Just mentioning the words New York induces stress in a large portion of the world’s population. Most people’s first thought is New York City and all of the overwhelming aspects of it. New York City, however, only takes up about one percent of the entire state.
That leaves almost 54,000 square miles of the New York to explore. In these 54,000 square miles one can find the Adirondack, Catskill and Appalachian Mountains along with over 70,000 acres of water. You don’t ever have to visit the city to have a once in a lifetime experience in New York. The fisheries are world class and will keep you venturing back.
Here is a list of the top 11 places to fish in New York:
1. Salmon River
The salmon river is perhaps the most famous river in New York. The ease of access and amount of information available on it makes it appealing for anglers. The main fish targets are steelhead and salmon. Starting in late August, the King Salmon will begin their run. The run of these 20 pound fish lasts until late October. Coho Salmon will join this run for a few months as well.
Starting in late October, the Steelhead will start moving. They’ll be in the water from October until May. The brown trout will also be present during these short months. The Skamania (summer steelhead) will be present in the summer months, but it depends on the water levels.
Steelhead and salmon are going to sit in the slower moving sections of the river. Find the part of the water where the water slows and work it. Salmon strike out of aggression; they aren’t feeding. Steelhead, however, will be feeding!
Where to fish the Salmon River?
There are two fly fishing only areas on the Salmon River. The first is called the “Lower Fly Zone.” It starts at the Beaverdam Brook and flows downstream to the County 52 Bridge in Altmar. This zone is open from September 15 to May 15. It’s an ideal spot for salmon and steelhead. The “Upper Fly Zone” starts near the Light House Hill Reservoir and goes upstream to the Salmon River Fish Hatchery. This is open from April 1 to November 30.
Here is the Fish Hatchery. Go downstream from here to the Light House Hill Reservoir for the fly fishing only section of the river.
Recommended Gear for Fly Fishing on the Salmon River
First of all, the fly fishing only section of the river require that your leader is no longer than 15 feet and the gap in hooks can’t exceed a half inch.
As far as rods are concerned, a single handed between a 7 and 10 weight is sufficient. Be sure your reel matches your fly rod. Weight Forward floating line is going to be your best all around option. If possible, carry a sinking tip to allow you to swing streamers through the pools.
Fly choices can be debated all day long. You’re likely targeting larger fish that like to sit in slower moving water. Therefore you want heavier flies that are large and create aggression. Find all of these flies in size 4-8:
- The Eggstacy egg
- Red Tag
- Crystal Bugger
- Egg Sucking Leech
- Wooly Bugger
2. Delaware River – the Best Fly Fishing River in the East?
The Delaware is similar in fame to the Salmon River. It’s widely considered the best trout stream in the Eastern United States. Stretching between New York and Pennsylvania, this river is full of wild trout. Most people break the Delaware into three sections. The first is the West Branch. It’s below the Cannonsville Reservoir. It’s about 20 miles long and consists of all the water a trout angler dreams about. It has riffles, pools and everything in between. The West Branch also is the most accessible of the three branches.
The East Branch starts below the Pepacton Reservoir. The Beaverkill also flows into this section. Above the Beaverkill is going to be your best fishing. The water is cooler and more calm. Fish are going to hang out here more than the rest of the 32 miles.
The final section is the main stem. This is located in Hancock, New York. This is the hardest portion of the river to access. It’s 25 miles long with limited access along Pennsylvania Route #191. All three sections are great with a wide variety of water.
The Delaware is going to hold large Brown and Brook trout.
Where to Fly Fish on the Delaware:
Like mentioned above, access points are going to be your biggest challenge. Once on the river, you’re good to go. Here is a great map of the different access points on the Delaware. It gives parking spots and other information on this portion of the river.
If your looking for a great resource, check out this LINK. It takes you to multiple a downloadable maps from the State of New York.
Fly Fishing Gear to use on the Delaware:
This is a trout river so a 5 or 6 weight rod is perfect. Again, match the reel to your rod. Weight Forward Line is the best option. You’ll want to swing some streamers through the slower moving water. Use anywhere between a 9-12 foot leader.
Waders are necessary for the Delaware. You’ll see seams all over the river that you’ll want to hit, but the cold water can be uncomfortable to stand in without wader.
Favorite Flies for the Delaware:
BWO’s, Trico’s and March Brown’s are going to be your most popular. Anything size 10-16 is going to do what you need. Here is a hatch chart specifically for the Delaware. It tells you when the flies will hatch and the best size to use.
If you’d like to learn more about BWOs, read this article What is a BWO and When to Use One!
3. Beaverkill River – Fly Fishing History
The Beaverkill is a must visit for any history buff. Dry fly fishing developments and discoveries were made on the Beaverkill. As mentioned earlier, the Beaverkill is a tributary of the Delaware. It’s a Catskill stream that is full of wonderful trout water. Pools, riffles and runs can all be found on the 40 mile stream. There are also numerous tributaries off of the Beaverkill that hold fish.
Guide Tip: The Beaverkill is AWESOME! In fact I have an article dedicated to this river system. Read – Where to Fly fish on the Beaverkill River
The upper 25 miles of the Beaverkill is smaller stream fishing that requires quite a bit of technical ability. The rocks, overhanging trees and small pools can be frustrating for a beginner. As the river flows towards the Delaware, it becomes wider. All of the river holds brown and brook trout. The river is located near Roscoe, New York.
Where to Fish on the Beaverkill:
For being such a historic river, the access is not as difficult as many rivers in New York. The lower section is going to have more public access.
There is access at the Beaverkill Campground:
Again, here is another map (LINK to Downloadable PDF) from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. It explains the rules and regulations for traveling along the river. It’s a wonderful resource.
What Fly Fishing Gear to Use on the Beaverkill:
The Beaverkill is a traditional trout stream. Use anything from a 4 to 6 weight rod. You’ll want floating line so you’re able to get the full dry fly experience. Using 9 and 12 foot leaders with 5 or 6x tippet is going to hide your identity.
Blue Winged Olives, Black Caddis Flies, Blue Quills and Mayflies are going to be your best bet. By June, the terrestrial flies will make their way on to the water so pay close attention.
People love fly fishing New York so the resources are plentiful!
GUIDE RECOMMENDED TIP: New York weather can be unpredictable, but changes in weather can make all the difference in catch rate. Stay on the water longer by having a light packable rain jacket with you.
4. Esopus Creek – Nymph Fly Fishing
The Esopus River is located in Southeastern New York near Kingston. It’s actually used as drinking water for New York city. There are two main parts of the Esopus. The upper part above the Ashokan Reservoir is the more natural flow. Search for Big Indian and you’ll find plenty of access points. The portion below the Ashokan is also fishable. It’s a larger portion because of the water flowing out of the portal. It’s a freestone stream with access all the way from the portal to Five Arches Bridge.
Guide Tip: There are going to wild Brown and Brook trout to catch.
Nymphing is going to be the most successful method. Stoneflies are going to catch the most fish, but don’t count out the mayflies and caddis. It’s best fishing is from May until September. Use a traditional trout setup with a 4 to 6 weight rod, weight forward Line and 9 foot leader.
Link with more information from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for fly fishing opprotunities on the Esopus Creek.
5. Neversink River – Smart Trout!
The Neversink river is stocked with 5,000 brown trout on a yearly basis. It is both a tailwater and freestone fishery and stays fairly cold all year round. Located in Southeast New York in Sullivan County, it holds brown, brook and rainbow trout. Fish below the dam at the Neversink Reservoir. It’s slower moving water that makes for awesome sight fishing.
Quill Gordon, BWO, Slate Drakes and Hendrickson’s are your best bet for flies. Be sure to use smaller flies ranging from size 18-26. Go ahead and try both nymping and dry fly fishing. Pay close attention to the water surface. Don’t throw a dry if you don’t see trout feeding. The opposite is true! Let the trout dictate what you throw.
Fly Fishing on the Neversink is tough. Use the maps HERE to find the best places to hook into these “educated” trout.
This is a classic trout stream, but don’t be fooled. You’ll need to be on your “A” game to catch the fish. See what you can do, but be patient and do your best to learn the water. It’s best fished in late spring and early summer due to the amount of hatches.
For extremely accurate access points use this link.
6. AuSable River – Traditional Fly Fishing
Like several of the other rivers on this list, the AuSable River has three sections. The East, West and Main branches. The West Branch is the most well known and holds the largest trout. The aesthetics are amazing on this portion. Located in the Adirondack Mountains, traditional fly anglers can’t get enough of it. It’s one of those those streams that you don’t necessarily care if you catch fish. It’s that beautiful.
The mile above the Route 86 bridge at the Holcomb Pond down to Wilmington Notch is a catch and release portion of the river. Below this is faster pocket water so if you want a variety of water, it’s a great river to fish. Mayflies, Caddis and Stoneflies are all going to hatch so feel free to throw nymphs and dry flies. Also, don’t be afraid to throw smaller streamers in this river. You may catch one of the large holdout trout. Since the water is a bit stained, use a darker pattern.
If all else fails, throw the midge. It’s the best searching fly you can use. The best time to fish the river is early May until late June.
The traditional trout setup is best. A 4-6 weight rod with weight forward line and small tippet is necessary.
Here is another spot to fly fish on the AuSable. resource from the NYD of Environmental Conservation to use when planning your day on the AuSable:
GUIDE RECOMMENDED TIP: Some of these rivers can be stained, especially during the early season. If you’re wading, bring a wading staff to check the depth.
7. Saranac River – Landlocked Salmon
The Saranac River is located right near the AuSable and is often overlooked. Located near the Adirondacks, it’s one of the most beautiful rivers on the list. The upper portion of the river has rainbows and browns. It flows from Bloomingdale to Franklin County. Drive along River Road to find the access points. Go ahead and use a traditional trout setup for these.
The lower Saranac has landlocked salmon and steelhead. It’s a great spot to hit in the late fall and winter. If you’re fishing this section and targeting the salmon or steelhead, be sure to use nothing lighter than a 7-weight rod. You’ll need the power.
Go ahead and use BWO’s, Caddis and Stoneflies. Also, in mid-summer, the terrestrials will be active so keep a few in your box. It’s a great streamer river so don’t be afraid to throw some Wooly Buggers and see what you can get to strike.
There are numerous hydroelectric dams along the river so it’s an interesting mix of warm and cold water. The wide variety of fish also make this river extremely enticing!
Here is the NYD of Environmental Conservation pamphlet on the Saranac.
8. Oak Orchard Creek – Fly Fishing for Salmon
The Oak Orchard starts in the Oak Orchard swamps in Genesee County. It empties into Lake Ontario. The “Oak” holds, brown trout, Coho and Chinook Salmon along with steelhead. This is a major stocking area in the state of New York. Nearly 21,000 rainbow trout, 155,000 chinook salmon and 26,000 coho salmon are released into the Oak Orchard.
The Waterport Dam has a nice public access point. The fish are unable to get past the dam so it’s a solid spot to start. Go ahead and drift eggs for the brown trout. If you’re able to see salmon, fish below them. The brown trout want to eat the eggs from the salmon.
Bring your heavier rig. An 8-10 weight single handed rod is going to be necessary. You’ll have the chance to catch some massive fish so don’t be shy. If you want to target only trout, go ahead and drift a Wooly Bugger. They’ll give you a great fight!
HERE is more information on the Oak Orchard from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
9. Wiscoy Creek – Great Access for the Fly Fisher
Wiscoy Creek starts in Wyoming County and flows 25 miles into the Genesee River. It’s a wonderful wild brown trout stream in Western New York. There is about 13 miles of public access and five parking areas. It’s one of the most accessible creeks on this list. The river generally has a gravel bottom with riffles and deep pools.
The traditional trout set-up is going to work best. Along with the brown’s it has wild brook trout. The Wiscoy hasn’t been stocked since 1972. The upper portions near Bliss are going to be more narrow water. The middle and lower sections are wider. Try dead drifting a Bugger or nymphing with a midge. The different types of water make it an eventful day.
More information on the Wiscoy click on the below map to see the PDF that the State of New York provides.
GUIDE RECOMMENDED TIP: Fish in New York see quite a few artificial flies. There’s no escaping that. Be sure you’re not overestimating your abilities. Fish to your strengths; it can be a frustrating day when you’re completely out of your comfort zone.
10. Ten Mile Creek
Ten Mile Creek gets its name from its length. Located in Eastern New York, it flows for about 10 miles before it finds its way into Catskill Creek. It’s not a stocked river and hosts brown and rainbow trout. The upper five miles are home to more brown trout and the lower five hold both rainbow and brown.
Don’t make fishing this creek too complicated! A smaller 4-weight rod is going to be plenty. Use a 9 foot leader with 5x tippet. Smaller nymphs and dry flies are best. Any caddis or mayfly pattern size 16-22 is going to produce fish.
11. Chittenango Creek
The final stream on this list is Chittenango Creek. Located in central New York, it runs out of Nelson Swamp near Cazenovia to Oneida Lake. There are about five miles of Public Fishing Rights on this stream. Most of the public access is going to be along Route 13. It’s a faster moving stream so be prepared to make a lot of casts.
One of the highlights of this stream is the 170 foot waterfall in Chittenango Falls State Park. This stream is home to brown trout, brookies, bass and walleye. The upper portion of the stream is going to hold more of the trout. As you get closer to Oneida Lake, you’ll find the walleye and bass. It’s open year round so keep it on your list.
More information on Chittenango Creek: https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/71484.html
Recommended Fly Fishing Clubs and Resources for New York:
- Seth Green Chapter of Trout Unlimited- This club is named after one of the most influential fly anglers New York ever produced. He’s known for having the largest fish hatchery in the East. He died in 1888 and his legacy has lived on for years. http://sethgreentu.org/the-chapter/legacy-of-seth-green/
- Theodore Gordon Fly Fishers- This is another non-profit organization that promotes stream and river protection. https://www.tgf.org
- Livingston Manor Fly Fishing Club- Located on the Willowemoc Rover, this club has five acres of land with places to stay. https://livingstonmanorflyfishingclub.com
Favorite Fly Shops in New York:
Urban Angler: Located in the city, this is a unique shop that gives you an excuse to head into the city. It’s got everything you may need for your next adventure. https://www.urbanangler.com
TroutFitter Fly Shop: This shop is located in Syracuse, NY. It has updated fishing reports along with an inn for you to stay. https://www.cnytroutfitter.com
Are you looking for some great How To Fly Fish Articles? Checkout this list:
- How to Fly Fish for Bluegills – These amazing fish are all over the USA. I like to call them the “Gateway Drug to Fly Fishing”
- How to Fly Fish for Brook Trout – Find the cleanest, coldest, most beautiful streams and I’ll bet Brookes are present.
- How to Nymph Fish – Step by Step details for setting up, presenting and catching trout with nymphs.
- How to Fly Fish for Salmon – Image hooking into a +25 pound King Salmon in a river and your Fly Rod breaks! Seriously this happened to me on my first trip.