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Time to Limber Up That Fly Rod

The opening day of trout season is still a month away — April 14th here in our part of the state — and a couple of weeks until the trout opener in the southern part of the state on March 31st. With the openers still that far out, why would I be ready to give my fly rod a workout now? Simple, there are some streams’ sections including Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only, Keystone Select waters, Catch and Release Artificial Lures Only, Catch and Release Fly Fishing Only, as well as some other specially designated areas that are open to year-round trout fishing. You should check your Pennsylvania Fishing Summary booklet to learn the details of each of these areas. The point is, while you may not keep any trout, you can catch and release them with the appropriate equipment.

There are probably a lot of people thinking it’s way too early to try to catch trout with a fly rod; they’re convinced you have to use bait and that’s not legal at this point in time. Trust me, plenty of trout can be had with artificials like spinners and minnow imitators, and even with a number of flies properly presented with a fly rod. I almost always opt for the fly rod for these early season trout forays.

Granted, dry flies may not be the best choice this early, but I have on occasion been able to hook into a few trout even with a dry fly. On the other hand, there are a number of presentations that work very well at times this early, and even through the winter months — and I’m talking about nymphs or subsurface flies that mimic other popular trout foods.

Whatever your choice of artificial fly, the key to success is to get the fly down to where the fish are likely feeding with a natural looking presentation. This is usually best accomplished by what many call “high-sticking”; this is nothing more than holding the fly rod tip high out over the water and keeping a relatively tight line so you can detect strikes. The fly should roll or bump the bottom as naturally as possible as it is pulled downstream by the current. I prefer to feel the strikes, but some like to attach a small strike indicator to the leader to detect strikes. Choose whichever method works best for you.

Any number of nymphs can be effective; I like a Pheasant Tail nymph or a Gold-ribbed Hares Ear. Another good choice is a Woolybugger; it can be rolled near the bottom by high-sticking, or it can be retrieved across the current like an escaping minnow. I tie all my own flies, and I always try to have the traditional pattern, but I also like to have many of the patterns tied with a bead head. The added tiny bead head, with its additional shine, sometimes attracts more strikes, so I carry both patterns.

I mentioned patterns that imitate other popular trout foods a while back; what I had in mind was one of my favorite early season patterns — a salmon egg imitation. When I first started trout fishing in the 60’s I was hooked on fishing real salmon eggs — and trust me, if properly presented, salmon eggs can be deadly for trout. Fortunately, there is a real good imitation that the fly tier can create, and it has proven to be an excellent match for the real thing. It can be tied with a cream dubbing material or pink or even orange; they all look like natural salmon eggs. I high-stick this presentation, and it has often produced when nothing else would. Of course, you should not overlook streamers in this early season since trout will often feed on the local minnow life as well.

Whatever you decide to use, be prepared for some action even in this high, cold water — especially if the stream section received an early stocking of trout.

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