Updated: Apr 9
We are almost there. A few warmer spells here and there are signalling the coming Spring here in the Shenandoah Valley. Of course Virginia still have plenty of cold nights ahead, but warmer afternoons are starting to produce hatches of little black caddis and soon March Browns. On these warmer days brook trout are slowly awakening from their winter slumber and feeding a bit more aggressively in the afternoons.
The cold mornings still provide a good excuse to sleep in and stay warm, but when the days start getting longer I get cabin fever and get back on the water when possible. Though the fly fishing conditions usually aren't real consistent, just getting outside and moving around again with a fly rod in hand always feels better. There's no greenery around yet and water temperature is low, but soon little signs of Spring will start to pop up and even a slow day on the water can be worthwhile.
Brook Trout and Water Temperature I usually start the day nymphing bigger pockets of water where I know brookies will be hiding. New Zealand style strike indicators and small beadhead pheasant tail nymph make for a quiet presentation on these crystal clear waters. I fish these holes pretty methodically as this will be food deposit areas for fish that want to feed, but not move around a lot. Make sure you have enough weight to be close to the bottom of the creek, but not snagging. Some options for weight will nymph fishing is split shot, or I prefer moldable lead. One snag will blow your cover and you'll need to move on to the next spot.
As the warmer part of the day comes on I start to look for insect hatches. I rarely see rises at any part of the day, but these streams are usually small enough that if the bug is active, the fish will likely take dry flies. Obviously watch for flying bugs, but stoneflies and caddis will climb out of the water and onto rocks near the stream so you might come across some, or old casings. Any little pocket of a run can hold populations of brook trout, and you'd be surprised how little water they need sometimes. As you move get the fly upstream in each little run, and work the larger pools a little more carefully. The fish will decide in the first half dozen good casts whether it's going to eat or not so cover the spot and move on.
Match the Hatch for that Trout Stream
Flies this time of year that work best are usually dark and on the smaller side and depending on the sunlight can vary from stream to stream. Caddis fly patterns such as a Black Elkhair Caddis and Stimulators and Mayfly patterns like Royal Coachmen, Adams, and March Browns are all good flies for this time of year. Try to go small, but not so small you can't follow them down stream. Takes are usually soft and quick so you have to be able to see what's going on and react quickly. I try to use 9 foot 5x or 6x leaders depending on the water level and clarity and add a little extra tippet so trout won't see or feel the fly line. I do not tend to do any streamer fishing as sluggish trout in low water temperatures stay near the bottom of the stream or river and they aren't going to chase all over for a minnow (your streamer).
Take advantage of those earlier warmer days. It's a good opportunity to knock the rust off, get some Vitamin D, and see the stream before the foliage fills in. You might just find a good hatch one afternoon and a big brook trout just waiting for your fly.