What are you wading for?
Fears of drought hold little sway with seekers of trout. Waders entering both inland streams and Great Lakes feeders gear up and hike out to likely spots for early fall fish activity.
"The near-shore trout and salmon activity takes a few anglers away from the streams at the start of the fall, but enough water is there for good trout movement now," said Bill Reed at the Orvis Shop in Williamsville.
The midsummer drought forced farmers to draw stream water for their fields. "Fishermen have to understand that crops are the farmers' sustenance, and we (anglers) have to make the right priorities when considering stream use," Reed said. "This summer came with a curious irony: The drought was so severe at times that farmers couldn't pump out pools," he added.
Now that rainfall has lifted stream levels -- still not up to normal heights -- trout in inland streams and salmon along Great Lakes feeders can move upstream and arrive at most of those pools so popular during previous fall outings. Recent rains have watered crops enough to eliminate most stream pumping as fish begin moving upstream.
Reed has the opportunity to check out popular inland waters and gets daily reports of stream activity from anglers visiting the Orvis Shop. According to latest reports, East Koy Creek, which courses through Wyoming County near Gainesville, remains low but fishable. Wiscoy Creek, which runs through the downtown section in the Village of Pike, has stream levels similar to East Koy, but a few fish can be found with stealth.
Camouflage clothing and noiseless, careful approaches serve trout anglers as well as hunters. "Neutral-colored clothing and careful wading are important when fishing low, clear waters," Reed said. When walking upstream, avoid creating wakes, splashing and rock kicking, he suggests. Like the successful turkey or deer hunter, stream waders try to remain as unseen and unheard as possible.
Line leaders also become essential. Long, light leaders help keep lines less visible to fish in shallow, clear stream waters.
Reed recommends the stretch of the Genesee River above Belmont Dam to the Pennsylvania state line as good inland stream trout waters right now. The Genesee, which flows north and empties into Lake Ontario at Rochester, received fair amounts of runoff from recent rains and can be fished with those flies typical for early September days. Reed sees the tricos, small flies usually tied on a size-20 hook, still present but winding down. Small cadis flies, tied on size 18 or 18 hooks, can be effective, and blue winged olives take over on overcast days.
The "purist" label hung on fly fishermen -- those who do not fish with live bait, spinners or hard-bodied lures -- can be deceptive. Fall fly patterns call for not only the smaller trico and cadis flies but also an array of terrestrials, flies tied to resemble ants and beetles of all sizes.
Reed believes terrestrials should work throughout the fall inland season, which now ends on Oct. 15. Until three years ago, inland trout season always ended on Sept. 30. Fly anglers now look for patterns during the cooler weather arriving in the first half of October.
Along with ants and beetles, some fall tiers use flies shaped like small grasshoppers. These patterns are basically flies, but the assortment matches the number of lures lining tackle boxes of anglers out for bass, walleye or muskies -- far from the purist's model of a delicate fly tied to match the hatch.
Cattaraugus Creek, above and below the Springville Dam, will take some time to restore water levels for fly fishing above Springville and the steelhead run from the mouth at Lake Erie into the lower creek. "Stream fishermen got fooled by last year's early arrival of rainbows (steelhead trout) and the steady fishing throughout the fall," said Ricky Miller at Irving. "So far this year they've only found a few small trout in Cattaraugus," he said.
"Lower Cattaraugus Creek normally doesn't start producing until late September or early October," Reed said, "and the action continues until the creek is frozen solid."
For now, Western New York trout streams are is good shape for the start of fall fishing: Both trout and salmon have shown well in boat catches along the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shoreline, stream water levels -- though low -- have edged closer to normal and bug life allows for fly patterns typical of early fall conditions.
Boaters have to troll long distances to find trout and salmon in the open waters of the Great Lakes. Stream fishermen can assemble the right kinds of fall patterns and then just wade and see.