Fly-Fishing in the Finger Lakes.
Welcome to the FLY-ZONE!!!
Although I enjoy many different kinds of fishing, my favorite way to catch fish is with the fly-rod. Fly fishing is just so intense! The tackle weighs just ounces, the casting is graceful and satisfying and when a fish is hooked the feeling is beyond compare!
Many guides and Charter Captains try to accommodate fly-fishermen on occasion but really aren’t set up for it. My boat is totally equipped for the lake fly-fisherman. First of all the boat has a 95" beam. It is incredibly stable for fly fishing. I have 2 drift socks and a high powered trolling motor – all so you will be able to drift and fish at an effective and comfortable pace. I have 2 line management devices including a "line tamer" and a custom made LMD designed by Stan Pleskunas – who makes these items for noted fly-fishermen like Dan Blanton. No need to worry about your fly-line wrapping around boat cleats or tangling on the deck. I also use specialty fly lines, including full-sinking lines – which are easy to cast, and shooting heads when required. I have rods made by Temple Forks Outfitters, Diamondback, SAGE, and others. My reels are manufactured by Ross, Temple Forks, J. Ryall and Bauer. Lines are by Rio and Cortland. You are welcome and encouraged to use my gear, or you can bring your own.
I’ve spent countless hours over the past years working on boat control and how it relates to the lake fly-fisherman. Placement of drift anchors, angle of drift, wind speed and direction, the angler’s casting ability and the fish being targeted all go into the "boat control equation," While fly-fishing in a boat your casting position and presentation are paramount to your having a successful day. The Finger Lakes offer exceptional fly-fishing opportunities and I detail some of them below.
Landlocked Salmon are truly the glamour fish of the region and they chase streamers with reckless abandon. These fish are ADDICTIVE! They hit hard and will often hit repeatedly until they get hooked! They are a beautiful fish to the eye – very silvery and they jump like no other fish in fresh water. A hot salmon - pound for pound might be the most explosive fighting fish in freshwater. A hot steelhead is tough to beat as far as quick runs and turns go, but a steelhead can’t match the salmon when it comes to acrobatics. I’ve had more than one salmon jump over 10 times in a row! Water temps around 48 to 50 tend to bring the best fights out of the salmon. Between Cayuga, Seneca and Skaneateles Lakes one of them, if not two always seem to offer some great fishing each year. When Cayuga has a good class or two of fish, there’s no better salmon fishing anywhere in the region - maybe the entire northeast! Cayuga produces numbers of salmon and they often reach lunker sizes. Salmon in Cayuga Lake typically average 18" to 20" long – usually around 2 ½ to 3lbs. Four and five pound fish are relatively common and every year we usually catch or sometimes just hook (!) some fish up to 6 or 7lbs. According to an article in "Fly Rod & Reel" by John Gierach (April 2003), he said "In Maine a 5lb. salmon is a fish of a lifetime."
In the Finger Lakes, a five pound salmon is a nice fish – but not uncommon.
The lake is capable of producing salmon up to 14lbs. These fish are very surface oriented and respond supremely to the fly. Don’t go through life in Western NY without fishing for landlocked salmon and seeing what it’s all about!
Northern Pike are right up there with salmon as a very exciting fish to fly-fish for. Most anglers fishing the Finger Lakes target trout, salmon, perch, or bass - this makes for some good pike fishing. Pike hit hard and fight hard. Large pike - fish over 30" are a cold water species and the best fishing for these fish is from November through May.
Pike fishing on the fly entails the casting of large saltwater styled streamers like Lefty’s Deceivers. I tie these flies as large as 4/0. If you want to fly-fish for pike or salmon/trout, you need to be able to cast a large weighted fly at least 60’ or more in conditions that can be windy. The boat is not the place to learn how to fly-cast. If you’ve fly-fished for stripers, bonefish, tarpon or bluefish in salt water you will know what to expect and be able to enjoy your outing. Unlike bonefishing, super-accurate casting is not very important, but distance is very helpful.
Rainbow trout are fairly common in Skaneateles Lake and run from around 15" to 20" or more. They are very strong fighters! I typically use flies imitating minnows or crawfish and fish them on intermediate to type IV full sinking lines. This fishing typically takes place from late October through May, with peak action from November through April. Expect to catch landlocked salmon and the occasional lake trout while fishing for rainbows. Limited fishing for rainbows also occurs during the mayfly hatches on Skaneateles Lake from mid-June to early July (I do not guide the hatch.) On other Finger Lakes rainbows are typically a bonus fish.
Longnose gar are one of my absolute favorite fish to fly-fish for. They are surface oriented like salmon, yet they are a fierce, large predator like a pike. They hit hard and jump too! They are usually found in large concentrations and are quite active during the hottest part of the summer. I usually sight-fish them with hookless rope flies. They are a primitive fish dating back in time over 100,000,000 years ago. They typically run from 30" to 37" long and are common in the northern portions of Cayuga Lake and in Lake Ontario bays and larger tributaries. Cross Lake and Sodus Bay are both capable of producing big gar - fish pushing over 45"! Fishing for gar is one of the best kept secrets in the angling world. I know fishermen who live in Alabama that have given up pursuing striped bass in order to chase big longnose gar. If our gar up here in the north got much bigger, I’d give up my bass fishing! THAT’S how much fun they are!
I'm trying to push the boundaries of fly-fishing. I've recently spent time trying to take lakers in 30' of water with shooting heads. Conditions need to be perfect for this type of angling.
We have some great opportunities for giant (20lb+) carp on the fly. Due to my heavy guiding schedule, I haven't been able to spend much time working on these patterns. We've had decent success on carp running from 5lbs to 26lbs thus far. A 30lber is very possible on Cayuga or Seneca Lake.
Fly-fishing for Tiger Muskies is also possible on Otisco Lake. I have the areas and habits of these fish patterned fairly well. There's no doubt in my mind that a perseverent fly-fisher could score on these muskies, but like the carp fishing, I just haven't had the time to experiment on this fishing much.
Regarding largemouth bass on the fly, Cayuga Lake offers some opportunities from June on onwards. I am not very dialed in on this fishing, but during the summer/fall on 2017 I focused a lot energy on bass fishing Cayuga Lake and found a few good fly-fishing opportunities. I wouldn't call it great fly-fishing, but if fly-fishing is your passion, the bass are nice fish with 18" and 19" fish not uncommon.