Early Season Angling
Cold, snowy and wet, spring trout fishing in New Hampshire is nothing like the lazy days of summer where you float dry flies to rising fish on calm water. As the temperatures increase and we move toward summer, I took some time to reflect on the most successful spring fishing season I’ve ever had.
Many anglers write off the spring entirely—and those that give it a try once or twice often find limited success. The reason for this is usually quite simple: with colder temperatures and different river conditions, the fish don’t follow the same patterns that most anglers are accustomed to.
To solve this problem, you have to adapt your game to find the fish. This starts with rethinking where you look for fish. While you might typically find them in highly-oxygenated pocket water or riffles when the water’s warmer, the fish aren’t there when it’s cold. They’re holding in the slow-moving water that you’d skip in the summer. With low water temperatures and shorter days, they have slow metabolisms and significantly less energy. They want to move as little as possible.
Once you find water where you think a trout might hold in cold weather, it’s important to accommodate their eating habits as well. It’s widely discussed that trout eat nymphs the majority of the time and this is no exception in the spring. However, the nymphs you find in the spring months aren’t necessarily the same as you’ll find in the summer. Some species aren’t as far along in their life stage, so you should adjust your fly sizes and colors to match this. It will also be important to get your nymphs down deep, as the water is frequently higher and faster than usual—especially as the snowmelt begins.
While nymphs will perform well throughout the early season, streamers should not be overlooked. The main difference between early-season streamer fishing and what comes later, however, is that you need to slow everything down. Though there are exceptions to this, it’s rare that you’ll get a fish to move far for a meal. It’s too cold, and they don’t want to work that hard. They’d much rather wait for something to drift into their open mouth. Because of this, it’s most effective to use passive retrieves that mimic an easy meal instead of a fast strip.
If you’re ready to put in more time spring fishing on your home water next year, here are some gear tips for making the best of your outings:
- Tungsten beads. You know your home water best, but you should carry all of your confidence nymph patterns with a tungsten bead. It’s the best way to get down fast.
- Fluorocarbon. With a higher density, faster sink rate, and more abrasion resistance than monofilament, fluorocarbon is a must have for finding fish down low.
- Dynamic streamers. Some flies need more active presentations than others, so make sure to carry some that will self-animate on a slow retrieve.
- Rods. Generally speaking, we fish 9’ 6 and 7 weight rods. Whatever you pick, make sure it has enough backbone to cast a heavy setup.
- Lines. Depending on the river, having both full sinking and intermediate sinking lines are crucial for keeping your flies low in the water column as long as possible.