are going and what time you are expected to return. Think positive! Spring is on the way!