May’s Bounty


May is an awesome month for the fly fisher.  It offers the wonderful angling conundrum of too many choices and species to chase.  This is especially true in New York State.  It’s the time of year when Spring fully awakens, water temperatures rise and fisheries come more active.  The cold of Winter is shrugged off and the promise of Spring delivers.

This year, I’ve spent more time on the water targeting smallmouth.  Sure, it’s fun to chase the occasional drop back steelhead.  These hungry guys can be electric and it’s prime time to swing streamers.  I tangled with a couple of fish not too long ago that were possessed to intercept my fly and then cartwheel downstream.  When isn’t it cool to catch steelhead on the swing in May?  There’s also the option to drift a Hendrickson dry past an unsuspecting trout.  Two weeks ago, I landed a beautiful 21″ surface sipping brown on the Main Stem of the Delaware.  It was a thing of beauty and a great way to start the dry fly season.  Just the visualization of those mayfly sailboats emerging en masse quickens the pulse of any dry fly enthusiast.   Others get their kick out of sight fishing for carp.  Heck, there’s even the fun sport of carp chasing/tackling stranded carp,  if you locate the flooded zones.  Chasing carp across grass flats is a fun cross training endeavor!

My pick this Spring has been to chase smallmouth bass.  In typical May fashion, the smallmouth fishing is darn good.  The optimal fishing usually lasts 3-4 weeks.    These guys leave the Finger Lakes or Lake Ontario to spawn. They are willing to intercept a variety of streamers and put up a nice fight.  It’s also a great chance to find smallmouth, in uncharacteristically shallow water.  My go to pattern this year has been a hybrid black zonker with an undulating ostrich tail.  It fishes well both stripped and sitting on the floor.  Smallies have attacked it on the swing, dead drifted, towards the surface and nearly motionless.  I’ve sight fished them and blind cast to smallies.  On my last trip, I tangled with a fish that may have pushed 5 to 6 lbs.  That’s a fine smallie, wherever you fish. 

We’re halfway through May.  Get outside and pick your angling pursuit.  It’s a great month to live in Upstate NY and the weather is finally delivering.  Better yet, take a kid or newbie fly fishing and help share the bounty of fly fishing that New York State offers in May!

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Craig Dennison

This is Craig and I host Fly Fisher's Workshop. My fly fishing experiences include plenty of travel (Montana/Florida/North Carolina/Maine) and a few years part time guiding for trout. While I primarily target trout and steelhead, I still manage to chase warm water species and enjoy chasing stripers and bluefish. I'm a 3rd generation fly fisher trying to share the passion with my two sons!

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