As 2021 kicks off, it seems like we’ve gotten into a pattern of crisp winter weather. Water flow on the Gunpowder is good, around 65 cfs. However, the water is on the colder side, peaking at around 42-43 degrees on most days. Due to the chilly temps rising fish are difficult to find, but these conditions provide a great opportunity to practice your tightline nymphing skills.
We’ve also had a number of anglers in the shop reporting good results from streamer fishing. Personally, I’ve enjoyed dead drifting small streamers close to the bottom this winter. Sometimes giving your fly an occasional jigging motion while it drifts through a run can go a very long way.
Flows on the Gunpowder have been favorable recently, fluctuating between 60-120cfs. This provides enough water to make the fish feel comfortable, but not so much that wading is too difficult. That being said, please use care when walking the banks of the river as recent snows have formed a lot of ice. This is particularly true for rocky sections such as the boulder pools above the Falls rd access point where the sunlight rarely reaches the trail deep in the river valley.
As for the fishing, it seems to be improving as December progresses. On days when the water level is rising streamer fishing tends to be most productive. For days like that it’s best to pick your favorite streamer pattern and fish it close to the bottom. More commonly, when the water level is dropping, nymphing will be most effective. Trout in the Gunpowder have seen quite a lot of pressure from anglers this year. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different nymph patterns, hotspot colors, and rigging options until you discover a combination that works for you!
Despite cold temperatures, midges are still hatching quite abundantly and trout can be seen rising to them. Most midge hatches have been occurring during the heat of the day (12-2pm) and require 6-7x tippet and small dries around size #22. Luckily, the slight increase in water has made the fish just a bit less discerning toward flies than they were when the water level was at 30cfs.
From the sulphur hatch, to the brief fishing ban, to the tuber hatch, to last Wednesday’s snowfall, 2020 has certainly been an eventful and challenging year. As this year full of uncertainty comes to a close we can’t help but reflect on all the fishing we’ve done and we invite all of you to tag our instagram account @backwaterangler with photos of your favorite fishing moments of 2020!
Happy Holidays Hours: December 22 10-3PM
December 23 10-3PM
December 24 Closed
December 25 Closed December 26 9-3
December 27 10-3
December 28 10-3
December 29 10-3
December 30 10-3
December 31 Closed
January 1 Closed January 2 10-3
January 3 10-3
After a long period of low water, Friday nights (12/4) rain increased the flow on the Gunpowder to ~100cfs. The higher water levels have temporarily put down most of the rising fish in the river, but streamer fishing and nymphing have increased in effectiveness.
When streamer fishing we recommend using small streamers in darker colors such as black and olive. In slower runs and deep pools a short strip of ~6inches can be effective, while dead drifting a streamer on a tight line tends to be more effective in riffles and fast cuts. Nymphing with small zebra midges, caddis pupae, and pheasant tails has been productive, as always. Heavy leech patterns dead drifted near the bottom have been particularly effective since the increase of water. if you’re hitting the river blind, rigging up a leech pattern along with one of the aforementioned nymphs in a size 18-22 is a great way to start the day.
The water level on the Gunpowder is remaining low around 30 cfs with water temperature being the much more favorable factor. On most days the river is peaking around 54-60 degrees, triggering hatches of midges and the occasional stonefly. Very small dry flies in the size 20-24 range have still been the key to catching fish sipping midges on the surface.
Nymphing is becoming increasingly effective as the weather cools. One of the best nymphing setups for the catch and release section is a caddis pupae paired with a zebra midge or similar midge larva. When nymphing, we recommend sticking to a few fly patterns and experimenting more with weight and indicators. I’ve been using the Deep Soft Weight putty from Loon. It’s great for fine tuning the weight on your leader without the damage of crimping on split shot.
As always, we endorse fall streamer fishing. Gunpowder brown trout typically spawn in mid-late November. So now is the time to tie on a streamer and target structure near good spawning gravel in hopes of finding an aggressive pre-spawn brown. That being said, use care while wading as to not step on any redds where trout have cleaned a patch of gravel to lay their eggs.
Flows on the Gunpowder River are still low at around 30cfs. The few tricos we saw this year are beginning to taper off, but midges are still in abundance. Now that tubers have vacated the river we fly anglers can start taking advantage of more access points. So keep an eye out for trout sipping midges from Prettyboy dam all the way down to Monkton.
As the weather cools off, larger brown trout will start moving upriver. That being said, don’t be afraid to toss a streamer around. We have some great unweighted streamer patterns in the shop that work well in low water. Lastly, swinging soft hackles and nymphing will generally be productive. Midge larva, caddis pupae, and stonefly patterns will be your best nymphs going into fall.
After a week of favorable flows in the 70s, the river has dropped back down to its typical summer flow of ~30 cfs. We recommend wading as little as possible and fishing long leaders with 6-7x tippet as the trout are quite skittish. Stop by the shop for some Trout Hunter 6.5x tippet, which is absolutely perfect for fishing low water when you just don’t want to commit to using super delicate 7x.
Fishing a dry dropper is a good way to catch fish in the early mornings. I recommend cutting off the dropper around 11am when the water begins to warm up. Terrestrials have been successful recently, but it doesn’t hurt to downsize your ants and beetles. Crickets can be heard chirping along the river banks this time of year. So don’t be afraid to play around with a small, dark colored hopper or Chernobyl ant.
Tricos have not been particularly prevalent on the river this summer, but there are plenty of midges and the fish are almost always feeding on them. A small trico pattern in the #20-22 range will oftentimes work for the trout sipping midges in slow water.
The weather has taken a pleasant fall-like turn recently. So enjoy your time on the water and if all else fails swing a wet fly!
Like many fly anglers, I was sucked into the hobby by visions of casting dry flies to rising trout surrounded by the sweeping hills and vast skies of the American west. However, not long after breaking into the hobby, I found myself being drawn to the excitement of flats fishing in the Florida Keys and the idea of taking a trip out west became distant.
Finally, five years after casting my first fly rod, I made the journey to Salt Lake City and then north to Wyoming. The first full day of fishing was one of the most memorable I’ve had. My fishing buddy and I explored the massive Wind River Range, following miles and miles of dirt roads. I could have stayed there forever catching those eager cutthroat trout, but eventually we came to an impasse that our rental car just wasn’t up for.
On our second day we put the Wind River in the rear view and headed to Yellowstone. I found the rivers in the park to be incredibly diverse. The lower Gardiner River is fast flowing and full of pocket water where gullible brown trout will almost always rise to a well drifted hopper. The Lamar is a truly epic river with big mayflies, big cutthroat, and big scenery. The final day of our trip was reserved for fishing the infamous Slough Creek. The hiking, the landscape, the weather, and the fishing on slough can all be described as intense. On the slow meandering bends of Slough Creek the cutthroat act more like carp than trout. Before casting to the undercut on the opposite bank, it pays to carefully watch the shallow gravel bar on the inside of the bend for cruising trout who may be in less than a foot of water. These cruising fish are very eager to rise to a well presented terrestrial, albeit the slowest and most cautious rises I’ve ever seen. To sum it up; those aforementioned visions of casting dry flies surrounded by vast landscapes came to fruition on Slough Creek.
Anybody who has fished out west knows that covering ground is key. That being said, the gear that allows you to hike further and fish longer will far outshine things like your rod and reel setup. On this trip I was fortunate enough to use the new Chota Hybrid High-Top Rubber Soled Boot. These boots are a great value for the price and resemble a lightweight hiking boot more than a wading boot. Chota purposefully built these boots with a removable insole. So they can fit comfortably with regular socks, neoprene wading socks, or the booties on your waders. However, my favorite quality of these boots is undoubtedly their light weight and how easy they are to slip on and take off whether wet or dry!
Another item I found to be invaluable on my trip was my Patagonia Stormfront Sling pack. Yellowstone is known for its hot and dry summer days, but I can assure you that thunderstorms can pop up in an instant. This pack was not only comfortable, but great for keeping my stuff dry when I couldn’t avoid a rain squall. It’s important to keep in mind that this pack is basically one big compartment. So organizing your gear inside takes a little consideration, but I find the Patagonia Black Hole Cubes to be the perfect for compartmentalizing. The not so obvious benefit of the Stormfront Sling is the fact that it’s not only water tight, but also fairly air tight. This means that the delicious smelling sandwich I stashed in my pack is pretty unlikely to lure in that big grizzly we spotted from camp the night before.
Heading out west yourself? Feel free to stop in the new shop at 16829 York Rd and we’ll outfit you with plenty of Chubby Chernobyls (basically the only fly you’ll need west of the rockies)!
Scientific Anglers have long been known for outstanding fly lines. This year they have released their premium line of “Absolute” leader and tippet. Here at the shop, we’ve received the full line of leaders and tippet from 7x-20lb and have been very impressed with the quality and performance. Both the Absolute Flourocarbon and Nylon are supple, strong and boast a 30% increase in wet knot strength. SA has done a great job of increasing breaking strength without increasing diameter. The Absolute Streamer leaders are 4 ft and great for use with a sinking line or a floating line on those days fishing in higher water.
To top it off they are packed in biodegradable pouches, continuing a trend of environmentally friendly fly fishing innovation. The new tippet spools feature a line cutter and a tight band that should mean less chance of unknowingly walking down the trail dragging 20 ft of tippet which we’ve all done once -at least I have!
The holidays are getting into full swing and with many folks enjoying family or doing last minute shopping, now is a great time to find some water to yourself! If you’re among the last minute shoppers, please note that the shop will be operating under normal hours this week, with Monday (12/23) being our last day open before Christmas.
Now onto the fishing! Water levels on the Gunpowder have been consistently favorable with great clarity. The river is currently flowing around 80 CFS, however water temps are only hanging around the mid 40s. This means that nymphing will be the most productive technique if you’re making your way onto the water! Until the flows drop below 50 CFS, 5x tippet will suffice in most nymphing situations. Tandem rigs of a heavy copper john or caddis pupa imitation paired with a small (size 18-22) zebra midge or pheasant tail nymph have been very productive recently.
For those hoping to get out and throw streamers, keep in mind that the fish are cold and not very interested in moving for a meal! A favorite technique here at the shop is to dead drift a heavily weighted zonker. When the water is cold this can be the best way to connect with some of the gunpowder’s larger fish who are replenishing their fat reserves after the spawn.
As always, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for fish sipping midges in the slower runs and tail-outs of pools. This is especially true around the Masemore and Bunker Hill access points. As winter progresses also keep an eye out for stoneflies, which can sometimes be spotted skittering across the waters surface on a sunny winter day! These can be easily imitated by a small black caddis pattern and can draw explosive rises from ambitious trout!