WON Landing Page March 2022

The Fishing Line: Opening Day upstate New York no joke

A long-running joke in upstate New York holds that it’s no accident that Opening Day of trout season is also April Fool’s Day.

In this part of the country, April 1 often feels more like winter than spring. It may not actually snow on Opening Day, but snow is hardly out of the question, either. The streams are typically high, and the water is invariably still cold.




A typical upstate New York trout stream on Opening Day: high and  cold

A typical upstate New York trout stream on Opening Day: high and cold




Brown trout, the most common species in our neck of the woods, are most active at water temperatures from about 56 to 61 degrees. But on Opening Day the water is often in the 40s.

Such cold water generally makes life discouraging for fly anglers. When I fish on Opening Day, often enough I skip the fly rod entirely in favor of “garden hackle,” which at least gives any trout that may be present something to smell as well as look at.








Garden hackle




Never impale the worm on the hook. Use a small, light-wire hook (a #12 wet-fly hook is about right) and hook the worm lightly through the skin only, leaving the hook point exposed. This will keep the worm alive and wiggling enticingly. Let it drift in the current, on light monofilament, as naturally as possible.

If I have a “reel” hankering to break out the fly rod, I’ll often fish a garishly colored (pink or chartreuse) San Juan Worm, basically just a short length of chenille lashed to the hook in two places, with the ends singed with a lighter so the “worm” doesn’t unravel.

Another decent bet for Opening Day is a 1/8-ounce gold Phoebe spoon. Crush down the barbs on the treble hook. I prefer to fish only barbless hooks.




San Juan Worm




Whatever I fish on Opening Day, I try to keep the offering as close to the bottom as possible. Trout are pretty lethargic in the cold water, and won’t move far to grab your offering.

Whatever the weather and water conditions on an upstate Opening Day, venturing out for at least a few hours is a good way to beat cabin fever. ~The Fly Girl




Phoebe spoon





The Conversation

One Comment
  • Fish Finders says: September 9, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for the great description of how to bait the hook with a standard garden hackle. I did not know that hooking it on just through the skin would keep it wriggling to attract trout. I guess I should have known this, but I did not.

    Please keep on posting.