Try these proven, easy-access trout rivers for some hot May action with flies, lures or bait. These are the best of the best for 2009! (May 2009)
When I think of trout fishing in May, I picture a clanging dinner bell and a no-nonsense cook barking out a now or never summons.
"Come and get it!"
May brings longer days, more sunshine and trout-friendly water temperatures, prompting browns, brookies and rainbows to line up in choice feeding lanes. The month's menu of hatching mayflies and other aquatic insects will taper off as spring turns into summer, and trout instinctively fill up while they can.
May is prime time on most Empire State trout waters, but these rivers, creeks and brooks will fish better than others this month. Here are some that New York Game & Fish readers should make every effort to sample over the next several weeks:
On New York's most famous trout stream, May begins with regiments of Hendrickson duns sailing down prismatic currents in midafternoon and ends with Coffin Fly spinners descending on glassy flats just before dark. In between those heralded events a dozen other mayfly hatches lure big trout to feed at the surface of the Beaver Kill. Anglers from all over the United States schedule their vacations accordingly.
Most Beaver Kill trout are hatchery-born, but they become exceedingly wary after one or two encounters with catch-and-release-minded anglers. Imitative fly patterns and drag-free drifts are the key to catching these fish.
Tackle shops along the river, such as Catskill Flies and the Beaver Kill Angler in Roscoe, have maps that pinpoint the location of Barnharts, Cairns and other popular fishing holes. Many of the choice spots are part of the river's two catch-and-release areas, but other gems, such as the upper and lower Mountain pools, are in "open" sections where live bait is allowed and statewide regulations apply. Anglers are permitted to creel up to five trout daily and.
The Beaver Kill flows within sight of U.S. Route 86/Route 17 through western Sullivan and eastern Delaware counties. Exit 94 leads into downtown Roscoe.
For a list of motels and other lodging possibilities, anglers may contact the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce at (800) 642-4443.
WEST BRANCH DELAWARE RIVER
Although still beloved by many, the Beaver Kill doesn't get pounded as hard as it did 20 or even 10 years ago, because many of its regulars have shifted their allegiance to the nearby West Branch Delaware River.
Thanks to influxes of cold water from the base of the Cannonsville Reservoir, the West Branch from the village of Deposit downstream to its confluence with the East Branch at Hancock holds temperatures suitable for trout all summer, even as heat waves or dry spells reduce the Beaver Kill to a fraction of its normal 100-foot width.
In addition, the West Branch is populated almost entirely by wild trout and is not stocked below Cannonsville's spillway. Browns in the 18- to 22-inch range feed on floating insects throughout the season.
The river has its problems, however. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation, New York City officials and the Delaware River Basin Commission have struggled to compromise between the biological requirements of trout and the needs of Big Apple residents for drinking water. Just as progress was being made on that front in 2008, fisheries biologists worried about a foreign invader, namely, the Didymo or "rock snot" algae that showed up in the Delaware system after somehow immigrating from New Zealand a couple of years before.
Anglers who fish the West Branch can slow the spread of Didymo, which has had a devastating effect on some trout rivers, by thoroughly cleaning their felt-soled wading shoes in a household bleach solution before proceeding to other streams. Be sure to dry the felts completely before using them.
Don't let such worries keep you from the West Branch during its May insect hatches, however. The river's "good old days" may well be right now.
The Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, mentioned previously, can point visiting anglers toward lodging alternatives near the West Branch. To find the most productive section of the river, take U.S. 86/Route 17 to the Deposit exit and fish up- or downstream from there. If you are a fan of catch-and-release, be sure to allocate some time to the two-mile-long no-kill area in Deposit.
WEST BRANCH AUSABLE RIVER
The West Branch Ausable River probably hit its peak in the 1940s or '50s, when it held many large, wild trout and national outdoor magazines touted it as the best river in the East. These days, the river's regulars depend on stocked fish for most of their sport.
Yet, if God were to build a trout stream for his personal use, I believe it would bear an uncanny resemblance to the West Branch, which is one of the most scenic rivers anywhere. If its greatest days are behind it, the Ausable still affords some wonderful fishing, thanks to restrictive regulations and generous stockings from the Essex County hatchery as well as state tanker trucks. With two no-kill sections on the river, its stockers may be caught numerous times. Because the browns and rainbows stocked in the Ausable by the county fish farm often measure 15 to 18 inches or longer, anglers who frequent the stream can be confident of casting over rod-benders all season long.
In the prominently marked no-kill sections -- one from the mouth of Holcomb Pond outlet downstream 2.2 miles to a posted boundary below Monument Falls and the other starting at the Whiteface Ski Center bridge down to the Route 86 bridge over the falls known as "the Flume" -- I'd rely on a box of buggy-looking nymphs to carry me through the May hatches. Elsewhere on the river, I'd be sorely tempted to tote a can of worms fresh from the garden.
If you aren't fond of adventurous wading, forego the pocket water and use streamers or in-line spinners to probe the deep, slow pools upstream from the intersection of routes 86 and 73. Both of those roads go through Lake Placid, and Route 86 also parallels the Ausable downstream to the quaint village of Wilmington.
The Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau, at (518) 523-2445, will provide anglers with the necessary travel brochures.
Barely two years ago, the Chateaugay River suffered a catastrophe when a privately owned dam was breached without DEC approval. Tons of silt buried a long stretch of the river bottom, suffocating trout and the insects they eat. Biologists worried it might be many yea
rs before the river recovered. As it turned out, conditions improved so rapidly, due to the cleansing effect of winter and spring runoff flows, that fishing in 2008 was superb.
"Many fishermen told us it was the best fishing they'd had in years," said Rich Preall, a DEC Region 5 senior biologist.
Preall touts the Chateaugay, especially that part of the river north of U.S. Route 11 in Franklin County, as one of the finest trout streams in the North Country. He also raves about the Marble River, a tributary of the Chateaugay, which most likely was partly responsible for the latter stream's quick recovery. In addition to stocked browns and rainbows, the lower Chateaugay holds many wild browns and brookies, which migrate downstream through the Marble's crystal-clear pools.
The Chateaugay is a swift, tea-colored stream averaging about 50 feet across with numerous riffles, ledge pools and deep runs. One popular access is a short but steep trail at the Route 11 crossing.
At the foot of the trail, anglers can fish upstream for a mile and a half to a gorgeous waterfall pool, or work their way downstream for several hundred yards.
Preall's office will supply a map of the Chateaugay, and the Franklin County Tourism office, at (518) 483-6788, will answer local lodging questions.
Let us be thankful that Kayaderosseras Creek is not as difficult to fish as it is to spell! Many locals refer to this Saratoga County gem as the "KAY-Der-Ross," but by any name, it is one of the Capital Region's most productive trout waters.
Stocked with about 12,000 browns annually (including 1,000 or so 2-year-olds), Kayaderosseras Creek also has good numbers of carry-over trout and some wild brownies. It's so full of fish that trout fanatics are allowed to take home five a day, any size, year 'round from the railroad bridge near Saratoga Lake upstream to the creek's source.
The Kayaderosseras bends and twists its way from its source near South Corinth, which is about 12 miles southwest of Glens Falls, to its mouth on the west side of Saratoga Lake. Public fishing rights are intermittent along the creek's course, but anglers who study the Kayaderosseras map available from the DEC's Region 5 office or on the state agency's Web site, will see numerous bridge crossings and other spots where access is marked with yellow and green "public fishing" signs.
Mark likely intersections on your state or county road map to keep better track of the stream as you follow its path southward through North Greenfield, Porter Corners, Middle Grove, Rock City Falls, Milton Center, Factory Village and Ballston Spa.
Hip boots are sufficient for most of the length of the stream, which is less than 20 feet across in most spots.
For information on lodging near the creek, contact the Saratoga Tourism office at (800) 526-8970.
WEST CANADA CREEK
Why one of New York's largest trout rivers is called a "creek" escapes me. West Canada Creek, which is 200 feet across in some places, certainly has river-like dimensions, and when the hydroelectric turbines at Hinckley Reservoir are cranking, its currents are impressively robust, too.
West Canada fishes reasonably well throughout the season, and is known for incredibly heavy mayfly and caddis hatches. However, in May, its pulsing flows are better suited to bait and spinning lures.
The creek forms the border between Herkimer and Oneida counties and may be reached by taking the Thruway to Utica and then following Route 12 north to the Barneveld exit.
At Barneveld, take the Trenton Falls Road, which crosses the upstream end of a popular no-kill stretch. From there, Route 28 parallels the river as it runs to Poland, Newport and Herkimer, where it finally spills into the Mohawk River. Several formal fishing accesses and numerous unofficial but well-marked pull-offs make entry to the river easy.
Stocked browns dominate, but many of the 30,000-plus fish turned loose in the stream hold over for one or more seasons, and 15- to 20-inchers are not uncommon.
For information on lodging near the creek, contact the Oneida County Convention and Visitors Bureau at (315) 724-7221.
The Syracuse area boasts many fine trout waters, which may explain why Butternut Creek isn't more heavily fished. Although it is stocked with 8,000-plus brown trout each spring and the state has purchased more than 10 miles of public fishing rights along its course, Butternut can be a lonely place. More often than not, I have long stretches of it to myself.
Butternut Creek is born near Apulia, a hamlet on Route 80 in the Onondaga County town of Tully. It flows north under U.S. Route 20 east of LaFayette, and then continues through Jamesville on its way to a meeting with Chittenango Creek at North Manlius.
The best water, in my experience, is from the Interstate Route 481 crossing below Jamesville upstream to Route 20. Most of this water is smooth flowing and averages about 2 to 4 feet deep, with an average width of about 20 feet. Above Route 20, Clark Hollow Road parallels the stream. Below the federal highway, side roads from Apulia Road and Route 91 afford access.
The DEC Region 7 fisheries office in Cortland, at (607) 753-3095, manages Butternut Creek and sometimes includes a mention of it in its weekly fishing forecast, which may be heard by calling (607) 753-1551.
Anglers looking for a list of area motels and other accommodations may contact the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce at (315) 470-1800.
Another high-quality trout fishery in Onondaga County, Skaneateles Creek has the longest no-kill section in the state, covering 10.2 miles from Old Seneca Turnpike in Skaneateles north (downstream) to the Jordan Road bridge in the village of Jordan. Catch-and-release, artificial-lures-only rules were imposed on the stream in the mid-1990s because of chemical contamination issues.
As a result, the diminutive outlet of Skaneateles Lake -- averaging about 15 feet wide with few pools more than 3 feet deep -- holds impressive numbers of wild brown trout and both wild and stocked rainbows.
Jordan Road follows the creek downstream from Skaneateles, and Route 31C, although closed to vehicular traffic below Route 5, winds within sight of the creek from the village of Jordan, south.
Most of the stream is not posted against angling and many landowners have put up "fishing permitted" signs on their property.
The Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce will provide a list of motels in western Onondaga County.
Owego Creek and its East and West branches constitute one of
the best trout fisheries in New York's southern tier. The 5- to 15-foot-wide headwaters of the Owego hold native brookies, while deep pools downstream are home to lunker browns that eagerly charge emerging caddis flies.
Route 79 shadows the West Branch as it flows from Caroline through Speedville in northern Tioga County. Several bridges and designated angler parking access provide ready access to its densely shaded pools.
The East Branch emerges from swampy meadows and woods several miles away between Harford Mills and Richford. Route 38 parallels the stream down to its junction with the West Branch near Flemingville, and annual stockings of 4,000 hatchery browns are spread out along its length.
Some of the holdover browns are 2 pounds or better and respond eagerly to dry flies during the early May Hendrickson hatch, but the narrow creek usually fishes better with bait than artificials.
DEC Region 7 biologists in Cortland offer a stocking map that indicates where fish are released on the Owego's branches as well as its main stem above Candor.
For lodging assistance and other travel questions, the Tioga County Tourism office, at (800) 671-7772, is ready to help.
EAST KOY CREEK
Wyoming County's East Koy Creek doesn't get the accolades that routinely stick to its better-known tributary, Wiscoy Creek, but it's a prime trout fishery in its own right.
Some anglers, like my friend, Bill Thomas of Fulton, prefer the East Koy for its generous access and propensity for growing large brown trout.
Thomas likes to fish the creek with heavy spinners reeled back as quickly as he can. The tactic triggers reflexive, wrist-jarring strikes.
East Koy pools average about 20 feet across and 2 to 4 feet deep. They tend to warm up to a marginally warm range in midsummer but are in perfect condition in May. Spring holes and tributary mouths are optimal locations later on, and anglers will find many such spots within hiking distance of state access points that are marked on DEC maps.
Readers can get their copies by calling the agency's Region 9 office in Allegany at (716) 372-0645.
To get to the East Koy, take Route 20A west from Canandaigua to Warsaw in Wyoming County, and then take Route 19 south, which crosses the stream in Gainesville. Fishing is good as far up as Hermitage and downriver to the hamlet of Lamont.
For travel information, contact Wyoming County's Tourism Promotion office at (716) 493-3190.