Fishing the Adirondack Waters

Adirondack Sport Shop Ausable Wulff Products Adirondack Fly Fishing

Nestled in New York's pristine Adirondack Mountains lies the AuSable River, acclaimed by many as the premier trout stream in the East. This river is actually divided into three sections; the East Branch, West Branch and the main river where the two branches join forces. But it's the West Branch that has gained world recognition as the best trout stream in New York state. It's clean mineral rich waters formed by the numerous spring feeders coming from the high peaks of the region, supply abundant cold water to keep the river temperatures trout adaptable throughout the summer months. The gradient (the river drops in elevation nearly 4,000 feet over a forty mile distance), along with many water falls and deep holding pools, provide plenty of places for the fish to take refuge during the winter months and hot periods of summer. A heavy canopy bordering most of the stream provides shelter from the sun and a breeding ground for many insects. Add to these prerequisites for an idyllic trout stream a bed of rich soil, uncountable boulders to provide aeration and you do indeed have all the necessary ingredients for the ideal fly fishing paradise.

Although many streams do not have an abundance of the three major insect species that nourish trout, this is not the case with the West Branch of the AuSable. The river, for generations, has been noted for its numerous hatches of Mayflies, caddis and Stoneflies, making it a river that seems perfectly suited for the fly fisher person. Other features that make it a fly fisher's choice is the diversity of the stream itself. Long stretches of river containing deep runs of slower water that are especially suited for the nymph fisherman. But to the pleasure of the most dedicated of fly fishers, miles of fast, tumbling, pocket water provide much cover and protection so there is always a heavy population of fish including a good number of lunker trout in the two to five pound class. Since this type of water is not for the timid or less adventurous, you often have a large stretch of stream to yourself for an entire evening. It's the kind of outing that many dream of but rarely find on other streams.

The AuSable is fished most heavily on weekends but from Monday until Friday, large portions of the stream are lonely stretches of water teeming with fish unbothered by flying lures and slashing lines.

The river has a five mile catch and release section. The greatest benefits to this section, however, were not in the section itself, but on the remainder of the stream. The more adventurous fly fishers reported far fewer anglers on those sections since the catch and release drew the majority of these visitors. This has resulted in better fishing on the entire stream. The carry over of large fish will provide a bonanza and the fishing will only get better each year. It was not only a banner year for fishing on the river but for the businesses that serve those as well.

The best time to plan your fly fishing vacation is between the first week in May to the middle of July and from the last week in August til the middle of October. Starting in early May, you can expect good hatches of Hendricksons lasting from ten days to two weeks and then continuous hatches of March Browns, Gray Foxes, Olives and Cahills until the end of June. The most famous hatch of all on the river is the Green Drake. Fishermen travel from all over to be on the river during this hatch and if you've never seen the drake hatch when the spinners come back in the evening to lay their eggs, then you haven't experienced the greatest thrill of fly fishing . The river literally "comes alive" during this spinner fall and trout seem to be rising everywhere you turn. This hatch appears from the sixth of June to the sixteenth, usually lasting a week to ten days. You must stay on the stream well into the evening or you will miss your best chance of taking that trophy fish. Go home early and you'll miss the best fishing. Add to the proliferation of may fly hatches the almost continuous hatches of Caddis and Stoneflies during this period and you will understand why the West Branch gets the nod as being the best trout stream in the East.

The most productive patterns on the river through May and June are the AuSable Wulffs, Haystack patterns in grey, rusty orange and brown, Usuals, Mini-Muddlers, fished both wet and dry, black and brown stone fly nymphs and AuSable Caddis.

The West Branch of the AuSable has its beginnings around the 4,000 foot level on the south side of Mt. Marcy, the highest peak in the Adirondacks. It flows northward, crossing Rt. 73 east of the village of Lake Placid along Riverside Drive to Rt. 86 about seven miles west of the village of Wilmington. It continues northward through Wilmington and goes northeast another ten miles to the village of AuSable Forks where it joins with the East Branch to form the main AuSable River. The catch and release section begins one mile upstream of the Rt. 86 bridge that crosses the river where Riverside Drive joins Rt. 86. The remaining four miles of catch and release is downstream along Rt. 86 toward Wilmington. From the lower section of the catch and release downstream, there is about five miles of pools, pockets and runs down past the Wilmington Notch campsite to the damned section in the center of town. This constrainment forms a two mile section of river that holds many large fish and is mainly fished from a small boat or canoe. From the dam in the center of town downstream for a distance of ten miles is some of the best fly fishing water on the river. A two mile section from the dam down is mostly pockets, fast tumbling water and pools. Excellent dry fly fishing.

Downstream from this spot is a mile of posted water, inaccessible to the public. From this posted section downstream to the village of AuSable Forks, there is the section called the Bush Country. This more remote area totals a distance of about six miles. Although one side of the river is posted, it can be accessed from the lower end of AuSable Forks. Just below the old paper dam outside AuSable Forks, there is another mile of excellent pocket water with heavy populations of fish.

For those coming into the region from the North and East, take Exit 34 on the Northway, then Rt. 9 south to Ausable Forks and Jay, turning west at Jay on Rt. 86 to the village of Wilmington. For those coming from New York and other points south and west, take exit 30 to Keene Valley, Keene, Jay and then Wilmington.

There are numerous motels and lodges in Wilmington that cater to sports people. A good motel room can be found ranging from $20 upwards. There is also a rustic West Branch Club fishing lodge with rooms for $15 a night or two for $25. It's full on weekends so be sure and call in advance for reservations.

To book your next fly fishing adventure trip, please send us an E-mail for a quick response.

For any questions that you may have on our Flies, Custom Fly Rods and Reels, E-mail Francis Betters or call Fran at (518) 578-2283

P.O. Box 91, Saranac Lake, NY 12983  ·  (518) 578-2283
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