Categories
Fly Patterns Gear Philosophy Streams Tips And Technique

My Take on Salmon Fishing in the Salmon River, NY

IMG_2791
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.

IMG_1534
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.

IMG_2789
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

DSCN4620
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. 

IMG_2780
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.”

DSCN4604
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

photo
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.

IMG_2724
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.

oriskany
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
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.

Brookie

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.