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When Spring Comes the Fishing Will Follow

Fly fishing for Wild Adirondack trout

Photograph by Flickr user papabearoutdoors

Trout season for many Adirondack waters opened April 1, and this year, with April Fool’s Day more than two weeks behind us, the notion of wetting a line seems downright delusional. Many lakes are still locked in ice and streams are frigidly hostile to almost any creature. Trout are on the down low, for real.

We asked several fishing guides to offer up some words of wisdom for this trying time of year, expecting to hear things like “scrapbooking pictures of your catch can be fun” or “use your tax refund to go bonefishing in the Bahamas next Easter.” But the veterans surprised us with some upbeat thoughts and useful insight. The weekend forecast shows a welcome warming trend toward Friday and partly sunny days ahead. Duly noted, though, is that old Adirondack adage: “If you don’t like the weather wait five minutes.”

Corey Fehlner specializes in small-stream angling and is based in Keene Valley. This time of year he recommends sleeping in. “A predawn start in the early spring will only lead to frustration,” he says. “Let the water warm and the trout wake up. With melting snow and ice feeding watersheds, temperatures of running streams and brooks will be very low and make trout unlikely to strike a fly.”

What’s hatching? “Not much,” he says, so use nymphs and streamers that look like baitfish and go upstream of your typical spots. “The warmest water will be at the brook’s mouth, often five to 10 degrees warmer” than upriver.

In Wilmington, Rachel Finn, an Ausable River fly-fishing guide working with Hungry Trout agrees, “Early season in the Adirondacks is very challenging.” Her best bet: “Lake Champlain tributaries like the Boquet, Saranac and Ausable can be good for landlocked salmon, using a streamer that mimics a smelt.” For other stretches of the Ausable, which is running wide and cold, nymphs fished slowly can be productive.

Scott Locorini has headed from his Old Forge home to fish Lake Ontario recently. However, “in the next couple of weeks I will be waiting and watching for ice out on the backcountry ponds,” he says. “Once that happens I’ll grab my kayak and go.” He trolls streamer flies and the tried-and-true Lake Clear Wabbler.

He says, “Local streams are mostly too high and cold to fish at the moment. However, with some snowshoeing you might get to some fishable water and cooperative fish.”

For Locorini, a real highlight of spring is trolling for landlocked salmon on Fourth Lake after ice out, usually early May. “They’re great fun and even if you don’t catch anything it’s nice to get out and paddle on the lake when it’s quiet. I kayak-fish for everything, which is a great advantage for spring fishing and trolling. I can flat-line relatively close to the boat and not spook fish.”

Schroon Lake guide John Huston, with three decades in his Adirondack creel, says, “Streams are running clear but fast. If you choose the larger rivers you should be able to find fishable pocket water.” His advice: “Fish very slow, with the ‘B’-word—bait. Worms and ‘icicles’ (minnows) work well now. Trout will not chase your offering very far at this time of year, so patience is the key.” Once the lakes and ponds unlock, sending your lure not too deep and not too fast is the ticket.

In the central Adirondacks, Pete Burns of Beaverbrook Outfitters says, “The Indian River below Lake Abanakee is low. The town has the gate on the Indian Lake dam shut down to fill the lake up, so other than water temperature, the Indian is probably very fishable. Dam releases are on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., so anytime other than that the fishing could be pretty good, especially after a few warm days. I also think the ice-out on the interior ponds will be in a week or so.”

Corey Fehlner’s parting words for spring fishing: “Bring a buddy. Stay safe and share the experience. Icy rocks, high water, and drastic weather changes make spring fishing all the more dangerous. You don’t have to hold hands, but staying within sight of each other and checking in on a regular basis will keep everyone safe.”

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