Thursday, January 18, 2018

Stillwater Angler Fishing Report

Conditions shaping up for great angling

Talk to some old timers and they’ll tell you that you can get good fishing conditions in either June or August, but seldom if ever both. We may be on the verge of that happening again this year.
Area rivers and streams rounded into post runoff shape a full two to three weeks early this year. FWP is already advising that if the current pace of lower flows and hot weather continues, we may face warm water fishing restrictions later in the summer. It’s been a few years since we’ve dealt with that situation.
Some may ask what’s the big deal? As a cold water species, the optimal temperature for trout is in a range from the low 50s to the low to mid 60s. Once the water temperature starts to creep up into the upper 60s, not only does the behavior pattern of the fish change, but the warmer water has an adverse impact on their body.
Fish can be severely stressed in the process of being caught, the oxygen levels of the water is lower, and there can be a reduced resistance to disease; all of which can prove to be fatal.
The temperature of the water and the oxygen content are inversely proportional. It doesn’t change on a straight line basis. It changes on a sharp curve. The higher the water temperature, the lower the oxygen level.

It doesn’t mean we have to stop fishing altogether when the water gets warm; it’s just that we need to adjust some of our habits and practices. Besides, if nothing else, without the angler making a few changes, the fishing will generally be significantly poorer. So what are some of the things we can do to take care of the health of the fish during warm water conditions?
The first thing is to change the time of day when fishing. Fish in the cooler early morning hours when water temperatures are the coolest. The fish will be more apt to feed and be more active then later in the day when the water warms.
There’s nothing wrong with fishing later in the day when the water is warmer, but the fish will be much more lethargic and less apt to feed as the water is less oxygenated.
The angler should play and land fish as quickly as possible. One way to do this is to use as heavy of a leader and tippet as possible. This is not the time to unnecessarily let the fish get into the backing just for a show. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible when handling them and limit the amount of time the fish is handled.
This is a good practice that should be observed at all times anyways, period. If taking a photo, make sure the camera is ready to go before hoisting the fish out of the water. Be sure and wet the hands before handling the fish too, as dry hands will remove some of the “slime” on the fish that provides a protective coating against infection, fungus and disease.
Also, don’t get a death grip on the fish, as squeezing too hard can damage internal organs. Try to avoid touching the gills as well. Try to gently release the fish in calm water and allow them to revive themselves. Don’t just flip the fish back into the water like it’s an Olympic gymnast!
Crimping the barbs on the flies or hooks is another good all-around practice. It makes hook removal much easier and therefore less stressful on the fish. Not only that, but it’s much easier and safer for the angler to remove when the fly catches skin or clothing.
In those rare instances when the fish ingests the fly or hook, cut the tippet and don’t try and dislodge the fly. The hook will rust out over time rather quickly. Best to save the fish rather than the fly!
Briefly, the Stillwater is currently entering prime time and fishing well with the typical “dry/dropper” setup that I wrote about last week. There are some occasional PMDs, caddis and yellow sallies.
It’s still a skosh on the high side in terms of flows, but that will probably change quickly with the hot weather combined with the opening back up of the head gates for irrigation. The Stone has rounded into shape nicely.
The other day there was a nice caddis hatch coming off and an appropriate dry fly fished in likely water produced even though there were no actively feeding fish to be had.
Tight lines!
Chris Fleck owns and operates Stillwater Anglers Fly Shop and Outfitters in Columbus.