Trout n’ About

Fly Fishing on the Saranac

Waist deep in a cold rushing river. The algae-ridden boulders below the water’s surface make it nearly impossible to get good footing. A blaze-orange Dacron fly line whips back and forth along the skyline, creating a whizzing sound with each pass. After its second pass, the line is charged and propels forward a final time. An artificial fly lands delicately on the water’s surface where it rushes along with the current. 

Fly fishing is exactly what it sounds like. Fishing with imitation flies, or other types of bug-like critters that scurry above or below the water’s surface. The flies, like any other real or fake angling bait, attempt to resemble the prey of any unsuspecting fish with an appetite. 

Deciding on a fly depends on what you’re trying to catch and the time of year you’re trying to catch it. 

There are generally three types of flies used. Dry flies, the most common, are designed to float and mimic an insect landing on top of the water. Unlike the dry fly, nymph and streamer flies are designed to resemble prey whose habitat is found underwater.

There’s plenty of fly fishing and angling to be done here on the Adirondack Coast. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Lake Champlain watershed covers 3,050 square miles of land in New York State with 4,883 miles of freshwater rivers and streams with water quality considered good to excellent. 

The Saranac River, one of the major rivers that branches off Lake Champlain, is a popular waterway for fly fishing enthusiasts. Brown trout can be found in our immediate neck of the woods, along with landlocked salmon in the spring and fall.

Although native trout exist in local waterways, most are stocked by the DEC. Salmon angling is available from the mouth of the Saranac River to the Imperial Dam, located about 3 miles upstream. The upper and middle sections of the Saranac River are home to brown and brook trout. Brown trout and steelhead can be found in the lower section of the river. 

Jim Daley, superintendent of Fish Culture at the DEC, oversees 12 fish hatcheries in New York State. He helps plan and coordinate the biannual stocking of trout and salmon in the spring and fall. During this time, roughly 300 lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks are stocked, mostly by a Vietnam war era helicopter. This type of stocking is especially useful where motor vehicles are prohibited.  

The type of trout that is stocked depends on the region. Statewide, the DEC mostly stocks brown trout. Rainbow trout and brook trout are stocked to lesser extent. The DEC works with native trout variations in waters where they’re able to.

Daley not only stocks trout but is a fly fisherman himself. He has been fishing in small Adirondack creeks and ponds for about 20 years. 

“One piece of advice I’d have is, if you’re just starting out, spend a little money and go out with a guide,” says Daley, “there are some good guides in the Adirondacks. They can really show you what to do, where to go, what techniques work and that can really cut down the learning curve. You could spend years experimenting and trying to figure things out on your own, but a day with a guide really pays off.”

Fly fishing can seem like a daunting way to go about catching a fish, but with the right knowledge and a little experience, it can be a very rewarding and therapeutic experience. It’s a great excuse to explore your local area and spend some time in nature. 

Story by Zachary Jackson

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