Picked up a couple of bigger trout in the mix yesterday. Flow is up but clear & fishable, and dropping daily- the MDC will be cutting the flow back from the dam anytime now, quite possibly today. Riverton is 533cfs, and the permanent C&R/TMA down closer to the store is 845cfs total flow (312cfs coming in form the Still River). What does all this mean? Anywhere from our store to the dam is fishable, albeit there is more water than normal. It is quite likely that they will cut the flow back today, we will see! No real hatch of Hendricksons yet, but we have been presented with a few photos of some of them- I suspect the the cooler weather here for the next few days (highs 50's/low 60's, lows 30's) will stall the hatch a bit, but then temps normalize starting Tues/Wed. The TMA/permanent Catch & Release section finally started to pick up a bit since about last Friday- I got a water temp of 51 degrees in New Hartford after work last weekend, that's the highest water temp I've seen here yet. Thursday the TMA only hit 43 degrees, and up in Riverton is topped out at 41 degrees. Best bets are still nymphs & streamers, but there have been a few fish feeding on top in Church Pool when water levels have been normal. The permanent TMA has not yet been stocked, so you are fishing over mostly holdover & wild trout. Some stocked trout (mostly rainbows) are starting to drift into it too. Some nice holdovers & wild browns in the 16-20" range were landed in TMA last weekend. Two 6-7# broodstock browns were caught & released on big white streamers outside of TMA. Seeing a few Baetis Vagans (a bigger, early season #16 Blue Winged Olive mayfly) down in the C&R section. Milder weather has slowly but surely been making the water temps creep up closer to where they should be, and this will make both the trout & bugs more active. Hatches are still a week or two behind normal due to the cold winter. Reports are still varying from slow to excellent, depending upon who you talk to (normally the case! Lol).
The river was kind to me Thursday, and I landed quite a few trout on a wide variety of nymphs. Slow & deep was the name of the game, and the strikes were quite subtle in the 41 degree water. Mother Nature was less kind to me, providing me with wind, cold temps, overcast weather, and snowing on me 4 times! Had to bust out the warm clothes & fingerless gloves. Flows are clear but still above normal, so you had to carefully pick your spot and place your casts precisely on the current seems. I ended up picking up a couple of bigger stockers, both a rainbow & a brown. Those who have found pods of freshly stocked trout recently have racked up the biggest catches, but some bigger holdovers are mixing in here & there. Fish a spot, but if it's not producing, move on, don't linger. Lately the more water I cover lately, the better I do. I might come up empty in 2-3 spots, and then bang fish in the 4th. Nymphs & deeply/slowly fished streamers are the most reliable fish catchers in the cooler waters of the early season, doubly so when flows are up. The dry fly guys have been back at it when flows have been normal, and catching some fish at moments (ideally look for days without much wind)- overall the dry fly fishing has been slow lately though. This will change in the next couple weeks as water warms and we start to get into the hatch cycle. The Winter Caddis (AM) are waning but you may still see some, in the afternoons you should see Oives (#16-18 Baetis Vagans), Midges (#20-28) & Early Black Stones (#12-16). With the Caddis & Stonefly dries, try both dead-drifting them and also lightly twitching them, Baetis & Midges should mostly be dead-drifted. Sometime in late April we should see the first Hendricksons, they will probably be a little late due to the brutally cold winter.
Subsurface, it's not too early to start fishing Hendrickson nymphs, we are getting reports of a few hatching (not enough to call it a "hatch" as yet though), they get active and end up in the drift a good month before the hatch begins, and Bruce Marino & Rich Strolis both tie us DEADLY nymps for this- ask and we will point you toward them. Hendrickson nymphs catch me a lot of BIG trout in April/May. A bigger #12-14 Pheasant Tail can also work well. Hendrickson Nymph patterns can also pull double-duty as early season stoneflies. #16 Olive nymphs imitating Baetis Vagans are also a good choice now, they are just starting up. Early Black & Early Brown Stoneflies (sz 12-16), Pheasant Tails (sz 12-18), olive/green caddis larva (sz 8-16), cased caddis larva (sz 8-16), midge larva/pupa (sz 16-20, especially in red), attractor nymphs (sz 12-18 in Red Headed Stepchild, Copper Johns, blue Lightning Bugs, Yellow Prince, Rainbow Warrior, and egg flies (sz 10-18) are still a good choice (rainbows & suckers are both spring spawners in March/April, contributing fish eggs to the drift), etc. Don't be afraid to fish some some gaudier/flashy/attractor-type nymphs, the trout sometimes show a preference for them, doubly true for recently stocked trout.
If you are fishing streamers, remember that a slower presentation (swinging and/or slow stripping & twitching) matches up with the slower trout metabolism due to cooler water temps- but as always, play with your presentation and let the trout tell you how they prefer it, they may still want a bit faster strip at moments. Try using a floating line and slowly bouncing/hopping a weighted Fishskull Skulpin Bunny on the bottom- use a 0x-2x tippet with this pattern & method, that fly is heavily front-weighted and rides hook point up. If you are using unweighted or lightly weighted streamers, use something to get them down- sinking line, sink-tip line, sinking leader, or split shot. Slow & deep is typically the name of the game until water temps get over 50 degrees and stay there (probably late April if you are downstream of the Still River).