Fishing in May

          The adage “April showers, brings May flowers” is certainly true most years. This year despite a relatively dry and cold April the trees, bushes and flowers are in bloom. Many are a full three weeks later than last spring.  Just as the flora and fauna are blossoming so is the fresh and saltwater fishing. Activity on both fronts will improve as air and water temperatures rise.

          On inland ponds and streams trout fishing becomes more productive in the warmer May weather.  Fly fishing for trout improves in May as insect life becomes more prolific and there’s fewer fishermen to contend with. Dry fishing comes into its own with more hatches occurring with each passing day.  Here in Rhode Island, the last week in May and first week in June is typically when the regularity of  hatches peaks. Largemouth bass will move into their spawning areas early in the month. Smallmouths on the other hand will be on their beds and will have spawned before the second week in May.  Typically smallies in Beach Pond on the R.I./ CT border and Wallum Lake on the R.I./ Mass border will  have spawned by May 5th. This year I think it may be a week later. American Shad on their spawning runs will be returning to the Palmer River in Seekonk, MA and  hopefully the Pawcatuck River in Westerly/Ashway R.I.  Shad are often called the “Poor man’s tarpon” because of they fight hard and jump frequently. Brightly colored flies tied on heavy wire No. 4 or 6 hooks like Mustad ‘s Model #7970   fished deep and close to the bottom work best. Here’s a pattern from back in late 1970s that worked well in the Pawcatuck River and should work well for shad anywhere. The pictured fly is tied on a fly jig head type hook  but Clouser or bead chain eyes  on  heavy wire hooks are useable.

Joe’s Shad Fly

Joe’s Shad Fly- as dressed by Joe Adamonis

Thread: Red

Hook:  Any heavy wire hook- (Wapsi Fly hook 1/64 oz  pictured)

Body: Silver Mylar tubing slightly longer than hook. Tubing is slipped over hook and tied in at head. The tail of the tubing is intentionally left picked out and shredded.

Wing:  A bunch of Barred Mallard Beast fibers

I tried the Pawcatuck R. early last May for the first time in many years and came up empty. I didn’t see any shad or river herring.  Another seasoned fisher nearby also came up short. I was fishing a pool where herring and shad normally congregate before continuing upstream. I watched the Cormorant make four,20 second long dives and come up empty. He then shook his feathers and flew off  and that was my signal to do likewise.

Meanwhile in tidal rivers and estuaries along southern New England the number of silversides returning will increase as each day passes. In pursuit of them will be an increasing number of striped bass. A Ray’s Fly or other silverside imitations from 3-4” in length work best this time of year.

Ray’s Fly

 Typically, the first bluefish arrive around mid-month and the first reported catch will probably come from the Sally Rock/Sandy Pt. area of Greenwich Bay, R.I. They will be about two pounds. Spring of 2012 was unusually warm and I fished a worm hatch the that began on Mother’s day weekend.  I feel it will be closer to Memorial day weekend  this year.   Clam worm activity typically heightens  toward the end of May  as water temperature rise. Clams worms can be seen actively swimming around near the surface after dark in circles, figure eights, and other patterns that only clam worms and stripers know.  There’s many different clam worm patterns. A Ken Abrames clam worm fly tied using orange egg yarn is one of the best prescriptions I know for these conditions. Not fancy, it just works. Pictured below is a clam worm pattern and one of its admirers from my good friend  Joe Adamonis of North Kingston , RI.

clam worm fly         Joes 36 in clamworm fly

May is also the month when Squeteague(Weakfish) arrive but with only sporadic reports for several years chances seem slim that they will return in substantial numbers if at all. I did get a nice seven pounder seven years ago in Greenwich Bay on a Chartreuse and White Clouser. Back in the 1970s when many squeteague returned annually I did well on a Yellow Brooks Blonde and Ray’s “Yellow Rebel.”

                The month of May offers the fly fisher a variety of species to fish for. Black Bass trout, shad and striped bass and squeteague fishing gives the newcomer to the sport a chance to find out what it’s all about, while offering the veteran fly rodder a chance to hone his technique, while adding to what he already knows.


Bass Rock in Narragansett, R.I. may be worth a shot for the first two weeks in May.

All tidal rivers and estuaries are productive in May, Early- Coles River in Swansea, MA .

Colt Park and Bristol Narrows  in Bristol, R.I->-from mid-month on

Hamilton/Bissel Cove , Rome Pt. area  and   Allen’s and Wickford Harbors in North Kingstown R.I.–> from mid-month on.

Greenwich Bay/Goddard Park,  East Greenwich, RI–>all month—few hours either side of high tide are best.

© Ray Bondorew