Fly Patterns Gear Philosophy Streams Tips And Technique

My Take on Pacific Salmon Fishing in the Salmon River, NY

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 fly 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 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 increasing numbers of big fish in the river will also bring out hoards of fisherman.

   Years ago,  when I first started fly 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 October 5th and I was pretty excited at the chance of hooking up with a salmon.  I was up early and was at the parking lot well before sunrise.  There were not many cars in the lot so that seemed encouraging.  I walked to the river down the trail and had the head of the pool to myself when I arrived.  It was still to early to start legally fishing so I checked over my gear to pass the time.  As I waited more and more fisherman arrived at the pool on both sides of the river. By the time fishing was legal the pool was elbow to elbow with fisherman eager to fish.  I never made a cast and decided to leave.  I drove 30 minutes to Taberg and traveled north and decided to fish The East Branch of Fish Creek, a stream my father had taken me to fish many times as a child and teenager.  The pool I picked was void of fisherman and I was excited to see trout rising to the surface.  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 solitude, gorgeous weather, a beautiful trout stream, some room to cast and some rising trout.

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 a certain friend 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 to the Sportsman’s Pool 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 time pacific salmon fishing on the Salmon River 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, but the amount of weight used by many fisherman is absurd.  Overuse of split-shot can lead to lost flies and monofilament on the river bottom.  Considering the amount of fisherman using excessive weight and consequently loosing gear in the Salmon River, its easy to imagine the accumulating waste on the river bed.  Although snagging salmon was banned in 1994, the Salmon River seems unable to escape the snagging culture.   I enjoy fly casting and Spey casting techniques to much to add excessive weight to the leader.  When I fish for steelhead I choose to use floating lines with sinking leader systems so nice casting loops are still possible.

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 it was a perfect fall day on the river.   I had decided to fish a bright fly that I had tied the night before.  We found a nice section of water and there were no other anglers around.  Afternoon on Sundays have become a good time for locals to fly fish as many anglers are heading home after the weekend.  In this particular area, we could see fish moving up through the fast water, which is a perfect behavior to target salmon with a fly rod.  I was fishing a 12 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 fast water tail-out of the pool and seemed to be about 2-3 feet deep.  The area I was targeting was about halfway across the river.  The river bent to the left below where I was standing. I stood far enough above the bend and the fish activity so I could get a nice slow swing and even get the fly to stop and dangle straight downstream into the seam the fish were moving through.

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 through the tail-out; trying to keep the presentation slow by adding subtle mends and let the fly dangle in the current after the swing was completed.  After a few casts as the fly was dangling in the current,  the line went tight and I was hooked into something that grabbed the fly.  After an intense fight with some jumps and runs up and down the pool,  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 to find a nice spot and thought towards presentation a King Salmon will aggressively hit a fly.

Fly Patterns Gear Philosophy

Grandpa’s Favorite Fly

Grandpa’s Favorite Fly    by Matt Chapple

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. 

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.”

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.











Fly Patterns Gear Hatches Streams Tips And Technique

Time for Tricos

Time for Tricos
by Matt Chapple

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 when the summer starts to heat up.  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 sights of the year is looking up into the morning sun and seeing a cloud of Tricos performing a mating dance over the water. 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, hatches usually occur every morning until the first really hard frost.

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 in the streamside trees and vegetation 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 anytime from sunrise to 9am depending on the weather. A really hot morning will cause an earlier emergence and colder weather will push the hatch later. 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 they must land to molt.   Some of them may take flight  with the partially molted 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.  After the adults mate and die, there will be countless dead and dying Tricos drifting on the surface of the water , in the film or just below the surface.  Because the Tricos are so small,  it can look to the un-aware that the fish are rising to nothing! They can feed on the dead spinners for quite a while after all the spinners have dropped as they drift downstream.

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 stealth  of 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 to aid in the stealth of your presentation.

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

Trico Hare Spinner
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
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.