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FLY FISHING THE WEST BRANCH OF THE AUSABLE RIVER IN NEW YORK

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The West Branch of the Ausable River, located in Northeastern New York, flows past the legendary Olympic ski jumps near Lake Placid and offers anglers some of the most prime trout water on the East Coast. With its tremendous attributes such as highly-oxygenated water, diverse cover, bug population, and a year-round optimum temperature, it harbors many trout from 10- to 18-inches long. Its beauty and the availability of some 20+ inch trout are the basis for many anglers' argument that it's the most scenic and productive trout stream in the East.

The West Branch of the Ausable River is formed where Marcy Brook and South Meadow Brook converge and flow north after leaving Mount Marcy. From there, the river meanders through meadows for some five miles, picking up several feeders along the way before reaching the Route 86 Bridge. Here, below the bridge, the river gains character with swifter water, pockets, pools, and undercut banks from years of ice and hard-moving water carving out this pristine section of river.

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Flowing through Wilmington Notch about three miles south of Route 86, the West Branch of the Ausable really takes on its personality as a rocky and treacherous river. Many hiding places for trout and even a 100-foot waterfall (High Falls) a mile above the Wilmington State Campground, signify the classic appearance of this historic Adirondack river. And you shouldn't miss stopping by the large pool at the base of the falls. With its depth and cover, this pool offers up very large trout each year, despite the abundance of anglers who try their luck here. The two miles of water before the next set of falls are more relaxed and have a series of slower pools and pockets. Fishing here can be very productive using dry flies, making it a slower-paced yet more exciting area to fish.
Hatch Chart
"The Flume" begins the next section of river, which is another set of falls just as impressive as "High Falls." Once again, you'll find another large pool there, which was ground out from the crashing water below the falls. This pool has large ledges along the banks and holds many large trout throughout each year. Streamers, at times, work well here and could potentially help you hook one of the huge browns hiding on the bottom of this dark pool.

A mile below the Flume Falls, the West Branch slows down again and creeps along slower and slower as it approaches a dam in the town of Wilmington. This two-mile stretch of river is characterized as a lake with a slow current, and has an average width of 200 feet, with depths to 18 feet. As you can imagine, fly fishing here is difficult, and it's mostly local bait fishermen who fish this spot. Below the dam for two miles before the Lewis Bridge, you'll find some of the finest fly-fishing water on the West Branch. With an abundance of boulders and a moderate gradient, this section offers some beautiful slots of water. Unfortunately, access here can prove frustrating and you'll need a good pair of legs to hike into some of the pools.

For almost two miles below the Lewis Bridge (just below Wilmington), the river is inaccessible for fishing, which is no great loss, as the fishing here is not as good. Below those two miles, the river is available to anglers and offers some beautiful water from the spot Black Brook enters. Here, you should use caution because you'll come across huge, slippery boulders and construction debris littered throughout this seven-mile stretch. The seven miles end at the dam in Ausable Forks. Below the dam you'll be happy to find another mile of quality fishing before the river eventually meets the East Branch of the Ausable to form the main stem.

Overall, the Ausable is a diverse river, offering anglers the opportunity to catch trout of all sizes and fish many different types of flies. Streamers and nymphs work well throughout the season. Stoneflies make up a large portion of the bugs on the river. Weighted nymphs will produce in some of the deeper pools along the river. Dry flies, such as the large Green Drake hatch that appears each year, also are very abundant (refer to the Hatch Chart for other Mayflies and Caddis).

There is a Special Regulations area. This is from mouth of Holcomb Pond Outlet downstream to marked boundary 2.2 miles downstream of Monument Falls. This is a

No-Kill (Catch and release), artificial's only.

The next time you're planning a trip to Lake Placid, or looking for some awesome trout water, why not try the West Branch of the Ausable in Northeastern New York?