Hatches on Long Island?

April 14, Thursday – Nissequogue River.

One of the benefits of being up before sunrise is I get to see the amazing colors of the morning sky over the water as I leave the Neck. Beautiful.  Promises a good day and it was.

I was on the river by 6:50 and walked up to the small water. The number of springs that are just bubbling out of the ground in this area is phenomenal. The flow is shallow, crystal clear and cold.  I tried to explore the source but the briers and brambles make it really tough going even at this time of year, before they get to reinforce themselves.

What puts the Spring in Spring Creek
What puts the Spring in Spring Creek

I remember visiting my cousins up near the Croton as a kid and it seemed every street up there, every vacant lot of which there were a few at the time, had a spring.  One time I was determined to dig down to see if it was a broken water line.  I never found any pipe.

I continued to walk up further and entered the river when I could no longer tolerate the scratches and tangles of the woodland floor. I had my Fran Betters 7 foot 5 wt. This is perhaps the best graphite I own. Tied on the Black Nosed Dace as it has been very productive so far this early season.

The river is narrow, small water but with good flow and depth.  The dace is unweighted and naturally rides high in the water.  Getting it down requires some slack. I like it as it seldom fouls on the many obstacles and doesn’t pick up much weed.

Small Water
Small Water

My first fish was a Brookie of about 7-8 inches.  They don’t stock that size. Last year I was getting 4-6 inchers.  Naturally reproduced and thriving. Nice. 3 more followed in a short downstream walk. One hit the fly as I was retrieving it on the surface.  I don’t photograph them as I want to get them back without touching them if I can. It’s a beautiful morning.

There are deep holes and check dams that have gouged out almost chest deep runs. Good water. I am thinking about a Cone Nosed Green Woolly Bugger I tied using Morgan Lyle’s marabou wrap. Amazingly simple and very effective. I wait as the dace is still being productive.

Simple Flies by Morgan Lyle

The Brookies are getting bigger and a little less colorful.  I doubt if the stocking has gotten up this far but perhaps the fish are moving of their own accord.

Peter and I had coffee the other day to discuss the updating of the LITU Stream Guide.  One of the chapters is from 1985 and describes, with some specificity, hatches on our streams.  I questioned its usefulness as I seldom see a hatch of any consequence here. I have experienced an amazing March Brown explosion on another river just before dark, but this park is closed at 4 pm these days. No sense teasing the reader.

A tan caddis flutters by, and then another. I catch one and note it’s dull green body.  About a size 14. Hmmm. There are a few more but the fish don’t seem to care. No blizzard develops. I continue with the Dace. Then I see that unique drift of a mayfly moving above the stream. A big one. Now I am getting curious. Then there is another, and more, on the water and in the air. Still no fish rising.  I capture one in my hat.  Take a look:

Quill Gordon?
Quill Gordon?

Quill Gordon I would say.

Iron Fraudator from Art Flick's Streamside Guide
Iron Fraudator from Art Flick’s Streamside Guide

I catch another Brookie and am just above a very deep run where the current increases. I could consider a nymph but find them difficult to manage in this narrow water.  I tie on the Woolly Bugger. Before it gets wet, there is a rise.

Now I am in a quandary.  I consider myself a dry fly guy.  On the other hand, I have been having a great day catching fish. I also have the problem of not having my Spring mayflies with me.  I travel very light these days and although I took the box out and organized it, adding a few Hendricksons and emergers, I didn’t think I would be needing it today.  On the other hand I always carry a selection of Adams in a variety of sizes.

With the Bugger on the line, and a tempting hole just below me, I fish it pulling a few more Brookies to the net. The rising continues above me. Damn.

I take off the Bugger and put some new tippet on. It is 4x. I usually go lighter but Chuck and I had a discussion on tippets and he encouraged me to go larger in order to get the fish in sooner for release.

I put a 12 Parachute Adams on and work the water I am on with no response.  I put on a 14 and immediately lose it in a tree. The canopy here is not ideal for casting. Put the 12 back on and move up to the rises, which seem very much localized.

I am casting with very little line out as the stream width here is but 10 -15 feet. There are bushes under which the fish are choosing to take dries and getting mine in there is a chore.  I work at it without hanging one up, thank goodness. They are not shy and continue to rise as the fly passes by, not being able to quite penetrate the cover. I keep trying. I get one or two on top of them and have one refusal.  I am getting closer.

I look at my watch and it is almost time to go. Pressure. Really would like to get one on a dry. I persist and have two more refusals. I am tempted to change the fly but think of LaBranch and his persistent drifts over fish with the hope that they will come to believe in the fly. It works as a nice one takes the fly and makes my day.

Brookie on a dry
Brookie on a dry


Trusty Parachute Adams
Trusty Parachute Adams

The hatch seems to dissipate and I hear guys heading upstream toward me, so holster the fly and, with a smile to myself and a thank you to the Trout, head for home.

More on how to catch a trout here.

Tom's Fishing Stories

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