If a person plans a fishing trip and it is rainy, rainy, rainy locally, it might be tempting to cancel the trip and sit on the couch.

However, my wife, Dorothy, and I discovered this past Friday that it’s better to just go and see what will happen. It was rainy and gray in our neighborhood. There had been so much rain that it appeared the trout streams would be too high.

Our plan to fish the Catskills looked to us like it could be a rain-out, after we heard a weather forecast that suggested New York City and the southern part of the state would be swamped.

But after renewing our fishing licenses, we decided to head out anyway and see what the conditions were like. We stopped at the Guilderland Public Library and took advantage of the library’s ability to renew or issue fishing licenses. We also saw the new coffee shop in the library, which looks appealing.

As we drove south, the rain tapered off. By the time we got to Stamford, New York, in Delaware County, the rain had stopped, and the sky was partly sunny. Water in the trout stream was on the higher side but not a raging torrent.

The plan for this trip was to fish for trout with dry flies. Conventional fishing wisdom is that dry fly fishing greatly limits angling success, as fish consume most of their food below the surface.

When fishing below the surface, with a nymph, wet fly, or streamer pattern, the fish takes the fly with a varying degree of firmness. Sometimes, it’s a solid hit, as might occur when fishing with bait or a lure; other times, it’s a whisper of a strike.

If fish are rising to flies, dry fly fishing can be more rewarding as the angler feels and sees the strike.

Before going to the stream, we stood on a local bridge over it and watched to see if fish were rising. On the upstream side, the water was as flat as glass. For the first few minutes, it was the same way on the downstream side.

But then we saw a small ring of a rise. Looking down into the brownish water, a nice-sized trout was sinking back down after rising to a fly. Then it came up again.

As I kept looking, suddenly I could see fish that were not previously visible, a flotilla of them. They seemed to fade into view the way a ghost might in a haunted house.

It appeared the fish were rising to nearly invisible flies, flies that were so small they would make a BB look gigantic. But we cast to them anyway. Sadly, no fish took our offerings.

Nevertheless, it was a great day on the water. The weather was nicer than it was in Guilderland. We got to see autumn wildflowers, such as several kinds of asters and several stands of wild sunflowers. On distant hills, we saw that leaves were starting to change.

If you head out this week or next, the sights may be different. The flowers may be past their prime, or leaves might be fading. But you could very well see something equally delightful. And who knows, if you fish subsurface — or bigger insects are coming off the water — you might catch fish!

In the most recent fishing regulations, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation made a big change. Weather permitting, you can enjoy this change between now and April 1, the traditional opening of the statewide trout season.

In the past, DEC, which sets fishing regulations, established the statewide season beginning on April 1 and ending in either September or October. According to Pat Festa, my friend and retired New York State fisheries biologist, at one time the season closed earlier — on Sept. 1.

Then, Pat advised, the season was lengthened, first to Sept. 15, then to Sept. 30, and finally to Oct. 15.

In addition to changes to the statewide season over the years, DEC began setting special regulations for specific streams. For example, it set regulations allowing catch-and-release year ’round on some Catskill streams, extended the season on the Kinderhook, and allowed year ’round fishing on a segment of the Battenkill, in Washington County.

In the latest changes to the regulations, from April 1 to Oct. 15, anglers may fish for trout using all allowable methods and may keep fish — unless special regulations say otherwise.

From Oct. 16 to March 31, anglers may pursue trout, but must release any fish caught and may only use artificial lures. As with the rest of the state regulations, this general regulation may be superseded by regulations applied to specific streams.

With this change, New York joins other states, such as Colorado and Massachusetts, in having, in effect, a year ’round trout-fishing season. John Gierach once told me that Colorado has had a year ’round season since the 1960s.

He went on to say, “The state thought: If those maniacs want to get out in February, let them!”

For more information on these regulatory changes, please visit the following place on the DEC website: https://www.dec.ny.gov/press/123901.html. This part of the website has a link to the DEC fisheries research, which supported making the change and the DEC plan for evaluating how the change affects trout fisheries.

Although these regulations open many more trout fishing opportunities, an angler’s luck still depends on weather and water conditions. On several St. Patrick’s Days, I fished on catch-and-release waters. On one stream, I hooked and landed a 17-inch brown trout. Another year, I caught a 10- or 11-inch brown trout on the Battenkill. In other years, angling on special regulation waters ended fishless.

If your schedule, water levels, and the weather allow you to fish this year before April 1 — or after — I hope you have a fun and safe beginning to your fishing season!

I opened the 2019 fishing season on two small streams in Rensselaer County.

Before describing the trip, I want to share a newly discovered fishing resource. If you are fishing with bait or lures east of the Hudson and discover you forgot something, Tremont Lumber, on Route 43, in Averill Park has a well-stocked fishing section with an in-depth selection of hooks, sinkers, split shots, lures, spin cast rods, and assorted other tackle.  

My first stop was a small stream where, some years ago, I watched with awe when the water came alive with trout hitting caddis flies on the surface. Even though I was likely in view of these fish, they were recklessly rising, coming up out of the water and eating the fly from above, rather than a delicate, Downton Abbey sipping rise.

Since caddis hatches begin appearing in May, I returned to this stream. No caddis. No rising flies. In fact, it was almost no stream. A beaver dam had blown out, leaving a confusing set of muddy flats, braided stream and mud on tree trunks showing the former depth of the pond.

After seeing no opportunities, it was on to another stream. When I got there, it was windy, and the water was high and discolored. On the first cast of a Woolly Bugger, the current caught the fly and shot it downstream.

When a fly rides high in the water, the angler must add weight to the leader, even though that ruins the smoothness of casting.  

After adding a BB-sized split shot, on the second cast, the fly stopped moving. When fishing weighted flies, this usually means the fly has snagged the bottom.  

But then, “the bottom” started moving. A fish, and not a rock or twig, was on the end of the line.  

I got the fly line on the reel and played the fish from the reel, which led to anxious moments with a stubborn fish, strong current and light leader.  

When the fish came into the shallows, it was a fat brown trout, about 13 inches long.

After releasing the trout, I went upstream and fished awhile longer. While it was great to cast and prospect for places where the fish would be, the fish were either not there or not interested in the way I was presenting the fly.

An issue with fishing small streams is that there is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of places where the fly gets hooked on a back cast. Also, a weighted line makes it harder to cast. If anyone has any advice on that, please write in.  

Mid-spring angling can be windy but the weight on the line seemed to offset the fly blowing off target from the wind.

On the way home, I saw a noticeable number of boats on the Hudson River. It is likely that anglers on these boats were pursuing the migratory run of striped bass that graces the Hudson each spring.

If you do not yet have a fishing license, or need to renew your license, you can do either transaction at several nearby locations. Guilderland Public Library on Western Avenue sells licenses. The library also has a good selection of maps and fishing books. If you do not yet have tackle, you can check out a spin-cast rod from the Library.

Licenses are also available at Phillips Hardware on Route 146, Guilderland Town Hall on Route 20, Dick’s Sporting Goods in Crossgates Mall, and WalMart in Crossgates Commons on Washington Avenue.  Phillips Hardware also sells some fishing tackle.

A New York State fishing license is issued from a computer-generated system with an online connection. Before going to buy or renew a license, it is worth calling ahead before going to a place to buy a license. Sometimes, the computer is down or the printer for licenses is not working.  

If you plan to pursue migratory fish in the Hudson River, remember to ask for a Recreational Marine Fisheries Registration. This credential is free of charge and, if you request it, can often be added to the document that is your freshwater fishing license.

The weather can be discouraging for fishing. For example, this weekend when I was pond fishing, it was a struggle to fly cast with a steady, off-the-steppes-of-Russia kind of wind.

But if you have time, please go out and see what happens. With a combination of skill and luck you too may experience the pleasant surprise of connecting with fish!


The Enterprise — Michael Koff

John Rowen, Capital Angler columnist, displays some of the fishing gear he has that would make good holiday gifts.

The great thing about giving holiday gifts to anglers is that there are so many options for any budget.

Choosing a gift depends on what you know about the angler and your budget. Before choosing something such as a fishing rod, tackle box, lures, or waders, please ask what is needed before buying.

Although these items are not like underwear or other intimate clothing, they are personal. They need to have the right fit and feel. For example, each category of fishing rod, such as spinning, fly, or bait-casting, has rods with a different feel.

While casting some are stiff, others have more play; some are long, some short. An angler usually has a fishing rod that he or she feels comfortable with and it’s hard to duplicate the feel in another person’s head or muscle memory.

If you think that choosing a bigger-ticket item such as a rod, tackle box, or waders is a good idea, consider setting some money aside and offering to take a shopping trip where the angler can look at a range of items, determine the trade-offs, and make a selection.

When I asked my California friend, Steve Posner, about holiday gifts, he wrote back, “Best Stocking Stuffer (Huge Stocking Category)” and included a link to Flycraft USA, which makes inflatable fishing boats ranging from $2,995 to $4,605.

Despite this advice, I still like to give small fishing items as holiday gifts. I usually buy things that are tried and true — but sometimes buy something that sort of jumps out at me from the shelf or the rack.

After speaking with Mark Loete, the Catskill angler and photographer, I realized smaller gifts, too, like lures may be too personal for the person receiving the gift. When I asked Mark about Christmas, he wrote, “Assuming there really is a Santa Claus ... How about a new magical fly that no one in your circle of fly fishing friends has ever heard of, that catches fish almost every time you use it? OK, failing that, for the fly tiers amongst us, how about a Whiting Silver grade dry fly rooster cape in the elusive blue dun color?”

My favorite tried and true lure is the Acme Kastmaster, a shiny, lozenge-shaped lure that has a treble hook, and sometimes feathers, as a skirt at its back end. This item comes with a silver or gold finish and is made in a variety of weights.

It fishes well in salt and freshwater. It might be made by the company that makes the anvils and explosives so prominently featured in the Roadrunner cartoons. Animal lovers need not worry: while fishing this lure in the last 50 years, I have never caught a coyote or roadrunner with it.

For under $5, our local stores have good selections of Kastmasters and other single lures or flies. In the same price range, it is possible to buy hooks or sinkers. For between $5 and $20, shoppers can purchase a boxed set of lures or flies.

Wilderness Adventures Press has an attractive and informative set of 11-by-17-inch maps of rivers and river systems, which cost $9.95 each. Three maps in the series cover New York waters: the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Creek; Salmon River; and the Delaware River: East and West Branches. If your angler wanders out of state, Wilderness Adventures publishes maps for 120 rivers in 21 other states.

Beth Waterman, coordinator at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoenicia Public Library, on the banks of the Esopus, said her Christmas list includes “Books and wool socks ... But I have too many of both of them!”

If your washing machine is a death vortex for socks, I found three appealing types for anglers. My wife’s niece, Kelly, recently bought me Dockers socks from Kohls. They come in a two-pack and one pair has a southwestern, possibly Navajo, design on them.

When wearing these socks, you will feel as if you are walking on air. They are made of cotton and spandex. If they got wet, they might be uncomfortable. But they are great for the drive to and from fishing.

Eastern Mountain Sports’ Smartwool Socks are 80 percent Merino wool, 19 percent nylon, and 1 percent elastic. They are great for cold weather and cold-water fishing. The wool keeps working as insulation — even when wet.

If Smartwool Socks are too thick, Darn Tough Socks from Vermont makes a thinner wool sock. My friend John MacDonald bought me a pair; they are great for people with leaky waders who fish on cooler summer nights.

If you want to buy these socks at a real store and have the time, John bought the socks at Shaffe’s in Bennington, Vermont. It is a classic men’s store and, if you visit, you just might come back with something else!

Speaking of travel, if an angler has everything, another gift idea is a gasoline gift card or a hotel gift certificate. With access to another full tank of gas in their wallets or desk drawers, anglers may be inspired to venture beyond home waters.

Finally, a membership in a fishing organization is a great way for an angler to strengthen skills and help protect clean water. The Bartlett Collection is a font of Catskill fishing information. Capital District Fly Fishers has great instructional programs each year.

Trout Unlimited’s Clearwater chapter has programs and a new-member incentive. According to Kirk Deeter, who edits the organization’s Trout magazine, each Trout Unlimited membership includes a subscription to Trout, which now has a regular column by John Gierach, author of Trout Bum.