Northeast of Lake Placid, the West Branch Ausable River is known to have the best fly fishing in New York State. This freestone fishery is highlighted by large brown trout and brook trout from 10 to 18 inches. It is legendary for abundant hatches of mayflies, stoneflies and caddis along with a prolific green drake hatch in early summer. Most of the anglers come to exp...
Northeast of Lake Placid, the West Branch Ausable River is known to have the best fly fishing in New York State. This freestone fishery is highlighted by large brown trout and brook trout from 10 to 18 inches. It is legendary for abundant hatches of mayflies, stoneflies and caddis along with a prolific green drake hatch in early summer. Most of the anglers come to explore the main 5 mile catch-and-release section where there are numerous shaded pocket waters hiding elusive brown trout.
The main Ausable River is formed by three tributaries including the East Branch, Main Branch and the West Branch Ausable River. The latter is by far the most popular tributary for fly fishing.
The West Branch is formed upstream by the confluence of March Brook and South Meadow Brook. The West Branch flows north passing east of Lake Placid on the way through Wilmington to Ausable Forks. A large part of the West Branch follows SR86, which crosses it by bridge several times. As it passes under SR86 the first time, the most popular section of the West Branch Ausable River begins with several stretches of river divided by falls. This section is actually from the Holcomb Pond Outlet heading downstream 2.2 miles to Monument Falls and is catch-and-release only requiring artificial lures only. Another popular section starts at the Whiteface Ski Center bridge heading downstream north to a SR86 bridge (catch-and-release with artifical lures only).
While the West Branch Ausable River is open year-round for catch-and-release with artificial lures, most local fly fishermen consider opening day to be April 1st and closing day to be October 15th. During that time period, there is a daily take limit of five trout of any size when outside of the catch-and-release zones.
During the month of April, the river is full of snow melt and the water begins to warm. In May, the river is free of snow and ice and the cool water is home to plentiful fish. Through early June, the river is still quite cool and the hatches are prolific. By July and August, the daytime river temperatures are pretty high, so you'll need to fish very early in the morning for the fish to be active. In September and October, the river crowds have gone, but you'll be rewarded with colorful foliage while you explore the deepest pools for the last of the finicky fish.
On your first trip to the West Branch Ausable River for fly fishing, don't be surprised by the tannic tea colored water of the river. Just keep in mind that with the poor clarity you may find the wading to be difficult. Should you be looking for really big trout, you want to head north of Wilmington Notch State Park to explore the waters dowstream to Small Lake, which is best floated. Just below Wilmington, the tailwater fishery is also excellent for about 10 miles.
Overall, West Branch Ausable River is the 1st most popular fly fishing river of all 32 fly fishing spots in New York. Several of the better fly fishing rivers are nearby West Branch Ausable River including Batten Kill River, West Canada Creek, Upper Hudson River, Saranac River and Boquet River.
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