A complex blend of weather could form this week and really change fly fishing for the days and even weeks ahead. And local anglers praying for rain could get more than they bargained for, if certain meteorological factors come together.
Right now, a significant cold front is sweeping through the Southern Tier. Heavy rain is expected along this cold front through Wednesday. This will raise the risk of flooding and flash floods given the dry ground conditions in our area. Total rain accumulations could top 5 inches.
But that heavy rain is not the whole story. Late in the week and this weekend, moisture from Tropical Storm Joaquin, now in the western Atlantic, will likely add to this soaking as the front stalls. Tropical Storm Joaquin is 425 miles east-northeast of the northeastern Bahamas as of late Tuesday morning and is moving to the west. This movement is expected to continue over the next day or so, before the storm turns north Friday into Saturday. Whether Joaquin will make landfall is anyone’s guess at this point, but if the storm track follows the gulf stream north, more rain could be expected on the weekend.
Impacts to fly fishing could be significant. If the rainfall accumulations come anywhere near the forecast, expect the following:
Local creeks will rise and could possibly flood. Fish these waters on the leading edge of the rise in water with streamers or nymphs or even worm patterns for trout. Trout will feed up when they sense rising water and discoloration. The other option is to wait until creeks crest and subside and fish them as they settle. Don’t fish too late into the rise of water. Be very wary of flash flooding and monitor the USGS water gauge and weather carefully. Also be careful of eroding banks. Carry a wading staff and obviously, rain gear.
The headwaters of the warmwater rivers will rise first so there will still be some time to fish the bigger rivers before the surge of water and discoloration reaches the lower sections of these rivers. As always, monitor the USGS water gauge as far upstream as possible to follow the rise in water. Also, as the water discolors, shift to big and dark or very bright flies and use sink tip or full sink lines to get the fly down in the zone.
The tailwater Catskill rivers, most notably the West Branch, could be good for streamer fishing. As with creeks, fish early on the rise of the water or later after it crests. Use 1,000 CFS as the warning point for dangerous wading. Above this level, get out of the water and fish carefully from the bank where possible. Fish big and dark or very bright streamer flies on sink tip or full sink lines and short leaders for the best success.
The Great Lake tribs and Finger Lake tribs will benefit most from the rainfall. The Salmon River in particular could experience a good push of water that could bring salmon and even some steelhead and lake-run browns up-river. Watch the USGS water gauge and limit wading, for safety purposes, once it approaches the 1,000 CFS level. Big gaudy streamers will work well along with a sink tip or full sink line and stout leader set-up. Shift to bigger tackle as these fish are extremely powerful, particularly with heavy flows on their side. A 9 or 10 weight for heavy water with a reel with excellent drag is a must.
Put safety first. Heavy rain can create very hazardous conditions in a hurry. Review and follow these wading guidelines before venturing out this week. Lastly, remember that fishing, however great, is never worth risking one’s life over. If in doubt, consider waiting the weather out. There’s still plenty of good fishing ahead.