Written by Fly Shop Guru, Craig Amacker
It’s finally deciding to be spring or maybe even summer, and opening day of the general fishing season kicked-off Saturday, May 5th. We’re finally getting into good spring fishing – blue wing olives have been hatching on cloudy days and evenings, little black caddis and bigger grannom caddis have been hatching on sunny breezy days in the riffles, and nymph and streamer fishing has been good. Lately, streams have been very low and clear, creating very spooky fish requiring you to be extra stealthy in your approach, observant of water close by, and make as few false casts as possible. That has changed in the past 24 hours with torrential downpours and massive thunderstorms hitting the area with much-needed precipitation but high and off-colored to muddy streams. Not the best thing to, but the streams can drop a bit and be fishable with 6-10” of visibility in 24 to 48 hours. The upside of this is that fish are more approachable and hungry, and bigger fish come out to play – good things to have to our advantage.
Have the following flies in your dirty water quiver: San Juan worms, big Prince nymphs, black rubber legs nymphs, and black rubber leg crystal buggers. Fish can see these flies easily in stained to muddy water and eat them willingly. Try to fish the upper stretches of streams, smaller feeder creeks, and streams in steep narrow valleys with rock /gravel bottoms because they usually clear the fastest. Also, fish the softer flowing water close to the bank and behind obstructions because that’s where fish will be holding. Try to avoid low gradient slower flowing streams because they take longer to clear.
When streams clear, things will be near perfect with good caddis and blue wing olive hatches, and excellent nymph and streamer fishing. A slight stain on the water will make fish more approachable and catchable.
The opening of the general fishing season expands our fishing opportunities by adding warm / cool water gamefish like walleye, bass, northern pike, and musky (southern zone) to the mix. Though panfish don’t have a closed season they’re now starting to invade the shallows in preparation for spawning. If you’re fishing the Madison lakes, concentrate on dark bottom bays because they have the warmest water temperatures and the most active fish – Marshall Park, Picnic Point, Governor’s Island on Lake Mendota, and Brittingham, Squaw, and Turville Bays on Lake Monona provide good shore and kayak fishing opportunities. Remember that muskies and pike key-in on smaller forge fish in the springtime, due to having less energy to chase down big prey after spawning, and smaller baitfish are the most available so don’t be afraid to use flies you’d normally use for bass just attach wire or heavy fluorocarbon to avoid bite-offs. Important note: Big muskies are often caught accidentally, by walleye and bass fishermen, and the kid fishing a small jig and minnow for crappie, every spring.
Caddis: X-Caddis Olive #16-18 and Tan #16, Craig’s Spring Creek Caddis Olive and tan #16, Elk Hair Caddis Olive #16-18, Elk Hair caddis Tan #16. Use the #18 olive X and Elk Hair Caddis for the Little Black Caddis, and the #16 olive caddis for the grannom.
Blue Wing Olives: Craig’s CDC Sparkle Dun #18-20, Sparkle Dun Baetis #18-20, BW Baetis #18-20, Improved Sparkle Dun Baetis #20.
Dry/Dropper: Stimulator Olive #16/Olive Lawson Caddis Emerger, Para Adams #16-18/Flash back Pheasant Tail #18-20.
Nymphs: San Juan Worm, Bead Head Prince Nymph #10-12, Black Rubber legs #10, clear water-Craig’s Spring creek Scud Tan and Gray,
Streamers: Rubber Leg Crystal Bugger Black #6-8, Squirrel Leech Black(olive for clear H2O)Craig’s Spring Creek Leech Black #10, Fishstress Sculpin #6.
Craig’s Bluegill Buster Chartreuse, White, and Black, Micro Popper Yellow, Chartreuse, and White
UFM Baitfish Shad #2, Rubber Leg Crystal Bugger Olive #6, Umpqua Popper White and Chartreuse
Murdich Minnow, Murdich Slider, Mazo Minnow.