Late Winter Fishing Report
The first half of the month saw excellent winter fishing conditions. The water level was stable, low and clear. Temperatures were consistent with a typical water temperature around 47°. Around the middle of the month, weather systems rolled in and precipitation fell in the form of rain and snow. There were a few days of heavy rain, which caused the rivers to rise significantly. The Davidson was averaging below normal around 120cfs but peaked at 800cfs. The monthly precipitation totaled 3.48 inches. Most of which was concentrated over 5 days.
Snow fell one of those days. This caused a rapid drop in the water temperature. One reading I got was for 44°. This was a least a 4° drop in a single day. In the summer, this would be a good thing, but in the winter, fish activity dropped off for a few days.
The last part of February was off to an awesome start. The water held clear and soon began to slowly drop. The daytime temperatures climbed and the fish began to rise.
As one can imagine, the first part of February fished well. The winter bugs were active and so was the trout. Each day I would see rising trout in pools and flats. Typically, I would see BWO’s, but there were some larger mayflies and stone flies on the water. Walter was able to catch a Quill Gordon mayfly before the trout ate it. It was the first of the year that I saw. Jeremy also saw Quill Gordons hatching with fish eating everyone that floated down the Davidson.
Chris was able to take advantage of the weather. He was able to hook some rising trout with stone flies on the East Fork. The splashy rises are sure give away to stone flies this time of the year. Usually, it will be one of the Little Brown Stones. When the water rose, he connected on a big brown using streamers.
The big winner in late February was the dry fly fishing. Quill Gordons, blue quills and BWO’s started hatching every day. Walter and I were able to make several trips to the Davidson River. The hatches were coming off pretty regularly and we had found a large brown rising at the head of a pool. Walter and I were both able to get a nice trout to rise to a fly, but didn’t seal the deal on the set. However, we both connected on some nice trout.
I had set a goal of connecting with a dry on the larger browns feeding in the pool. I returned with Mike for another shot. Conditions in the spring can be tough, the sun is bright and the wind isn’t tamed by the trees. The wind made casting to rising trout difficult and the water was still high and moving fast. A good drift over the large trout wasn’t possible. The water would need to drop some more.
Clark, Jeremy, Hannah and I were able to get out for a day on the Davidson. The Quill Gordon’s that day were through the roof. The hatch was as strong as it gets, and the trout were feeding at the buffet. However, the conditions were tough that day. I was able to connect on a good brown, not the biggest in the pool, but a nice trout. The nice part was the Quill Gordon pattern I tied had fooled him. It is always a joy to catch a trout on a pattern you made. The best part was when my son connected on a brown with a Quill Gordon.
After fishing for a while, Jeremy wanted to try upstream. We went on a trout hunting expedition for surface feeding trout. The insects were hatching there as well, and the group tried to get a rising trout, but the trout would prove difficult.
I had put in a lot of time attempting to catch that rising brown. It was a tough drift and even tougher to land the fish. I had one large trout connect and break off the tippet on an underwater log. On this day Walter and I were enjoying good conditions. The water level was right, the wind was calm enough and you could control were the fly landed. We only had to hope for hatches.
The insects came out and the fish started to rise. This was starting to be a great day. I had caught several trout when I saw a big brown rise. I set my fly over the spot and after a few drifts, I saw a swirl with a snout and my fly was gone. Instinct took over. I don’t remember the hook set, but I felt the tug, and there was a lot of resistance. Learning from a previous lost trout, I quickly laid the rod over sharply upstream to turn the brown away from the log. It worked, he gradually moved up into some slack water. The challenge now was to net him. A tree hanging over the water prevented me from walking upstream to net and there was a strong run between me and the large brown. If I pulled him into the run would he would take off downstream using the current. I waded in as far as a could risking a plunge into the deep pool. I stretched out my net as far as I could. I was a foot short. I decided to try it. I raised the rod up quick to plane the trout over the current and into the net. It worked and I was rewarded with the trout I had been trying to catch.
Flies and Tactics
The insects that have been out this time of year include mayflies, stones and midges. The diversity of insects are fairly limited so recognizing the insects is straight forward. The mayflies will include Quill Gordons, Blue quills and Blue Wing Olives (BWO’s).
Quill Gordons are easy to identify. They are the largest insects floating down the river. These large grey mayflies can be seen from a long ways away and are easy prey for trout as they flutter down the river attempting to dry their wings.
The best pattern is a catskill style mayfly with large wings on a size 12 hook. I will fish sizes 14 and 12 mostly, even though there are size 10s floating on the river.
Recently, Chris had a fantastic day with the Quill Gordon. His client caught over 15 wild trout on the pattern.
Fishing conditions vary for a lot of reasons, one of which is water level. One will find over time that certain areas will fish well at specific water levels. Too low or too high will make drifts difficult or even impossible.
Pay attention to water levels and when you can fish specific areas. This is particularly true with dry fly fishing.
Other flies that have been working are small nymphs including pheasant tails in size 16 & 18. Stonefly nymphs and dries in brown and black. Blue quill dries in a paradun and catskill style. BWO’s in a variety of sizes, however, the vagans have been hatching and they are a size 16. Which is great, because now you can see the fly!