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New York Fishing, Fly Fishing, Boating

Adirondack waters and the
best fly fishing opportunities

By Joeseph Hackett

Adirondacks, New York, Resource Guides

Spring, summer, fall and winter; brook trout, brown trout, lake trout and rainbows. Coho, Chinook, kokanee and landlocked salmon. For what more could a fisherman ask? Clean, clear lakes and streams all across upstate New York offer fishermen a fantastic selection of fine trout and salmon fishing. And what's even better, it's no more than a day's drive from most points in the northeast.

The major problem facing anglers in New York is what to fish for. It may be the legendary brown trout of the world renowned Catskill streams, or the tackle busting Chinook, coho and steelhead in the many Great Lake tributaries, leaping landlocks from Lake Champlain and tribs, or beautiful brook trout in the stillness of remote Adirondack ponds. The choices are many and the variety of landscapes too numerous to mention. The Adirondack Park, a six-million acre park of public and private lands, boasts over 2300 lakes and ponds, as well as 30,000 miles of river and streams. This does not include Lake Ontario, nor Lake Champlain, the sixth largest lake in the U.S. With such an abundance of waters and an active stocking program by both state and county agencies, the fishing opportunities are truly great in New York State.

Because there are a large number of fisheries available in New York State, it is best to concentrate on a special area of the state. Therefore, the focus of this article will be on Adirondack waters and the best fly fishing opportunities.

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The Waters

The Adirondack Park is laced with streams, nearly all clear, clean and pollution free. Fed mainly by springs, these mountain waterways are high in mineral content and are highly conducive to fly fishing. The waters stay much colder throughout the summer than waters in the southern part of the state; and the temperatures help to keep the fish active for the majority of the season.

The two "big name" rivers in the Park remain the West Branch of the AuSable and the west Canada Creek, renowned, respectively, for trophy brown trout and fine brook trout and fine brook trout fishing. Many other waters exist, and offer as fine an experience of the fly fisherman as the two "big name" rivers. In recent years, a sensational item has put the Adirondack watersheds at the heart of a biter controversy. The controversy is as delicate and involved, for political and financial reasons, as the abortion issue or capital punishment. Yet, it lacks the emotional involvement of these other major areas of debate. The fact is, as the controversy rages on in Washington, New York, Canada, and throughout the Ohio River Valley, all the while acid rain continues to fall in the Adirondacks. Acid rain, the name alone conjures up thoughts of poison falling form the sky. It is a very dangerous environmental problem that needs to be addressed immediately, However, our present administration would rather take a - pay me now, or pay me later stance on the issue, preferring the latter, and calling for more studies to truly identify the source of the problems. Meanwhile, pollutants from the smoke stacks in the Ohio River Valley continue to be dumped into the atmosphere and carried on the winds to fall as acid rain on the waters of the Adirondacks, Vermont, Canada and the rest of the Northeast. The situation is not as drastic as it may seem. News stories of "over 200 dead lakes" in the Adirondacks sound terrible, yet when one realizes this is less than 10% of the total waters in the Park, it doesn't quite carry the impact. The area suffering the most is the southwest quadrant of the Park, and the high altitude (3000 ft. +) lakes and ponds. Other waters remain outstanding fisheries, and show no signs of the acid rain problem. Acid rain has a positive effect as well. Because it is a sensational item, it receives tremendous press coverage, leading many to believe all Adirondack waters are dead. This is far from the truth, yet it has dropped fishing pressure greatly across the Park. As a result, there are many fine fishing waters that rarely get to wet a line throughout the season. If remoteness is an important part of your fishing experience, then the Park's waters are for you. Opportunities exist to fish by float plane trip, horseback, backpacking, and canoe. Remote ponds, tumbling mountain creeks, large lazy rivers, large lakes and beautiful clear streams await the angler.

Some of the best trout streams in the Park are as follows:

The West Branch of the AuSable - Rated N.Y. State's top trout stream, many believe it the finest in the East. People travel from across the country, and around the world to fish for AuSable browns, brook and rainbow trout. The river drops over 4000 feet in its 45-mile course from the shoulders of Mt. Marcy, near Lake Placid, to Lake Chaplain. It is a rugged stream with deep pools, and a great deal of pocket water and eddies formed by its large boulder formations. The west Branch AuSable flows from the outskirts of Lake Placid Village through Wilmington, where there is a 2.2-mile trophy trout section, for artificial only, down to Haselton, and finally meets up with the East Branch in the town of AuSable Forks to form the main flow of the AuSable River. The West Branch AuSable remains the most heavily stocked stream in the state and quite possible the most scenic.

The East Branch of the AuSable - Flowing out of the AuSable Lakes above Keene Valley, this little sister of the West Branch is often overshadowed by it. Yet it proves to be a productive in quantity of fish as the West Branch, if not quality. An easily waded stream, passing through meadow land, it traces its lazy flow from Keene Valley to Keene, then on to Upper Jay and Jay before joining up in AuSable Forks with the West Branch. The main flow of the AuSable, from the Forks down to Lake Champlain, offers some deep holes and fine canoe float opportunities.

The Saranac River and its North Branch offer further fisheries. Flowing from the village of Saranac Lake to Bloomingdale over dams at Union Falls and Franklin Falls, the Saranac meets the North Branch in the town of Clayburg. It holds large browns, rainbows and brook trout in its tributaries. The North Branch also offers a trophy trout section, for artificial only, between Vermontville and Riverview on Route 3. It is a very productive river, remaining quite cold throughout the season.

The Bouquet River flows from high in the Dix Range, through large boulder formations to the town of New Russia. It is one of my favorite fisheries, and receives little, if any, pressure form fishermen from outside the area. It holds excellent brook trout in its headwaters, and opens up to outstanding brown and rainbow territory as it winds its way from Elizabethtown, to Wadhams and on to Willsboro where it empties into Lake Champlain. This fine fishery is only getting better with age, and an active salmon restocking program has restored a once great river with a native fish. Each spring and fall the lower sections, about 30 miles of the river, offer landlocked salmon in the 6 to 12-pound range. It is an easy river to wade and is accessible by the roadside for nearly its entire course.

The Salmon River - Flowing from near Look Lake towards Malone, it is a well stocked, small stream with a good population of browns, rainbows, and brook trout. Tributaries offer fine midsummer brook trout fishing.

The Schroon River begins out of the town of North Hudson, and continues to drain into Schroon Lake. The outlet of the lake joins the main flow which continues on through Chestertown past Warrensburgh where it empties into the Hudson River. The Schroon contains mostly browns and brookies, although it has a landlocked salmon population that is becoming more productive every year, with both a spring and fall run.

The St. Regis River - Its three branches begin from, in and around, the St. Regis Canoe Area. This area, zoned strictly for canoe use (no motors), offers fantastic brook and lake trout fishing. Composed of some 50 ponds, its remoteness and scenery are among the finest in the Park. The rivers themselves, as they flow northwest from the St. Regis/Paul Smiths area, contain all three species and offer enjoyable backcountry fishing on flatland streams.

Hudson River - Although mighty and dirty downstream, it offers fine brookie and brown trout in its headwaters, both above and below Newcomb. A big water river, it is best fished along its tributaries, the Indian, Boreas and Cedar Rivers, near North Creek or Indian Lake.

West Canada Creek is renowned for its wild brook trout in its upper reaches. It starts from the West Canada Lakes, and flows south to join the South Branch near Nobleboro, then onto Hinkley Reservoir. Below the reservoir the river becomes wider, slower and more accessible. From the towns of Poland and Middleville, the West Canada offers rainbows and browns until it empties into the Mohawk River near Utica.

East Canada Creek - Similar to the East Branch/ West Branch AuSable River situation, it is a fast mountain stream good for brookies and stocked with browns and rainbows. Beginning at Christian Lake, it flows south through Stratford, Dolgeville to the Mohawk near Little Falls. A good producing, easily accessible stream, it doesn't see the pressure of the West Canada.

Other fine rivers in the Park include the Black River, the Moose River and the Oswegatchie River in the north and west, as well as the Sacandage River in the southeast, and the Raguette River which flows through the middle of the Park.

Possibly the best months for Adirondack trout fishing are June and September. June sees the weather warming, along with the streams, and the top hatches of the year. However, it is also bug season, with black flies and mosquitoes swarming. September finds cooler days, and waters, with fine foliage, few bugs and fish fattening up for the winter.

For more information on Adirondack fishing contact local Chambers of Commerce, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation or Area Guides.

Region 5 H.Q.
Ray Brook, NY 12977
Publication Distribution Unit
Albany, NY 12233
New York State Department of Commerce
U.S. Geological Survey
Washington, D.C. 20242

Jones Outfitters, Ltd.
Lake Placid, NY 12946

Tahawus Guide Service
(Guides, Lessons, Rentals)
Lake Placid, NY 12946

New York State Outdoor Guides Association
Albany, NY 12204
Department of Transportation NYSDOT
State Campus Building
Room 105
Albany, NY 12232
Adirondack Sport Shop
Route 86 (Lessons, Maps, Books)
Wilmington, NY 12997

Back To the Fishing


Adirondacks, New York, Resource Guides


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