Late Fall Fly Fishing
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It's not over yet... cast on!

Trout season officially ended in New York State on October 15th, but don’t put your fly fishing rod, waders and boots away - many fly fishing opportunities are still available in the Northern Adirondack region. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has created special angling regulations for trout fishing on specified waters in the Northern Adirondacks, opening up several opportunities for some fantastic late fall fly fishing.

The West Branch of the Ausable River is the best known river in the Adirondack region. This highly productive watershed offers great trout fishing with two special angling regulation sections located between Lake Placid and Wilmington. 

Go with the flow...

The first section begins at the mouth of Holcomb Pond Outlet located on the River Road and ends 2.2 miles downstream of Monument Falls. This section offers a mix of slow moving deep pools with sand and gravel banks slowly working downstream to steep gradient pocket water with huge boulders and small sets of waterfalls. Here the river is paralleled by River Road and RT 86 offering numerous public access parking areas; this allows for quick on and off the water so you can sample different spots easily over the course of the day. The West Branch of Ausable receives ample stocking of large brown and rainbow trout throughout this special angling regulation section, these fish will be 12” up to 18”.

The second section starts at the bridge at Whiteface Mountain Ski Center and ends downstream at the RT 86 bridge just above the famous Flume Pool. This section has only 2 public access parking areas, one which is located next to the Whiteface Ski Center Bridge off of the ski center access road and the other is located off of RT 86 next to the bridge.  A dirt road parallels this section of the West Branch of the Ausable River for about one-half mile making access easy, but at the same time offers a secluded fishing trip as the river runs away from RT 86 and is heavily forested on both sides. The physical characteristics of the water are one of a boulder strewn river producing classic pocket water. One side of the river is private property and the other side is a New York State Wild Forest with campsites available for the adventurous angler desiring an overnight camping experience. This river section is stocked with large brown and rainbow trout and also offers the opportunity to catch wild brown trout and native brook trout, these fish will be 6” up to a possible 20”.

The South Branch of the Saranac River also has a special angling regulation section. Located at the intersection of RT 3 east and Silver Lake Road you will find the beginning of this section from the marked boundary 100 yards upstream of its confluence with the North Branch Saranac River upstream 1.4 miles to Stord Brook. This section has 3 public fishing accesses, all located off the Silver Lake Road; 2 access points are very close to the river, while a third access point requires a 5 minute walk through the woods and across a small stream before finally arriving at a set of beautiful waterfalls. The entire section of river is classic boulder strewn pocket water, the river is broad and the water is swift, cautious wading is a must. The river parallels Silver Lake Road for approximately one third of a mile then it veers away from the road and into the woods. Both sides of the river are bordered by private property but New York State has purchased the public fishing rights. This section will offer a combination of stocked brown and rainbow trout along with holdover brown trout and wild brown trout which may push past 20”.

All three mentioned sections of river will require a wading staff and felt soled wading boots with or without studs to insure a pleasant and safe fishing experience.

What to bring, What to swing...

A 4WT or 5WT fly rod in the lengths of 8’6” to 10’0” spooled with floating weight forward line will work well over the mentioned sections of rivers. The leader lengths will vary from 7.5’ to 9.0’ with the tippet in the range of 2X through 7X.

During late fall months the vast majority of angling presentations will be nymphing and streamer techniques with a possibility of dry fly action. 

Standard nymph patterns such as the Hares Ear, Ausable Ugly, Pheasant Tail, Telico, Copper John in the sizes of #8 through #14 will bring fish to the net. 

The streamer selection will include The Sirloin, Muddler Minnow, Wooly Bugger, Black Nosed Dace and any streamer that presents a large profile to provoke a fish into striking. These streamer patterns need to be fished with a slow strip-stop-strip presentation employing the sizes of #2 through #10. 

The Blue Winged Olive aka BWO is the last aquatic insect to make its appearance on the water with enough prevalence to induce fish to surface feed. This dry fly pattern needs to be presented on 6X or 7X tippets in the sizes of #18 through #20. The fish will only be feeding on the surface on the slow moving pools; you will find no action in the pocket water.

Dressing properly for your outing will make or break the day, check the weather and dress for the situation. The most important item of clothing to have - and often overlooked - is a pair of half finger gloves, once your hands become cold, the fishing becomes very difficult. Secondly, synthetic, wool and synthetic/wool blends of clothing worn in a layering manner are the key to proper dressing; this type of clothing has the ability to wick moisture away from the body while at the same time keeping you warm. Also if you do have the unfortunate mishap of falling into the water, this type of clothing can be wrung out and put back on while still keeping you warm… best bet is not to fall in the water during the cold late fall days. Take your time wading, pick a safe path through the water and enjoy a fall day in the Northern Adirondacks.

Of course, after a great day in the water, you'll probably be craving a hot shower and relaxed lodging. While you're visiting, check out some of our local dining options - a few even overlook the river!


Richard Garfield

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