ChaseJD

Adirondack Fishing: Two Parter

11 posts in this topic

Hey all, new here and looking for some pointers on fishing in the Adirondacks. I've been late summer camping there for the last 4 years and never seem to land any big fish. 

 

First question: I usually use a spinner with live bait (nightcrawlers) or soft plastics but only seem to catch really small fish. I've tried a ton of lures (spinners, poppers, jigs, spoons) from shore and from canoe (don't have a boat yet to troll from) but haven't found any real success. Wondering what lures work best and how/where to find something other than oversized minnows. 

 

Second question: Most recently, I brought up my usual spinner and tried fishing the Ausable River near Wilmington, NY but had no luck...even though it was an incredibly beautiful area and I still had a blast.  Now, thinking I need to dive into flyfishing (I'm a glutton for punishment and gear) - wondering what type of rod/reel and flies I should start out with to get going. 

 

I'm usually up near Saranac Lake and the surrounding lakes - wondering if anyone has any pointers to help me land some bigger fish. Thanks in advance!

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Posted (edited) · Report post

There are two great fly shops in Wilmington. They’ll make sure you get exactly what you need. It’s a lot of pocket water so big hopper dropper rigs in summer/fall. Big stone flies like a chubby chernobyl with a pats rubber legs on a 5wt and a short leader. You’re gonna have to crack the rest of the code. It’s a different kind of fishing. Short drifts in super turbulent water. 
Also keep in mind that the West Branch gets fished A LOT and is mostly catch and release so the fish are educated. 

Edited by chuckbucktail

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I'm far from an expert, but I've fished a number of lakes/ponds up there from my canoe (also put in at the Ausable boat/canoe launch in Wilmington), although I tend to fish earlier in the season.

 

We've done pretty well on bass, pickerel and panfish, particularly rock bass (which eat anything) with plastic swimbaits of various sizes, as well as plastic curly-tail bodies on jigs.  The various sizes of Gulp minnows do well; the small one--I think it's 2 inch--on a 1/16th ounce ball head isn't a big fish lure, but it will catch everything in the lake, and is great when you just want to fry up a bunch of panfish.

 

Jerkbaits--I tend to favor the Smithwick Rogue in a natural color, given the clear water--can do very well with smallmouth.  Friends do well with bass on tubes and grubs.

 

And if you're trout fishing in a pond, don't forget the Lake Clear Wobbler and worm; it's a favorite up there for a reason.

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7 hours ago, chuckbucktail said:

Also keep in mind that the West Branch gets fished A LOT and is mostly catch and release so the fish are educated. 

I LOVE an educated wild trout. When you :hooked: 1 of those you know you got skillz :laugh:

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I have found two flies very useful on that river:  The Ugly and the Usual.  The fly shop in "downtown" Wilmington can supply you with those.  However, stop in both shops and get two views on working the river.

 

The rod and reel advice is another issue and will be based on your price points for each.  I would not go cheap since that might ruin your experience.  I would not go too expensive, since that might be an unwarranted expense if you decide FF is not for you.  I will not give you advice since I am partial to the brands I use, but I carry a #6 and a #4 7'6" rods and reels with floating lines.  I also carry extra spools for each reels as well as back up reels.  I spend since I want to die tired and broke.  And my daughter is an attorney, she doesn't need the estate.

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It's been a while since I fished that area.  Fran Betters was still around and the stop we made at his fly shop was worth the trip.  I was using an 8'6" 5 wgt  and had a 8' 6" 6 wgt as a back-up.  I did well with the Usual and a CDC and Elk.  Also stumbled on some small browns sipping midges. Also fished the Saranac River one evening.   I'm going to be headed up to Saranac Lake in mid-July for my grand-niece's christening.  Plan to bring my 6 wgt and 8 wgt with me and hope to find the time to do a bit of fishing.  If you want to get into fly fishing, several companies,  Orvis, Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops, L. L. Bean to name a few offer beginner/starter outfits.  I'd go with a 6 wgt,  8' 6".  You can fish for trout with it and use it for pan fish, bass, chain pickerel, even pike.  It's been a while since I've fished lures so I can't help you with that. 

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Saranac has large smallmouth/ pike, I fish out of Ampersand bay every year. For the pike you have to get way in around reeds and grass in shallow water. Inline spinners around structures are good too. SM will take small white grubs, small crankbaits, or poppers thrown around shorelines.

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Any lake in the Adirondacks (or virtually anywhere), 5” senkos are your best bet in the summer, either T-rigged or wacky. In the morning and late evening, try surface plugs. Mid day if the sun is up you have to get down down down so fish the senkos with a tungsten bullet weight or Neko-rig your wacky to get it down (screw-in nail weight at end of worm). Look for shadows where you can find em, like the edges or docks, weed beds, etc.

 

if they’re not hitting the Senko then they have lockjaw for some reason and you have to go finesse. Switch to small (2.8 to 3.8) Keitechs on jig heads or swimbait hooks. Weighted if you want to get down, unweighted if you want to swim em over tops of weeds.

 

If that doesn’t work, take up golfing. 

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I had the pleasure of living on the West Branch of the AuSable & around my work schedule I guided in the region as well.

 

For those that tie their own flies, there are some very productive patterns that I'm not sure I've seen anywhere other than seasonally, in Francis Betters fly bins. Sadly, Fran got promoted to heaven back in 2009. 

 

Fran invented all sorts of flies that other anglers copied then changed slightly & made it seem like they invented something incredible. Fran never got credit where credit was due.

 

The AuSable River has been filling in with salt and sand runoff from the roads for years now and it is becoming a much more heavily fished river as well unfortunately. 

 

Still, there are areas of the river where you can get away from the crowds if you're willing to hike & learn a few new tricks. 

 

The AuSable has unique personalities depending on where you are. You can have gorgeous long slow glides or you can have miles and miles of seemingly unending and seemingly unfishable water. One glance at pocket water makes most anglers pass it by. 

 

Also, your thermometer can be kind of thrown out the window as well. Water temperature means very little unlike with most rivers where you can count on the thermometer as a Geiger counter of sorts in terms of finding fish.

 

They AuSable is highly oxygenated so even at 70°, trout can thrive there. 

 

If you're going to fish pocket water, you'll want a 9-ft rod anything shorter would be a disadvantage. 

 

My preferred stick is a 10 ft 4 weight for pocket water Nymphing. A 9' 4wt is the ideal rod for dry flies on the AuSable. However you can go a little shorter if you're going to fish on the surface in some of the areas on the river where water moves slower.

 

The bottom of the river is composed of various substrates. The slower areas of the river feature a gravel bottom & the pocket water featuresextremely jagged and uneven rocks. Covering a hundred yards of river can take hours & the longer rod is a tremendous advantage in these situations. Mainly because of the added reach it provides you.

 

A wading staff is an absolute must. I was just this side of an Olympic athlete when I lived up in the Adirondacks. I had been hopping rocks and jetties for years and years but I found that without the wading staff, fishing pocket water was nearly suicidal.

 

Studded felt boots are also an excellent idea. Next you have to consider black flies and so as a rule of thumb body coverage is the way to go. A long sleeved shirt is a good idea and a baseball cap that has a built-in mosquito net can come in handy also. 

 

Layer up so you can simply remove layers and then put them back on again if you're going to be fishing full days. Storms can come out of nowhere on the river also so you need to have some rain gear.

 

My truck has a camper and I would take a snooze in the back during rainy periods.

 

As far as the fly patterns go I studied Fran's flies very closely and I could recommend a couple patterns as basic starters for you. The fly shops in the region will make their recommendations and you can probably purchase some of these types of patterns up there though If you get into tying your own flies you'll do even better.

 

Fran would make beefy little flies that were extremely well thought out. In pocket water the water is obviously moving very fast and fish don't get a long time to examine the fly. They will literally just start out and grab it as it drops from the water above the rock they're hiding behind and zooms past their face. 

 

As you start to examine pocket water you'll find a lot of very slow moving water behind these rocks and these are little pools where fish actually do have some time to look at the fly. You'll start noticing thousands of feeding lanes and it's really fun to decipher each one of them but if you can't reach them with your little seven and a half foot rod then you'll have to literally be standing right on top of them which in pocket water is going to be a problem.

 

What I like to do is get into position & use my 10 ft 4wt to drop a fly into and through the zone repeatedly and then I'll just keep working into the next plunge pool.

 

If you're going to fish on the surface most fly patterns will get drubbed. keeping the fly afloat requires the right pattern made of the right materials. 

 

Snowshoe rabbit fur is of course perfect for this type of fly construction so flies made with snowshoe rabbit fur will be preferred over other types of flies made with CDC or deer hair. 

 

Dubbing comes into play as well and for dry flies certain critters have preferable fur because it will out float synthetics.

 

The Australian Opossum is one such critter, & again, Snowshoe rabbit fur can be put into a coffee grinder and made into dubbing very easily. 

 

Insects on the AuSable can take on a distinct burnt orange color & Fran created some amazing hues of burnt fluorescent orange that I've ever seen. In many of the fly shops the color is more of a dull pale orange and that's not the color that Fran had innovated. those flies will still work mainly because they're the right size and shape and they will still float where most other patterns will sink.

 

For Dry Flies, the Usual can be used for just about every Mayfly. You can vary the thread color and let that bleed through a little bit and vary the size and you've got all the bases covered. 

 

If you want to add an attractor fly you could go with an AuSable Wulff, of course you'll want it in burnt orange. Again very the size and fish it during whatever's hatching by simply selecting something of similar size.

 

For certain mayfly species, emerging can be a real challenge. For this reason emerging may fly patterns are very productive and they almost always feature snowshoe rabbit for a wing & translucent tails made out of sparky z-lon.

 

Spinners are another excellent pattern for the dry fly guys on the AuSable & if it doesn't have a poly wing it's pretty much useless. Again floatability is key. Specific AuSable Spinners should feature snowshoe rabbit hair in the thorax also.

 

I also like a variation of a Griffith's Gnat.for the AuSable. It is tied with a dubbing spinner. This makes the body a little beefier and spikeier. It also features olive grizzly hackle. The body construction is woodchuck guard fibers or opossum. Effective colors can be burnt orange, brown and natural snowshoe rabbit.

 

The AuSable Chuck Caddis, made of woodchuck guard hairs & featuring a wing of Snowshoe rabbit hair is another really good pattern.

 

With regard to Nymphing, flies that get seen and noticed are the way to go. The beefier the better and the more visible the better. As far as the construction of these nymphs go, Peacock sword fibers make excellent tails, scraggly buggy looking dubbing helps a fly stand out & peacock hurl provides that beautiful sparkle & grizzly hackle & Partridge feathers are perfect for legs.

 

AuSable Nymphs are almost always fitted with a black bead head. 

 

If you want to use a generic nymph to cover the mayflies you can select a soft tackle pheasant tail with peacock sword fibers for a tail, a pheasant fiber abdomen ribbed with copper wire and then a big fluffy peacock hurl thorax complete with the soft tackle for legs and a bead head. That's a pattern that actually originated in the Catskills but it's perfect for the AuSable. That's actually called a Delaware pheasant tail

 

Then you can pick out a nice meaty stone fly that has a bead head and features some peacock prominently and use a size range on those from #16 to #6. Both Black and Brown. The Yellow Salley is a stonefly pattern that can be a day saver as well. Stonefly nymphs are a big part of the ecosystem in certain parts of the river and especially  in the pocket water areas.

 

If you want to start matching the hatch, you can start studying which insects are significant. For example the Isonychia is a significant may fly. It's worth it to carry specific Iso patterns as the season goes along and these flies are modified of course for pocket water. They are generally a little flashier and a little beefier than your standard ISO. 

 

Another very valuable nymph is some type of bead head Caddis specific to whatever is hatching at that point in the year. Focus on emerging pupa also. 

 

If you want to carry a few streamers that would also be a good idea. The mini muddler in size 16 would be the first one I would pick. 

 

Next I would pick a fly called the Hornberg. Then I'd probably have a couple of Grey Ghosts on me as well.

 

Lastly a couple wet flies can be a great idea on the AuSable. Try a nice buggy looking March Brown or Light Cahill throughout the summer and then in August you break out the Lead Wing Coachmen. I knew a very stubborn, obstinate & highly cantankerous librarian who used to fish with a Lead-Wing Coachman all season long and still he caught plenty of fish.

 

For fly line, The Double Taper is preferable to a WF. Reason being is you're going to be roll casting the day away and mending like crazy. Appropriate leaders are between 7 and 1/2 ft and 9 ft 3x to 5x for Nymphing & 5x to 6x for dries.

 

The best way to approach the AuSable is to study the area and look for harder to get to stretches of river. Get a basic idea of what is hatching & carry a very small assortment of the right types of flies you don't have to go crazy. Start off with a generic approach and then you can dial in as you start to enjoy yourself more and get more familiar with how the hatches work up there. 

 

 

 

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Just got back from a week on the West Branch near Haselton. Warm water, but like Cary said, super oxygenated by all the tumbling water. Still was mindful to be off the water by early AM, like 8ish, and to not target the fish seeking the sanctuary of the deep pools. There's always a village idiot to catch on top.

It's special fishing a place with such history. I find it fun to accept the challenge of lets catch fish on Ausable Wulffs and other local patterns only. Sure you'll do better with a Euro rig and a 3mm bead head but that lost it's fun a while back. A trouts a trout at that point. Obviously I personally I hold more value in catching a wild fish on top with a local pattern. Not that I don't cheat but it's a good goal. I fished the same run every morning and got 2 fish every morning.  It's was about 100' long.

#12 dry with a #16 nymph 24" behind it. 9' 4x leader. 9' 5wt rod. 

 

Wife and I rented a boat for a day to mess around on Saranac Lake. Brought a 5'6" BP micro lite spin set up and where there was shade and a log there were perch and SMB. 2" swim shads with a 1/16th oz jig. All in the middle of the day on a scorcher. 

 

Man I love it up there. 

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I usually fish  Lake George in August on family vacation.  Kitech paddletail and senkos fished 20 to 40 foot depths kill LMB and SMB. Only threw lures around docks and structure at night.  For me kitech is king.  Find structure and fish deep. That is what I used for many years going up there at that time of year.

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