Seneca Lake out of Watkins Glen 1/14


There are good reasons to fish in the winter and there are good reasons not to fish. My first really accomplished fishing buddy Terry didn’t care to keep his boat out all winter – he winterized his. Not a bad call sometimes.

My buddy Mike and I arrived at Watkins at around 9:15 am with 21 degree air temps. The skies were sunny and the wind was light out of the south. We took our time getting the boat ready. As we prepared to launch Dave Wood (who runs open bass tournaments during the summer) pulled in and said hi. He launched ahead of us without too many problems – a little skidding on the ramp was about it.

We tried launching around 9:30 but my boat was frozen on my trailer bunks! I backed in far enough to literally float my trailer (that’s just how frozen it was) with no luck. After 10 to 12 minutes of trying, Mike finally shook the boat off the trailer. The ramp had a little ice on it, which made for some scary moments, though it really wasn’t that bad.

Lesson #1: Make sure to bring a shovel (that can break ice) and some sand or salt to the boat launch. A buddy also helps, so the boat can be rocked off the bunks.

Once launching I warmed up the motor a bit and eventually the water started spewing out of the frozen water jet. Good.

We headed up the lake with beautiful conditions. It was worth it after all! We set up in deep water (around 200′) with our fly-rods and drifted up the lake. Fly-fishing landlocked salmon in 200′ of water, far away from any structure is a leap of faith. You just “gotta believe.” And I do. I believe I can look at the water with confidence that we’ll run into some salmon. And within 10 minutes I had a good hit. Although our hands were freezing (it was still around 21 or maybe 24 degrees out, with wind and we wore no gloves) the fish gave us some energy.

The fish didn’t come back, but 10 or 20 minutes later Mike felt a grab and kept stripping – “fish on!” Then his line broke and I watched a gorgeous chrome landlocked salmon around 23″ to 24″ long and maybe 4lbs or better careen into the air. We weren’t sure why the 10lb test leader broke – maybe knot fatigue, wear or just bad timing on the hook set. Our predicted 5 to 7 mph south winds cranked up to around 10 to 15 mph with higher gusts. We tried another drift but it was getting hard to strip the flies in fast enough – esp. given that my fly-line was tangling a bit. We tried another area, somewhat out of the wind and I had one follow. But we had no grabs. Time flew by and before long we only had a couple hours left and headed back to spot #1. I got hit again but didn’t hook up. Hit twice actually. We drifted a couple more times and I got hit again and again- out over 210′ of water – but I just couldn’t connect. The fish weren’t coming back and I wasn’t hooking them for some reason. Mike used a smaller fly with a hook in the back (a tube fly.) I used large streamers and a RIO Deep 7 sinking flyline. A switch to a smaller streamer didn’t help. Color didn’t seem to matter – fish hit white and chartreuse.

So it wound up being a fun day – we had some action (enough to keep us fishing hard) but no fish landed. Such is the life of a lake fishing salmon addict. Water temps were 40 degrees. We saw 2 other boats out there (total) on the day. We’ll be back!