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New York Fishing, Fly Fishing, Boating

Ausable River
By Francis Betters

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 two branches join forces. But it's the West Branch that has gained world recognition as the best trout stream in New York State. Its clean mineral rich waters, formed by the numerous spring feeders coming from the high peaks of the region, supply abundant cold water to keep 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 ponds, provide plenty of places for the fish to take refuge during the winter months and the 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. Another feature that makes it a fly fisher's choice is the diversity of the stream itself. Long stretches of river contain 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.

Two years ago another dimension was added to the West Branch. A five mile catch and release section was set aside and stocked with larger trout, in an effort to provide even better fishing on the more accessible section of the river. Last year was the first full season for the catch and release area and there was overwhelming approval and many happy faces on those visiting the river. Even during the warmer summer months, when trout were more selective, there were reports of numerous large fish caught and released on most evenings.

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 carryover of large fish will provide a bonanza, and the fishing will only get better each year. It was a banner year, not only for the fly fishers, but also for the businesses along the river that server them.

The best time to plan your fly fishing vacation is from the first week in May to the middle of July, and from the last week in August until 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. Fisherman travel from all over to be on the river during this hatch and if you've never seen a drake hatch, when the spinners come back in the evening to lay their eggs, then you've 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 between the 6th and the 16th of June, usually lasting a week to ten days. You must stay on the stream well into the evening or you'll miss your best chance at a trophy fish.

Add to the proliferation of mayfly hatches the almost continuous hatches of caddis and stoneflies during this period, and you will quickly understand why the West Branch gets the nod from many fly anglers as being the best trout stream in the East.

Back To the Fishing

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