Categories
Fly Patterns Gear Philosophy Streams Tips And Technique

My Take on Salmon Fishing in the Salmon River, NY

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Photo taken from “Trout and Salmon of North America” by Robert J. Behnke
Illustration by Joseph R. Tomelleri

     I‘ll be honest, I am not much of a Pacific Salmon fisherman.  There are many reasons for this the first being I have more passion for pursuing trout, landlocked salmon and steelhead than I do the two species of Pacific Salmon that were introduced into the Great Lakes. Salmon runs on the Salmon River can start as early as August. At that time of the year and into October the weather can be very nice. Nice fare weather combined with big fish in the river will also bring out hoards of fisherman.

   Years ago,  when I first started fishing the Salmon River, I took a drive from South Utica, where I lived at the time, up to the river with my sights on fishing the Sportsman’s Pool.  It was on October 5th and I was pretty excited at the chance of hooking a salmon.  I was up early and was at the parking lot before light.  There were not many cars in the lot so that seemed encouraging.  I walked to the river and had the head of the pool to myself, but it was still too early to fish so I checked over my gear to pass the time .  As I waited more and more fisherman arrived at the pool.  By the time fishing was legal the place was elbow to elbow.  I never made a cast and decided to leave.  I drove 20 minutes or so to Taberg and went north as I decided to fish The East Branch of Fish Creek.  The pool I picked was void of fisherman but there were rising fish.  I spent the late morning casting elk hair caddis dry flies and caught a few nice browns.  Though not a whopping pacific salmon it was a great day and just what I was looking for: some room to cast and some active fish.

Spey Fishing the Hemlocks
Fishing the Salmon River in October
Photo by Jessica Lettich

   Over the years I have mostly avoided the Salmon River during the salmon run but friends will convince me to give it a try from time to time.  One time in the early fall of 2013, my buddy called and said “Let’s go up and give it a try, it can be a warm-up for steelhead.”  I guess that was convincing enough so I decided to make the trip. Since that first trip back in the 90s I have learned that the river is quite long and has over ten miles of public water below the dam at the lower reservoir.  There are many spots to try and it’s possible to find a whole run to yourself during salmon season, even on a weekend.

   Another thing that deters me from spending a lot of time salmon fishing is the techniques I see used to fish.  I am by no means against putting a mild bit of weight on the leader to help the fly sink a little but the amount of weight used by many fisherman is absurd.  Overuse of split-shot can lead to lost flies and monofilament that ends up in the river which with the amount of fisherman can really add up.   I enjoy fly casting and Spey casting too much to make the cast labor in the least by adding shot. So for salmon and steelhead I choose to use floating lines with sinking leader systems so nice loops are still possible.

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Salmon River Chinook Salmon

    On one particular outing,  September 28th, 2013, my buddy and I were fishing up river in the upper fly fishing only section of the Salmon River.  It was in the afternoon after a morning of no hook-ups and the weather was perfect.  I had decided to fish a bright fly that I had just tied the night before.  We found a nice section of water and there were no other anglers around.  We could see fish moving up through the fast water.  I was fishing a 12 and 1/2 foot 8 weight spey rod with a weight forward 9 weight spey line and a 3.9 inch per second sinking leader with 3 foot 12 pound tippet.  I positioned myself well upstream of what looked like the main area fish were moving through.  It was at the tail of the pool and seemed to be about 2-3 feet deep.  The area I was targeting was about halfway across the river but the river bent to the left so by standing far enough above I could get a nice slow swing and even get the fly to dangle straight downstream into the seam the fish were moving through.

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Silver, White, Flame,and Pink Wet fly that took a King Salmon on the dangle September 28th, 2013

   I made some casts and swung the fly; trying to keep the presentation slow and let the fly dangle in the current after the swing was completed.  On one of the casts during the dangle the line went tight.  I was hooked into something that hit the fly pretty hard as it dangled in the current.  After an intense fight with some jumps and drag testing runs I was able to land a very dark but still healthy male Chinook Salmon.  I was pretty happy and knew I had learned something that day.  With a little patience in finding a nice spot to fish and thought towards presentation a King Salmon will hit a fly.

 

 

Categories
Fly Patterns Gear Philosophy

Grandpa’s Favorite Fly

Grandpa’s Favorite Fly    by Matt Chapple

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September when the leaves start to fall

Each  year as the end of summer approaches, when the air temperatures start to drop and the first leaves start to flutter down into the water, fond memories of fly fishing in the Adirondack foothills rise from the back of my mind.   My first and of course most influential fly fishing mentor, Grandpa, loved to fly fish for brook and brown trout at many “off the beaten path” places in the Adirondack foothills.  He pursued the  solitude of nature as much as trout, and he was always willing to take me along. 

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A simple fly box with some of Grandpa’s wet flies. The box was made from a cough drop box and some glue and felt.

September was his favorite time of year to fish. He loved the fall colors and brisk air temperatures and of course the lack of biting insects which swarm the woods in the spring.  He wasn’t in search of a place to catch big fish or even concerned about how many fish we might be lucky enough to entice into rising to the fly.  The fun was about the journey, about spending time in nature and spending a day with family or friends in a beautiful setting.  He had a simple fly rod, a Horrocks-Ibbotson, made in Utica, NY,  where he worked as an accountant. I still have this rod, which my father gave to me when my Grandfather passed in September 2004. It is a mere six feet long and if I had to categorize the action, I would say it casts extra slow.  You really have to wait for your cast to develop.  Things were simple.  He used a white  braided silk double taper fly line,  which I also still have.  Just like everything else, He had a simple collection of flies.  He had certain flies for certain times of year and specific patterns for the waters he fished.  He never brought more than one small fly box and the boxes where home-made using materials he found around the house.

Did you ever walk along the stream in the fall and see a honey bee, hornet, or bumble bee flying like it had been sipping on Grandpa’s flask?  Perhaps on a crash course for the stream.   Grandpa had one small box of flies devoted to the same pattern, which he always said was his favorite. He would bring this box along when we would  fish some of his favorite steams and ponds in the late summer/early autumn.  He called the flies “The McGinty.”

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Photo by Quinci Chapple: Not the exact pattern, but Grandpa’s wet version of the McGinty.

I have read that a fellow named, Charles McGinty conceived the McGinty in 1883. McGinty was from Chicago and may have been thinking of targeting bass when he thought of this fly. Don’t be fooled however, I have seen many trout fooled by this bee imitation.  Next time you are out in the late summer or early fall,  try casting the McGinty along the rivers edge near the over hanging branches and plant life and see what comes up.  

Photos by Quinci Chapple

Original Recipe for “The McGinty”

Hook:  dry fly 6 to 12.

Thread:  Black 8/0 thread

Tail:  Red Hackle Barbules.

Body:  Alternating Yellow and Black Chenille.

Beard:  Brown Hackle Barbules.

Wing:  White Tipped Mallard Quill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Fly Patterns Gear Hatches Streams Tips And Technique

Time for Tricos

Time for Tricos
by Matt Chapple

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A pair of Cedar Waxwings enjoy a meal of Tricos too

There are many small streams in Central New York, like the Oriskany Creek that produce excellent hatches of the Tricorythodes or tiny white and black mayfly. The Tricos start to emerge sometime in July.  Look for them as a swarm-cloud over the  riffles of the stream, which indicates a strong population.  They exist in good numbers  in streams with some silt.  One of the most beautiful sites of the year is looking up into the morning sun and seeing the a cloud of Tricos. Though they are incredibly small, ranging from size 20 to 26, these tiny mayflies can provide some of the most exciting action of the year. The hatch is usually very reliable. Once the first hatch starts sometime in July, expect to see a hatch every morning until the first really hard frost.

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The Oriskany Creek low and clear, but a nice 62 F during Trico Hatch.

Male Tricos, which have an entirely  black/dark brown body, emerge overnight and take refuge until the emergence of the female duns.  Females have a white abdomen and a black thorax. Emergence of the female duns will occur in the morning from sunrise to 9am depending on the weather. A really hot morning will cause an earlier emergence and colder weather will push it back towards noon. From sunrise to emergence fishing a sunken fly is possible, and during the emergence you may elicit some strikes with a dry fly/surface presentation, but the best action comes when the Tricos molt and mate.  Some publications have stated that Tricos duns molt into spinners in the air.  It is thought now that hey must land to molt.   Some of them may take flight  with the  dun exoskeleton  still attached to the  tails. This may give the illusion that the spinners are molting in the air.  The spinner fall will happen in a relatively short period of time, sometime from 9am-12pm.  There will be countless dead and dying Tricos drifting on the surface , in the film or just below the surface.  It looks like the fish are taking nothing! They can feed on the dead spinners for quite a while after all the spinners have dropped.

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My Dad took this picture of me fishing the Trico hatch on the Oriskany years ago. You are likely to have the stream to yourself.

A stealth approach is critical to success on smaller central New York streams. The water will most likely be very low and clear. Casting accuracy is also important.  Fish spook very easily in the low clear water of summer. The best tackle to use for these small central New York streams is a 3 or 4 weight 7 to 9 foot rod, which will help with a delicate presentation.   Cast well above rising fish 10-15 feet if possible in slower water.  The between rising fish and the cast is not as critical if fish are taking spinners in more choppy water of a riffle or head of a pool.   Use 7X or 8X tippet, and a leader of at least 10-foot.

 

trico2Trico Hare Spinner

One my favorite flies to fish the trico hatch has been the Trico Hare spinner or dun. It is easy to tie and is very suggestive to trout.

Trico Hare Spinner Tying Specifications

Hook #20-#22 dry fly(I like straight eye hooks so I have room to thread the tippet)
Thread White 8/0
Tail Snowshoe Hare Foot under-hair
              Body
Abdomen White thread
Thorax Black Beaver Dubbing
Wing Snowshoe Hare Foot under-hair tied flat (spent wings) or upright like a comparadun also works.
 Don’t let the hot summer days put an end to your trout fishing. Get out in the morning and challenge the trout and yourself  with a Trico imitation. Both the Oriskany Creek and Sauquoit Creek in central New York produce good hatches of Tricos.
Categories
Tips And Technique

Getting Ready for Spring

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Healthy hold over brown caught on 3/22/2015

Most of my winter fishing is focused on fishing for steelhead in the Salmon River.  My gear of choice for steelhead consists of spey rods,  floating lines, sinking leaders, heavy tippet and bigger,  sometimes colorful flies.  As spring approaches, in addition to steelhead,  I start to think about lake-run rainbows around Ithaca and early season brown trout fishing on inland streams.  There are a number of streams open to all year fishing around Ithaca.   The places I fish for rainbows and browns may require a different approach, as I move to swinging and dead-drifting smaller patterns much of the time, but may still swing a streamer. This  means I will  look over my gear and flies before the spring  season starts to take off and make sure I am ready.

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A couple outfits loaded with new lines, inspected and ready to fish

I will look over rods for damage, such as a loose guide or reel-seat.   I usually put together a few outfits and put them in a case for easy access.  Although I always bring extras in the car, a long hike to a stream to discover a broken rod would be a bummer.

I always look at lines for cracks.  Casting with cracks in the line will not only effect performance but it can also damage the guides.  The roughness of the cracks in the line can wear grooves in the metal of the guides.  Cleaning and treating  the lines is also a good idea, as it makes casting so much easier.

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I like to take out the reels I am going to use and see if they are in good working order.  I may even clean and oil them if I don’t remember doing any  recent maintenance on them.

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I fish various sizes of streams in the spring and the water clarity will vary depending on snowmelt and rainfall.  I like to have a good supply of tippet material in various diameters.  I check to make sure I have everything from 6X up to heavy stuff at 2X, you never know when you might encounter fish feeding on the surface in clear water, which requires a light tippet,  or a heavy rain may swell and discolor the water and heavy tippet is the order of the day.  Also something to think about is the age of the tippet.  Old tippet can become weak.

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Bead Head Wet Flies are among my favorites to fish in the spring

 

I have favorite early season flies I use for certain waters,  so I will look through my fly boxes and do a visual inventory.  If I see one that is worn or scabby looking I may get rid of it.  If I see some of my favorites are a little low in quantity I may go to the vice and tie a few.

Although there are many places to fish all year, some of my favorite spots to fish on opening day over the years have been Sauquoit Creek, Oriskany Creek, and down in Ithaca, The Cayuga Inlet.

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This Pheasant Tail Bead Head Wet with long partridge fibers took my first inland brown trout of 2015 on 3/22.

 

Categories
Conservation Philosophy Tips And Technique

Enlightening Experiences in Fly Fishing: A Brown on Fall Creek

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      Ithaca is truly a beautiful place to live.  It is at the south end of Cayuga Lake,  one of the gorgeous Finger Lakes. The area is blessed with many majestic waterfalls, gorges and interesting rock formations .  One of the biggest tributaries is Fall Creek which has a scenic waterfall less than one mile from its mouth near Stewart Park.  Another unique feature of Fall Creek is that the falls is within the city limits so getting to a pub, restaurant or sandwich shop is not a big trip.

      One late fall day back on December 1st, 2000 I made the decision to go into the city of Ithaca and fish Fall Creek below Ithaca Falls. At the time I was experimenting with different streamer patterns to mimic the baitfish in the lake (smelt and alewives) and had designed a few that had produced a fish or two. I was fishing an 8 or 9 foot 5 weight rod at the time and a weight forward floating line.  Sometimes I would put a bb shot or two on the leader or use a sinking leader.  At the time, I was making sinking leaders from a full sinking line I had bought.  I would just cut it into different length pieces and put some braided loops on each end.  I had it in my head that I needed to get the fly down by using some weight to get the attention of a fish.

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Quinci Chapple fishing a fly at Ithaca Falls

     This particular day was a fairly cold day.  It was a long time ago, so I don’t remember what I was thinking on the drive over to the stream, but I imagine I was hoping there were some fish in the stream and that they were in a biting mood.  You know, what every angler hopes.  I  like to park in the small dirt lot just on the south side of the stream and take the short rocky trail which meanders just behind a large pipe that must have been part of the Ithaca water system at some point.  Be careful walking down this way, although it’s fun, a fall on some of those rocks would surely hurt a bit.

     As a local angler of this stream for quite a few years, I am acutely aware of changes to the stream bottom and changes to the pools.  Being a short run below the falls, Fall Creek has very few pools, but the one by the bridge on Lake Street is the easiest to fish and is a very IMG_0594short walk.  The pool has changed significantly since 2000 as a large amount of gravel has been washed down from above the falls during high water events. This gravel has filled in some of the great holding water that once existed at the tail-out of the pool at the Lake Street bridge, affectionately called the “Plumbers Pool” by many local anglers.  During the fall/winter season of 2000, I remember the pool having a nice long deep tail-out on the north side along the cliff which extended far past the eddie created by the cliff at the head of the pool.  The nice deep channel extended all the way under the bridge, so a nice long line swinging style of presentation could be achieved and a streamer could swim nicely through the tail-out.

IMG_2385     My streamer experimentation had led me to a great book titled “Smelt Fly Patterns”  by Donald A. Wilson, a fly angler and guide from Maine.  The book contains numerous fly patterns to imitate baitfish, particularly smelt.  I had been tying various selections from the book, but the one that really caught my eye was called “The Supervisor.”  I had heard of this pattern before and was working on my own adaptation.  My nature leads me to use materials I have. So, I took the color scheme from the fly but instead used materials I had on hand, thus the streamer became a buck-tail version.

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Bucktail streamer pattern influenced by the “supervisor”

    In addition to experimenting with streamers I was also interested in presenting the flies without a sink-tip or any added weight.  It definitely makes casting much more enjoyable and of course much easier.  On this day in December 2000, I was fishing an 8 foot 5 weight rod with a weight forward floating line and a simple tapered leader with 3 foot of tippet and then the buck-tail “Supervisor.”

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     I don’t remember exactly how long I was fishing that day before “it” happened, but hopefully , I will never forget “it”.  I pulled out my journal while writing this article and it says the water on that day was 35 degrees F.  There is nothing written about the water clarity, but I remember it being very clear. I was rolling out some casts over toward the cliff at an angle down towards the bridge and putting in some subtle mends upstream in order to counteract the main current push in the center of the pool; trying to slow the fly down in order to let the fly swim across the current from right to left.  On one of the casts the fly landed slightly above the line due to an underpowered cast.  The head of the fly was actually facing down steam. The current began to pull the fly line and subsequently the fly downstream and the fly began to turn so that the head of the fly was upstream.  As it was turning,  a fish rose up from the bottom to intercept the fly.  I saw the entire take happen before my eyes,  it was similar to dry fly fishing.  I was excited about seeing such a cool take of the fly.  This take has resinated with me ever since as a sort of enlightenment.  An angler does not have to be overly aggressive with the use of weight because with the right conditions, a certain attitude and an eager fish amazing things can happen.

 

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Finger Lakes brown taken on a bucktail Supervisor

     I was able to land this fish and take a quick photograph before release.  It was a beautiful girthy brown trout.  I have always been conscious of my impact on the entire ecosystem in which the gorgeous creatures I pursue live.  Both my Father and Grandfather taught me to respect the outdoors and strive to never leave anything behind except footprints.   This mantra has also influenced the way I fish.  It is one of my goals to avoid loosing monofilament or flies in the river bed or surrounding areas.  I realize that this sometimes happens, however; by being aware and by practicing certain techniques an angler can help minimize the occurrences. One step towards this goal is to work from the “top down” and consider fishing without additional weight or sink tips before adding weight. You just might get the experience of a lifetime.

Categories
Tips And Technique

Winter Trout Fishing, Don’t Ignore the Swing

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Bright December Rainbow Taken on a swinging wet fly

December is one of my favorite times to fish the tributaries of Cayuga Lake and all year trout streams in the Ithaca area .  There are not as many anglers as when it is warm or as the spring, when it may be a bit overwhelming. When I fish December,  I usually start out swinging streamers or wet flies, before I move to dead drifting flies.  I’ve had some really great experiences in the winter catching big browns and rainbows on a swinging fly in the tributaries, which is easily the most satisfying way to catch any fish.  

There are many ways present a swinging a fly.  One simple set-up I use consists of a  10 or 11 foot  7 weight rod, an 8/9 weight floating weight forward line,  a 9 foot tapered monofilament leader,  a 3 foot tippet and a weighted or bead head fly.  I always try to use a tippet of 8 pound maxima or greater which helps absorb the shock of an aggressive take and helps fight a big fish quickly.  One presentation that has been effective, is to cast across or just slightly upstream keeping in mind the down stream spot you want the fly to swim the fly through.   As the line drifts down stream put some  subtle mends in the line allowing the fly to sink and keeping the fly line relatively straight(remove bows in the line).  As the line moves downstream follow the line with the tip of the rod.  When the line gets to about a 45 degree angle downstream of you, gently tighten and cease mending the line and let the fly swim across the stream.  fish will often take the fly as it first starts to move across the current.   Try to envision the fly under water while also watching the fly line so you can swim the fly through areas where you predict fish to be holding.  When they take using this technique there will be no doubt its a fish.

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One of my all time favorites to swing, Olive bead head wet.
Categories
Articles

West Canada Creek

The West Canada Creek
 By Matt Chapple
BlackStonefly Black Angora Stonefly Nymph 
 
“When the water receded to 200 cfs around 5pm March 19th, I landed two beauties(one around 18″) in the trophy section using #6 black stoneflies fished at the head of a pool. Sunset was around 6:30pm.” Matt Chapple
The lower portion of the West Canada from Trenton Falls flowing south through a picturesque valley to the Mohawk River at Herkimer is one of Central New York’s premier trout streams.
It offers everything a fly-fisher could dream. It has deep pools, long runs, classic riffle water, large brown trout, and excellent aquatic insect populations. There is also a year round fishery now. The section from Trenton falls to the bridge at route 28 is open year round, catch and release and only artificial lures may be used.
The West Canada has excellent populations of stoneflies. During the winter months, fishing stonefly nymphs sizes #6 to #12 will produce fish.   Hatches of caddis and mayflies start in the spring and continue throughout the summer and into the fall.  Hatches start with some Quill Gordons (Epeorus pleuralis) in April, but the hatches become heavier in May with the emergence of the Hendricksons (Ephemerella subvaria).  There are a variety of mayfly hatches and nice caddis hatches throughout the season well into the autumn, so be prepared with Elk Hair Caddis with green, tan, or gray bodies as well as Caddis emergers and pupa which are effective patterns at times when fish selectively feed on ascending caddis. 
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Click on the hatch Chart to enlarge
Comparaduns and sparkle duns are good patterns for the slick long pools during mayfly hatches.  Some other exciting hatches are the Golden Drakes (Potamanthus distinctus) in July, the White Fly (Ephoron leukon) in August and September, and Blue Winged Olives (Ephemerella attenuata) in the autumn.  When fish are not surface feeding, nymphs and streamers will also take fish.  I have taken my biggest fish fishing nymphs on the West Canada.  Prince Nymphs, Stonefly imitations, Woolly Buggers, and streamers with a touch of yellow or chartreuse can be effective.
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This pretty brown took a dead drifted Angora Stonefly Nymph while fish the West Canada in March 2000
Access to the West Canada Creek is very good. Route 28 follows along the creek for the entire stretch and provides numerous access points.  No need to stay just in the catch and release section as there are fish throughout the river.  The West Canada Creek is subject to releases from the dam.  A water level of 900 cfs is a nice fishable level, but levels from 500 to 600 are my personal favorite.  During the spring run-off water levels  can be quite high.  A toll free number has been established detailing the water releases (1-800-452-1742 site code# 365124) and can help with planning a trip.  There is also a website detailing the water release schedule.   www.h2oline.com

 

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 West Canada in March at 900 cfs

 

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The portion from Trenton Falls to where it first passes under Route 28 is the year round artificial only section and is open to fishing all year.  The West Canada, one of  Central New York’s premier trout streams, continues flowing south through a picturesque valley to the Mohawk River at Herkimer. The season opens on the rest of the creek from the Route 28 bridge to Herkimer on April first and lasts through November 30th.  Always consult the New York State Regulations Guide for seasons on all New York’s rivers and streams.

BlackStonefly

Angora Stonefly Nymph

Nymph Hook: 4-12

Thread: Black 6/0

Tail: brown goose biots(split)

Abdomen: Black Angora Goat

Rib: black wire

Thorax: Black Angora Goat

Wing case: Turkey Tail Feather

Collar: Black Webby Hackle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Biology Conservation Gear HIstory Uncategorized

New York Brook Trout

New York Brook Trout

by Matt Chapple

History in New York

The Brook Trout having the scientific name, Salvelinus Fontinalis, is actually not a trout but one of the two species of char that are native to New York State. The other being the Lake Trout. The numbers of Brook Trout have declined greatly in their native range in New York, but populations still exist. There are many miles of small streams in New York that still support populations of Brook Trout, mostly in the Adirondack Mountains, the Tug Hill Plateau, and the Catskill Mountain regions. Due to stocking programs active since the 1800s, the actual genetic lineage of the Brook Trout in many of these waters is vague.

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Caught this gorgeous little Brook Trout on an October 2, 2010 trip to the Adirondack foothills

The famous Beaverkill in the Catskills is a prime example of the decline of the brook trout. They were once abundant in the Beaverkill, but due to the river’s close proximity to New York City and increased industry, especially tanning mills, brook trout populations began to decline. Over fishing by tourists and declining water quality almost completely eliminated the brook trout from the Beaverkill by the end of the 1800s. In much of the native range the brook trout was replaced with non-native brown trout, imported from Germany, or the rainbow trout, which is native to the pacific northwest of north america. Today there are still populations of brook trout in the Catskills and brook trout are also stocked in the region by New York State hatcheries. The Beaverkill is now primarily a brown trout fishery.

At present in New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation, manages many lakes and ponds specifically as Brook Trout waters, many of these are known to support natural reproduction. Each year fish of four pounds are landed. Although, the populations of naturally reproducing Brook Trout is low compared to those that existed in history, a handful of “heritage” strains are said to exist in New York and these strains are being protected.

 

Biology

Brook Trout prefer cold water and will not survive in water with a sustained temperature above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. They typically spawn in streams October through November, but may also successfully spawn on the bottom of a lake or pond. They will spawn at the young age of 2 years old. They are a beautiful species of fish, characterized by wavy yellow markings, called vermiculations, on the back and dorsal fin. Along the sides are red dots surrounded by blue halos scattered amongst yellow spots. The underside can range from crimson, on a spawning male, to yellow or pink and the fins display a range of colors with black and white borders. In small streams brook trout will not grow to very large sizes rarely reaching 12 inches long. They mostly feed on aquatic insect nymphs and larvae.

 

Fly-fishing for Brook Trout

Fly-fishing for Brook Trout in small streams is a truly fun endeavor. A 6-7 foot 3wt rod is perfect for casting small wet flies and dries. Brook Trout are opportunistic feeders and will feed when food becomes present and will often take a swinging fly. The streams in New York that harbor Brook Trout don’t usually have sustained insect hatches, so Brook Trout are typically eager to attack a fly. Small hare’s ears or an adams are a good start when choosing a fly. One of my favorite flies that I used to fish for Brookies as a kid was a red ant pattern. Have fun with these little guys, if you find them you will most likely have the stream to yourself.

Remember the general trout season closes on October 15th. Check regulations guide for streams with extended fishing seasons.

 

Categories
Articles Biology Tips & Technique

An Early Hatch

An Early Hatch

Stonefly

The winter season is typically long, cold and gray in central New York.  Through this long cold winter season, fly-fishing is without any major insect hatches.  The other three seasons are graced with some beautiful hatches possibly starting with the Hendrickson’s in the spring and ending in late fall with caddis flies and olive mayflies.  Through the winter, just the sight of an insect can give the bright optimism of spring and create a vision of the season to come.

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Black Stonefly from Finger Lakes Region

When the majority of fly-fishers think of hatches, the first type of insects that come to mind are the delicate mayflies, which are synonymous with the sport. In central New York mayflies are not the first insects to hatch.  Every year, when there is a wintertime thaw or on a sunny day in late winter or early  spring, little black or brown stoneflies begin to emerge from central New York streams and rivers .  These insects can be seen on various streams throughout the region including Finger Lakes tributaries, Lake Ontario tributaries and various other inland streams.  The best and easiest place to see them is on a snow bank.  If there is still snow along the stream banks when they hatch, they are easily observed.  Their black/dark brown bodies against the white snow make them stick right out.  If the snow is not there, looking at some bushes, trees, boulders or any other structure along the stream banks on a warm day is the next approach to spotting them.  Some days they can be seen flying after they have dried their wings and then you know the hatch is happening.

 Brown Stone Finger Lakes

Little Brown Stonefly seen in Finger Lakes Region in 2013

The fishing can be productive with stonefly imitations during these early stonefly hatches if there is a heavy enough hatch and the fish key in on the insects.  Imagine that the immature forms will become dislodged from the underwater rocks from which they emerge and will attempt to swim and become available to trout.  Stoneflies do not emerge like most mayflies and caddis, but on the contrary will swim and  crawl along the bottom of the stream until they reach the edge and then they will crawl along the rock  bank to dry their wings and prepare for flight . Often times the water temperature is warm enough for them to hatch but air temperature is still cold so the wings will not fully develop, which is interesting to see as they crawl across the snow with the wings still in the wing case. Since stoneflies are crawlers and are not available on the ascent from the water like many aquatic insects associated with trout fly fishing, it can be easy to miss a small hatch.   My success with little black /dark brown patterns through the winter into the spring is enough to convince me that the trout are focusing on these insects.  If your lucky and adults emerge but fall back to the waters surface, trout may feed on the surface.  This can be the first dry fly action of the season in central New York.

 

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small stonefly seen on the snow during winter 2014

A semi-deep slow presentation will be essential during these early hatches due to cold water temperatures and to mimic the crawling behavior of these little stoneflies. Don’t neglect letting the fly swing at the end of the dead drift as fish are sometimes triggered into the bite by the movement of the fly across their field of vision.  This is always the best way to hook a fish!!

 Here are some flies to try during the stonefly hatch:

Pheasant Tail Wet (Darker the better)

Hook: Nymph hook size 12-16

Thread: Olive 8/0

Tail: Pheasant Tail fibers

Abdomen: Pheasant Tail Fibers

Rib: Fine Copper Wire

Thorax: Peacock Herl

Legs: Hungarian Partridge(two turns at the head)

Black Stonefly

This one has been deadly on the West Canada in the winter.

Hook: nymph hook 6-14

Thread: Black 8/0

Tail: Brown goose biots (split

Abdomen: Angora goat Fur

Rib: V inyl rib

Thorax: Angora goat Fur

Wing Case: Turkey Tail

Collar: Black Hackle

Stubble Bugger

I have used this pattern to take browns, steelhead and landlocked salmon.

Hook: Scud Hook 10-14

Thread: Black 8/0

Tail: Black Marabou

Body: Black Micro Chenille

Hackle: Black Palmered and Clipped

Micro Stone

This is a good winter steelhead fly.

Hook: Scud hook 10-16

Thread: Black 8/0

Tail: Black hackle fibers (4-5)

Body: Black Rabbit mixed with green and red Flashabou

Rib: Fine copper wire

Thorax: Angora goat fur (Teased out)

 

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Finger Lakes Rainbow caught on a #14 Pheasant Tail Wet Fly spring 2014

 

 

 

Categories
Articles Biology Conservation Fish HIstory Tips & Technique

New York Atlantic Salmon

Landlocked Atlantic Salmon caught and released in the fall of 2003

History in New York

Of all the salmon species that exist in New York’s waters today, including Chinook, Coho, Pink and Sockeye,  only the Atlantic Salmon is native to the state.  Lake Ontario once supported a population of wild Atlantic Salmon.  This population may have originated from the anadromous form which is one that lives a large part of its life in the ocean and spawns in freshwater.  The anadromous form may have migrated up the St. Lawrence River to Lake Ontario and into its tributaries and never returned to the Atlantic Ocean but used Lake Ontario or the Finger Lakes as a substitute for the ocean.  This form of Atlantic Salmon is referred to as “Landlocked”, and this population of Landlocked Atlantic Salmon was once quite large and there were major spawning runs that existed in the Salmon River system, Oswego River system, and the Genesee River system as well as others.  The loss of suitable spawning habitat caused the decline and subsequent extinction of New York’s Atlantic Salmon population. Some of the major contributors towards the loss of spawning habitat were, dams which blocked access to prime spawning areas, agricultural run off which covered spawning areas with silt, and the removal of stream-side trees which caused increased water temperatures, over harvesting, and water pollution.  By the late 1800’s the native Lake Ontario salmon were gone.

New York at Present

At present there are many lake and tributary systems across New York State that have populations of Landlocked Atlantic Salmon.  Unfortunately these populations are maintained by annual stocking programs.  There is very little if any natural reproduction due to the presence of a small  fish commonly called an alewife, which is not native to Lake Ontario or the Finger Lakes. The Alewife invaded the Great Lakes and reached a peak in the 1950’s.  Two examples are Lake Ontario and Cayuga Lake which both harbor populations of Alewives.  The skin of the Alewife contains an enzyme (thiaminase) not found in the natural forage base of the Atlantic Salmon.  This enzyme causes the breakdown vitamin B-1 (thiamine) which is essential to successful growth of the alevin stage of the atlantic salmon. With this vitamin deficiency the alevin usually die.  Although natural reproduction does not occur, many stocked Atlantic Salmon return to the streams were they were stocked  and can be viewed as they spawn from mid October to mid November during the peak of spawning activity. Unlike pacific salmon such as Chinook and Coho which have also been introduced into some New York’s waters, some Atlantic Salmon may return to their home lake after spawning and may return to spawn again. So they can sometimes become quite large, which is a good reason to practice catch and release.  There is research being conducted in a combined effort between Universities, state and government agencies to determine the feasibility of Atlantic Salmon restoration to New York. At present through stocking programs Atlantic Salmon can be found in Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes, some Adirondack lakes and Lake Champlain.  Recently programs to re-introduce the native forage fish of Atlantic Salmon are being investigated.

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              bright salmon caught and released in the spring using a streamer pattern

Fly-fishing for Atlantic Salmon

The Atlantic Salmon is still regarded as one of the top game fish in New York.  They are known for their hard runs and incredible leaping ability which makes fishing for them an exciting experience.  New York anglers can use a variety of fly-fishing techniques at various times of the year to fish for Atlantic Salmon.  In the spring when off shore water temperatures are still cold salmon can be found along shorelines feeding on bait fish and they also may enter the lower stretches of tributaries to feed on schools of bait fish, such as the rainbow smelt or alewives.  In the Lake Ontario tributary system they may enter a river in the spring and stay in the river until spawning in the fall.  Streamer patterns that mimic  small bait fish are effective at this time.  A 9 to 11 foot 6 weight fly rod or even a longer 12 foot plus rod are good choices for battling the wind and casting streamers in the early spring conditions.  Sink tip or sinking lines work well but at certain times a floating line can be used when salmon are in close to shore chasing bait fish near the surface.  When salmon move into the lower stretches of tributaries following the smelt or other baitfish  they will often feed furiously,  but the action often does not last long  as they move out as quickly as they entered the tributary, which will require being in the right place at the right time.   Swinging the streamer as well as varying the retrieve with quick stripping motions will entice salmon to strike when they are chasing baitfish.

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This salmon took a swinging woolly bugger

During the spawning season when salmon move upstream in search of a mate, the fly-fishing strategies are somewhat different.  The salmon are not moving into the stream in search of food as they are in the spring, but enter as a result of an instinct to spawn.  Although it is commonly thought that they are not feeding, they will still strike a variety of flies possibly out of aggression and territoriality, including dry flies, as they protect their spawning areas or hold in a pool during their migration.  Post spawn salmon may also resume feeding and can become veracious feeders.  Salmon can be taken using a variety of  techniques and patterns in the fall.  Stripping and swinging streamers is one method as salmon can violently strike a streamer as it moves through the area in which the salmon has taken temporary residence or where the female has prepared a spawning bed.  Swinging small wet flies and nymphs will also produce strikes.  When the water temperatures start to drop in late fall and winter and the salmon in the tributaries become less active and the salmon will be less likely to move aggressively and will be more likely to strike a nymph on the dead drift, but will occasionally grab a well presented streamer pattern.

 

Atlantic Salmon, the only native salmon to New York, is a prime example of how the pressure of modern human civilization can cause the decline of wildlife.  Although the wild salmon are gone from New York, there is still opportunity to see salmon as they take part in their annual spawning migration.   As they are truly one of the most exciting fish to pursue with a fly rod.

Effective Wet-fly Nymph

  The soft partridge hackle has lifelike action in the water, making the fly appear alive, like a swimming, struggling, or emerging  nymph or small fish.  This fly can be fished using various techniques including the dead drift, the wet-fly swing, and in slow water they can be retrieved using a very slow stripping action.  All of these techniques I have  found to be effective at various times and conditions while fishing for New York’s Atlantic Salmon.

Olive Bead-head Wet

Hook: curved nymph hook 4-12

Thread: olive 6/0

Tail: pheasant tail fibers

Abdomen: Olive hare’s mask spun in a brush

Rib: fine gold wire

Thorax: peacock herl

Collar: Hungarian partridge two turns

Head: Two turns peacock herl and gold bead

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Releasing a beautiful Landlocked Atlantic Salmon back to the stream