Pre-Runoff

For fishing fanatics in the Northeast, it’s hard to beat the anticipation of early Spring. Winter is finally releasing it’s icy grip on the woods and water, and the sun shines a little brighter and warmer with each passing day. For many anglers, the warming weather signals the time to get their fishing gear in order, in anticipation of the ending of the Spring runoff and the first outing of the season.

The fish don’t wait for warm weather…

The fish don’t wait for warm weather…

As a diehard fishermen myself, I know the feeling of anticipation well. But unlike many other anglers, I don’t necessarily wait around for the nice weather. I get out to fish here and there as Winter allows, but as soon as the calendar reads “Spring”, I really start to hit the water hard.

Early season fishing at it’s finest.

Early season fishing at it’s finest.

There is a period of time every year we fishermen refer to as “pre-runoff fishing”. This is the time of year that begins in early Spring when the temperatures begin to creep over the freezing mark during the day consistently enough to thaw the frozen stretches of our rivers, and to cause just the slightest bit of melting in the afternoons. It varies year to year, but typically this period occurs beginning around mid-March and lasts until mid-April in my neck of the woods.

A healthy early-season brookie.

A healthy early-season brookie.

Pre-runoff fishing can be some of the better fishing of the entire season. The slightest increases in water temperatures often trigger fish to begin feeding aggressively, and after a long, lean winter, trout are often willing to eat a whole host of offerings. Streamers and nymphs dominate, but a warm sunny day can trigger some excellent hatches of midges and early stoneflies.

That being said, the fishing can be inconsistent. Cold-fronts, snow, rain, and excessive snow-melt will drop water temps and shut fish off like flipping a light switch.

Early season streamer-eater.

Early season streamer-eater.

I think because of the potential for inconsistent fishing along with cold weather. many anglers seem to forgo this time of the year. Sure I see a few people on the warm sunny days, and opening week of fishing season in Maine (April 1-7) may see a crowd, but in general most people seem to stay home and wait for better weather.

As a full-time fishing guide this a double-edged sword. Lack of crowds is nice for my own personal fishing, but boy I wish I had more folks interested in a guided trip. Fishing season in New Hampshire is open all winter, and come March things really start to get interesting. There are wade options for big rainbows and browns, and even early season float trip options for folks looking to throw streamers for that brown trout of a lifetime.

In Maine, the season opens April 1st, and there can be some great brook trout fishing right from the get-go. It might be cold, but the fishing can be a lot better than waiting until the summer when things have become too warm for the fish…

Pre-runoff streamer float courtesy of Hill Country Guides. Do you want to sit at home, or do you want to catch fish like this??

Pre-runoff streamer float courtesy of Hill Country Guides. Do you want to sit at home, or do you want to catch fish like this??

I encourage anglers not to overlook this time of the year. Yes, it can be hard to predict what conditions will be like, and yes, it can be very cold at times, but for those of you who are willing to make the effort to brave the elements, I promise you some of the best fishing of the season awaits.

As I write this , the pre-runoff season has ended. Rain and snowmelt have swollen the rivers and streams to flood-stage, and it will be a week or so before things settle down again and we are back to waiting for the nice weather. Next year, don’t forget about the early season fishing. Give me a call, you’re missing out…

The "off-season"....

When the sun shines…it’s just that much colder…

When the sun shines…it’s just that much colder…

Being a fishing guide in the Northeast comes with a price. We have a long off-season. By late October cold weather has settled in and the first snow is falling. Water temps plummet, hatches end, and before long the slower reaches of our rivers and our lakes and ponds become skimmed over with ice.

You can never have enough streamers.

You can never have enough streamers.

Winter here is long. Really long. This year might be the longest I can remember in at least a decade. We received our first blizzard in November, and it hasn’t stopped snowing since. It’s hard to be locked inside when all I do is think about being on the water, but you have to make the most of it. I spend my free time refilling my fly boxes for guiding and my own fishing, and I usually pour through the internet looking for new fly patterns or tying techniques to experiment with.

Snow and more snow…

Snow and more snow…

Fortunately even at the 45th parallel we get a few days that help to shake off cabin fever. Winter fly fishing options here are limited. Tailwaters offer the only real fishing opportunities, as our freestone streams are buried in snow and ice. Winter fishing offers a peace and solitude that can be hard to experience at other times of the year. I look forward to my opportunities to get out, and its always nice when I can get out with a friend.

Better dress for the weather.

Better dress for the weather.

While I enjoy winter fly fishing, it is not for the faint of heart. Our weather here is more humid than places like the Rocky Mountains. The damp makes the cold that much more unbearable. I don’t care how warm I dress, it’s hard to stay out most days for more than a few hours. Windy days are downright torture.

Oh there are fish…

Oh there are fish…

A chance for a few fish make it worth it. Cold, stinging fingers and aching frozen feet become more bearable on the days when I find success, and fortunately most days I find success. Thoughts of guiding on these cold days creep into my head every time I free my barbless hook from the lip of a trout, but those thoughts slip away as the fish slides back into the frigid water and a cold breeze blows across my wet hands.

Happy Spring….??

Happy Spring….??

The end of March brings a new anticipation of the coming season. April marks the beginning of fishing season in Maine, and a host of other waters open in New Hampshire. A few warm days will begin to open some of the mountain streams and tributaries, but this year the snow is really hanging on. I will continue to make the most of the off-season, tying flies and fishing when I can. My phone is starting to ring more each day with guiding inquiries, and I’ll take it as a sign that despite what it looks like outside my window, Spring is coming.

Welcome to my blog!

As a full-time fly fishing guide and all around trout fishing bum, I spend a lot of time on the water and fly fishing some really amazing places.  I'd like to try to periodically post about my adventures, share what's going on out on the water, offer tips and techniques, talk about my experiences as a guide, post pictures of fish and flies, and generally rant about anything that rattles around in my mind.  So please follow along, and hopefully I will offer you some helpful tips and other interesting and entertaining content.

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