Published Jun 6. 2014

Northern New York Getaway

Warmwater fishing in lake country

Dreamy - A water-color-ish representation of the morning sunshine casting on the shore.
Our favorite of many lakes in the area.

A lot of New York

residents like to believe that the perception of the state by outsiders is that there are two main regions - the city, and upstate. Certainly among fly fishers, that isn't the case, as the rivers and streams of The Catskills are known around the world. Lake Placid, in the heart of the Adirondacks, twice hosted the Winter Olympics. Niagara Falls was been a wedding and honeymoon destination when Las Vegas was still a dusty sun parched patch of desert. Binghamton was the home of IBM for years, and many cities in Central NY had huge GE factories, and we should add the Corning Glass Works as well. Who doesn't have something pyrex in their kitchen?

The fact is,

New York is an amazingly diverse place to live. Five months ago, we had a storm drop 24 inches of snow on us. Three months ago, it was below zero. Two days ago, it was 95 degrees in the shade. So yeah - we know diverse - weather, geography, culture, economy, politics, you name it - New York has it. You can live among 8 million of your friends in Manhattan, or you can live in relative solitude in rural areas.

The same is true

for possibilities afforded an outdoorsman - especially fishermen. Within a couple hours drive from my home, I can fish for three species of trout, walleye, bass, pike, pickerel, panfish, shad, and even saltwater species such as striped bass. A little further away, we can find steelhead and a few species of pacific salmon that run up the tributaries to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, along with lake trout, lake run brown trout, and even reintroduced atlantic salmon. We can even find catfish, bullheads, and carp if you are into those things, and I've heard Long Island has some good fishing for bluefish.

Diner - A classic American diner. My father's family lived on the St Lawrence River in norther NY and we would stop here so he could fuel up with toast and coffee on the way to visit his mother. It really hasn't changed much since then.
Flat - Northern New York - to the north and west of the Adirondack Mountains - is flat and rural - to the extreme. It is about as different as the south-east tip of the state (NYC) as you can possibly get.
Diner - A local landmark - like stepping back in time.
Barns - The weather and lifestyle is harsh up here, as can be seen in many barns and farm buildings that have seen better days.
Slow Down - Before they spray painted "Slow Down", it used to say "No Turkey Hunting. Don't Even Ask." We didn't. And we do. Always wonder what is in that building.
Small towns, farms, and barns rule the countryside.

One of the highlights

of my fishing season is a trip to a lake to the northern part of the state in an area west of the Adirondacks and east of Lake Ontario. This is sparely populated farm country - with rolling hills and an occasional slow moving river. The towns are small, scattered, and for the most part exist to support the agriculture industry that is so prevalent. Among the rolling hills are countless ponds and small lakes, most of them shallow and weed choked serving host to warmwater species.

The lake

we like most is just a wide spot in a river, much longer than it is wide, with a barely perceptible current from the inlet to the outlet. Access is limited, and while there is a permanent campground and a few private houses along the shore, much of the shoreline is untouched and wild. The place is a fish factory - filled to overflowing with small panfish and other bait species that provide plenty of protein for the lake's star attractions - largemouth bass and pike. It is the kind of place where there really are no bad days fishing - just average days and really really good days. We've had plenty of both.

Mixed Gear - Some years we do more fly fishing that others - depending on the whether, conditions, and the patience of the others in the boat.
Boat #2 - Mike Page, captain of Boat #2, waiting for his crew to board.
Bendback - Flies for bass do not have to be fancy. A simple bucktail tied on a weedless hook - like this bendback that rides point up - are super effective. Chartreuse and white is never the wrong answer. Cast it to structure, strip it slowly and erratically, and wait for the hit.
Siesta - Yes, sometimes our feet touch the ground.
Boat #1 - The captain of Boat #1, Gary (seated) with his brother Doug (standing). Very nice boat - makes flying up and down the lake a breeze and the various trolling options always put the fisherman in great position to cast to shoreline structure.

We've been going

there as a group for more than 20 years, but a couple of the guys have been going there far longer - 40+ years. While there have been a few more private campsites added, little else has changed. The boats and cabins you can rent for an overnight stay are what you could classify as "rustic" - yet inexpensive and perfect for a weekend getaway.

The fishing

is not very complicated. The goal is to slowly drift along the shoreline and cast to structure along the way. That is one of the great things about this lake - structure galore. There are rocky points, submerged logs and rocks, fallen trees, little inlets and bays, reeds, flat marsh areas, and big patches of lily pads. Just about any sort of structure you could think of - and most of it holds fish. When the conditions are right - great fun can be had with topwaters. When it is cold and the fish are off - a slow moved rubber product will be productive. Otherwise - when you're searching - a minnow bait like a rapala can be deadly.

Fly Fishing

can certainly be very productive, but is reserved for times when we can cast to targets without scaring others in the boat, you know? We're not purists, but I have to say catching a pike - even a small one - on fly gear can be a real thrill.

You won't find

any ten pound bass like you might in Florida or California, but every year we seem to hook one or two that will get the heart pumping. We also see plenty young fish, which is a good sign that the lake holds a healthy population of naturally reproducing fish. Add in enough pike to steal a lure and keep you on your toes, and it makes for a great weekend fishing trip. Each year we look forward to the next year's trip before we hit the highway on the way home.

New York

certainly has some drawbacks - very high taxes, departing industry, aging infrastructure, and climate extremes - but for an outdoorsman it has something for everyone all year long.

Islands - Never, ever, ignore an island in a bass lake. There will be fish along the shore, so fish it carefully and completely.
Eagle - Bald Eagles have made an amazing comeback in NY over the past decade.
Pads - It can be a challenge to fish around Lilly Pads, as they will snare a lure or fly and won't let go without a struggle. The rewards can be great, however, as bass like to hang around the pads waiting for dinner.
Two Ends - Many of these lakes have two distinct ends - the inlet and the outlet. The upper end of this lake is fed by a slow moving river and structure consists of shallow bays edged with reeds and grasses. The fishing can be fantastic.
Beds - The timing of the spawn can vary from year to year. Sometimes you will see beds like this along the shoreline, each with a fish on guard, and other years there will be none visible. It all depends on how warm or cold the winter and spring are, and how the lake waters are impacted.
Structure everywhere the eye can see.

Mike - The captain of Boat #2 with a big bass. We don't see too many larger than this.
Whoops - Not all the fish are trophies
Youngsters - Small bass are a good sign that the lake is healthy and the fish are reproducing naturally. When caught, they are handled gently and returned quickly to the water.
Trophy - Not all the fish are babies
Nice hat - The author with a chunky Norther NY bass, sporing his GFF colors.
Pike - A large percentage of the lakes have a healthy population of pike or pickerel in addition to bass and panfish. They are not always big - but they are ferocious and will bite you back if you're not careful.
Electric - What a crazy colorful fish a Pumpkinseed is. The aqua stripes are almost metallic. They are tiny and don't really fight much, but they sure are pretty to look at.
Fish, big and small, and wildlife abound.


New York's "high taxes" also support active and progressive fisheries management, and contrary to many states New York pays as much in federal taxes as it receives in federal spending.

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