Fly fishing Pennsylvania on the first day of trout season can be a challenge for even the most experienced angler. The increased number of anglers alone can be a tough task to overcome. In the following sections, I will share some of my tips and tricks on how you can tackle some of the best fly fishing in Pennsylvania on the first day of trout season.
Choosing Where to Fly Fish on Opening Day
Almost everyone has their own favorite or secret spot that they tend to go to for the opening day of trout season. Typically for the first day, I try to go back to the same spot I have gone to for years for a number of reasons. First, I know the water well, and second I know where they put the fish during stocking. However, many people do not have this luxury or they may choose to fly fish different Pennsylvania waters each year. One of the biggest tips I can give is learn to read the water. What I mean by this is you need to learn to be able to effectively predict where the fish are going to sit by examining the flow of the stream. That being said, on the first day there are higher numbers of fish present in the stream; so don’t be afraid to try spots that seem less “fishy” because there is a good chance the stocking truck could have made a stop there.
Diving deeper into this, do not limit yourself to only fishing the big obvious holes. Try fly fishing more shallow, fast moving water as these types of areas tend to get stocked as well and few anglers fish them on opening day. It all depends on who gets handed the bucket off of the stocking truck. Some of the best first day spots I have ever fished are the ones that get overlooked by inexperienced eyes. Speaking again of the stocking truck, knowing the stocking boundaries and being familiar with them prior to fishing will make a big difference. You will struggle catching fish in an area that they do not stock in. To find areas that are stocked, refer to the trout stocking schedule. Additionally, if you are new to fly fishing Pennsylvania or are interested in checking out a new waterway on opening day, there are many Pennsylvania fly fishing guides that can take you out.
Another location tip is not to be afraid to try your favorite delayed harvest section, the streams you have been winter fly fishing, on the first day of trout season. You may be asking why, but chances are that most people will go to areas that have been freshly stocked with trout with the intention to keep some of their catch. The delayed harvest sections get less pressure once the season opens, and you may even have the stream to yourself. Also, many of these streams are close if not already in the top 10 trout streams in Pennsylvania. These sections are typically stocked prior to opening day and this can make them even more effective when fly fishing. The earlier stocking means the fish in these sections have been in the river longer and have been feeding on more natural forage, and not hatchery pellets. This is a big advantage for fly fisherman.
If you do choose to go to water that gets a higher amount of pressure, it helps is to stay out all day. Most people will leave the water between 10am and 2pm to eat or take a nap before coming back out for the evening. This means with some dedication you could have some alone time fly fishing the honey hole that was once lined shoulder to shoulder with people at daybreak. Moral of the story is, pack a lunch and tough it out.
Understanding Stocked Fish
Freshly stocked fish can be both a blessing and a curse for a fly fisherman. Your success typically depends on how long they have been in the waterway. If they are fresh, fly fishing can be very tough, as the best flies for trout in Pennsylvania are typically crafted to imitate natural forage in the stream, which I’ll talk about more in the next section. Some streams are stocked the same week as the season opener, which does not allow fish a lot of time to get acclimated to the stream. A lot of times, the fish will not move too far from where they are put in at. Again, this is why it is important to know the waterway you intend to fish. Fish that have had more time in the stream tend to spread out to find their own areas, but the vast majority of them may still lie in the deep holes. However, some of my favorite spots to fish are the more shallow, faster areas. The fish in these areas are forced to make a quicker decision whether to take your presentation or not. Pair this advantage with some of the best flies for Pennsylvania stocked trout below and you could be in business. There is a period that only lasts a few days where the fish will take pretty much anything thrown at them, usually 2 or 3 days after the fish are stocked. On day one, the fish are usually still in shock and tend not to bite as much. If you are lucky enough to be able to fish on one of the prime days, you will have a better chance at success. After these days have passed, the fish grow more used to the stream and start to forage on natural prey in the stream and the best flies for trout in Pennsylvania become productive again.
Fly Fishing Pennsylvania on Opening Day with These Fly Choices
As I mentioned above, freshly stocked fish are used to eating hatchery pellets. This is a fact of life that can be hard to handle for some fly fisherman. You need to stock your box with some flies that will catch the fish’s eye and trigger reaction strikes on the first day and in early season. These fish will not be used to taking nymphs or dry flies yet so you may want to leave those at home, which is a change from the winter and fall trout fishing boxes you have been carrying.
I will typically pack my box with a variety of colors of egg and sucker spawn patterns. These tend to work well for freshly stocked fish, especially rainbow trout. I usually fish these under an indicator with a few small split shot, this way you can detect even the slightest bump. Another fly that should be in your box in a few colors is the always reliable wooly bugger. For the first day I prefer white buggers with a lot of flash, water color permitting. Wooly buggers are great for all trout species. These flies can either be dead drifted with or without an indicator or they can be stripped like a streamer. Personally, I prefer stripping them because I like to have total control of the fly’s movement. For freshly stocked fish, I like to strip the fly rather quickly to trigger a strike. Squirmy wormy and sparkle worm flies can also be very effective for freshly stocked fish. These can be fished under an indicator, or without. It is a personal preference.
Another good fly for the first day is the mop fly or the green weenie. I tend not to use these as much, but both are very effective at tempting the fresh fish to bite. Knowing the type of trout you are fishing for also plays a factor in which flies to choose. If your stream is stocked with rainbows, any of the flies listed above should work. Remember, rainbows love anything shiny. Browns tend to be more aggressive; I typically have the most luck for them while stripping wooly buggers. Judge which color bugger to use off of the water clarity. My rule of thumb is light colors for clear water, and darker colors for murky water. Brooke trout seem to like white wooly buggers the most while I’m fishing, but they could take any of the above flies as well.
The first day can be very productive for fly fisherman. If you do your homework on the stream or river you intend to fish you should have some good luck. Combine stream research with understanding the fish and choosing the correct fly and you will get a deadly combination that should bring many fish to your net (hopefully one of the big ones). I hope you can make use of these tips and they are as effective for you as they have been for me in the past. As always please be safe and I wish you all tight lines where ever the first day of trout season may take you in Pennsylvania.