Blogs > Oneida Outdoors

An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Protect yourself against insects this summer

Last Friday – the turkey woods near Hamilton, Saturday – the banks of the Salmon River near Altmar, Sunday – the Moose River in the central Adirondacks. What did each of these locations have in common last weekend? Black flies! Most of us are familiar with the evil black flies that frequent Tug Hill, the Adirondacks and most areas of central New York where there is clear, cool water. The black fly season is just getting into high gear so be prepared if you go afield.
Black flies, mosquitoes, and punkies form the “axis of evil” among biting insects and they are most active in May and June. Not only can they spoil your outdoor fun, they can also cause some serious health problems.
Black flies are vicious biting insects that attack in swarms and with their sharp mouths they leave nasty bites. Their saliva also contains an anti-coagulant that many people are allergic to. Although they hatch in clear water, the breeze may blow them a great distance from the water and they can be found anywhere there is foliage for cover especially during daylight hours. They are a serious threat to hikers, fishermen and turkey hunters.
Although we associate black flies with the Adirondacks or Tug Hill Plateau they grow anywhere there is cold, clear water. Thus with the reforestation and cooler streams and the elimination of most pollution, the black flies are a problem in many areas of central New York.
Many Adirondack townships treat streams with bti, a natural bacteria that attacks black fly larvae while not harming “good insects” like caddis flies, etc. However, not all townships use this treatment and frequent heavy rains can wash out the scheduled applications of bti.
No-see-ums or punkies are very tiny biting flies which also are found near still water. They occur in swarms but aren't as persistent as black flies. They are most active from dusk to dawn. They often penetrate under or through most netting or mesh covering.
The wet weather has been conducive for breeding mosquitoes which are born in stagnant water but travel long distances in search of prey. They are most active during periods of low light.
Female mosquitoes are persistent and swarms of them can make your life miserable. There is also the danger of spreading disease through the mosquito bites.
There are methods to protect yourself from these disgusting little critters including special clothing and repellents. For example L.L.Bean makes a line of clothing called “Buzz Off.” It is a cotton poplin fabric with natural odorless repellent bonded to the fabric. I have used the shorts, shirts and hats and they really work.
There are other brands that utilize mesh, lightweight clothing, and natural repellents.
Of course, many washings will remove the repellent and diminish the usefulness.
Common repellents contain DEET which is effective but may cause an allergic reaction in some people.
If a rash occurs, wash off the remaining repellent. Another problem is perspiration causing some of the repellent with DEET to get into your eyes. If you doubt that DEET is nasty stuff, see what it does to varnish on your canoe paddle or the material of your fly line, etc.
One product that has proven effective for both people and animals such as short haired dogs is Bug Guard. It does not contain DEET but relies on natural repellents and is specially developed to repel black flies, mosquitoes and ticks. I have used it extensively and can testify that it works well.
It lasts for about eight hours, although perspiration and rain will remove it.
My friend, the late Scott Sampson had a German Short Haired Pointer that was constantly being bitten by black flies, etc. due to its fine, short hair. A veterinarian recommended Avon Bug Guard since it is safe to put on animals even if they lick themselves. It also serves to repel deer ticks. Note that we are talking about a specific insect repellent, not the bath oil produced by the same company.
Movement, carbon dioxide, perspiration and perfumes all serve as attractions for these disgusting insects. You can't avoid moving or breathing, but you can avoid perfumes, colognes, etc. and you can try to cut down on perspiration.
The color blue also attracts these insects so avoid blue colored clothing.
In addition to the biting insects described, there is the growing problem of deer ticks which spread Lyme disease. Ticks are found in areas of wet leaves, tall grass and brush. They can attach themselves directly to you from these areas.
You should wear long pants and tuck them in your socks or wear gaiters to avoid a problem .
Spray your pants legs with permithrin or DEET. Use repellent such as Bug Guard on exposed skin. Check for ticks after being outside in areas described above. Remove any ticks with a tweezers.
So even though insects are a problem, you can still enjoy the outdoors with a little precaution. Besides, if you stay inside watching all those re-runs of “reality shows” on you will probably suffer from brain damage.
OVER THE HILL GANG DERBY: Canastota’s Over the Hill Gang will mark their 40th annual Kids Fishing Derby on June 3. As usual, the fun-filled derby will be held on the banks of the Erie Canal on Canal St. from noon until 4 p.m. Kids ages 3–12 will be treated to ice cream, lemonade and hot dogs while fishing. Prizes will be drawn every two minutes and there will be trophies for various age groups. Free bait will be provided. There will be a concession stand for adults. Each year the Over the Hill Gang provides a great outing for hundreds of kids and this year’s event will continue that tradition.
CROSSBOW COALITION: A pro-hunting grassroots organization has been formed to push classification of the crossbow for use in any season where archery is permitted. Currently, the use of the crossbow in any season is favored by the DEC but bills in the NYS Legislature face intense lobbying and pressure from NY Bowhunters who are opposed to this. For more information, visit
WOUNDED WARRIOR BENEFIT SHOOT: Vernon National Shooting Preserve is sponsoring a 100-bird shoot on their Sporting Clays Club on May 27 starting at 10 a.m. Proceeds will benefit the Fort Drum Physical Therapy Station. Call 982-7045 to enter or download the registration at
This Sunday is the 3-Man Scramble where three person teams shoot at 100 targets but combine the two best scores for competition. There are rules and bonuses that make this a fun and challenging event in addition to the shooting.
TALKING TURKEY: It has been a strange first half of the turkey season with no discernible pattern. A few lucky hunters have had big birds come in while many others have had their calls ignored. Some days the woods are alive with birds gobbling on the roost while others are silent.
Some days birds stroll by the decoys ignoring the calls but on other days they came in eagerly. Generally the toms have been responding to calls but when they have hens they are not budging from the real thing. And some big birds have been coming in silently, even early in the morning.
After having a lot of birds answer my calls but not come within range during my outings this spring, my luck took a turn for the better this week. Wednesday morning I did not hear any birds but I sat in my usual spot and called sparsely with an occasional yelp or cluck. About 9:30 my patience was rewarded as I saw the familiar red, white and blue head coming along a hedgerow towards me and my decoys. The big tom came along steadily but silently until I dropped him at a distance of 35 yards. He was a nice bird with a nine-inch beard.
BOAT SAFETY: With the busy boating and canoeing season coming up it is worth reminding everyone that laws require a wearable type I, II, or III PFD (life jacket) be aboard every vessel, including canoe or kayak. Children under 12 must wear a PFD while aboard a boat or canoe. In fact, everyone should wear them since nobody plans on having an accident. Injury, shock from cold water and current can inhibit your ability to swim and statistics show that most deaths result from drowning.
Use common sense, stay alert and make this a safe season on the water.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Spring is prime-time for fly fishing

A couple weeks ago at the Trout & Salmon Expo in New Hartford some of the local Trout Unlimited members were giving kids lessons in fly casting and having clinics to assist adult anglers. A couple people commented that this was fun and not nearly as difficult as they had believed.
Have you ever thought that you would like to get involved in fly fishing? Spring is the prime time for fly fishing since many mayfly or other aquatic insects will be hatching and trout will be eagerly feeding on them. The hatches create enough action that even a beginner can have fun catching fish. Of course some of the recent weather with cold temperatures and strong winds definitely was not fly fishing weather.
Fly fishing is fun and easier than you might think. How should you get started? The best advice is to ask a friend who is an experienced fly fisherman. By asking a friend, professional instructor or local sports shop you will probably get the best advice on what type of equipment to purchase, and how to get started. Lessons from guides or pro shops can be very helpful.
Locally there are several groups that can offer advice, support, or even assist you in learning to cast properly or get started in fly tying. Mohawk Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited ( welcomes new members and is very helpful. The Madison County Chapter of TU ( is involved in casting clinics, fly tying, in addition to its stream improvements and stocking. Fly Fishing Anglers Association ( is a group based in Whitesboro that meets monthly and will provide lots of help and support.
For most of the trout fishing in this area an 8 1/2 to 9 foot rod, balanced with a 5 or 6 weight line will be ideal. Fortunately it is easy these days to balance equipment - i.e. the proper weight line for the rod. Simply match the number on the rod with the weight of the line. You will want heavier a weight for bass or steelhead fishing.
You should have a good quality reel with sufficient capacity and drag control, but basically they are just used for storing line. A single action reel with interchangeable spools for using different types of lines (sinking tip, weight forward, etc.) is what most of us need.
The variety of lines can be confusing but most of your fishing needs will be served by floating, weight forward lines. These are easiest to cast and allow for delicate presentation. Level lines are cheaper, but should be avoided for most casting purposes since they don't give you the distance or delicate presentation.
The last part of the equipment is a tapered leader. This allows you to present the fly so the fish will not see the connection. Although experienced anglers may opt for longer leaders, most of us will do fine with a 7 1/2 or 9 foot tapered leader. The tippet (end) should match the size of the fly you are using. Smaller flies call for more delicate tippets. You can attach the leader with a nail knot, but many people use various commercial leader connectors to easily attach the leader to the end of the fly line.
The third part of the equation is choosing the proper flies to use. This can be the most intimidating or frustrating part. When you see fish rising all around you but ignoring your offerings, you wonder if it is your casting techniques, fly selection, or a punishment for not mowing the lawn before you left.
You may not have to match the hatch exactly, but the closer you come, the better your success will be. When in doubt just try to come as close to the size as possible, then try to match shape and color and this usually produces some fish.
You don't need an overwhelming number of patterns and sizes to catch trout. Most of the trout in this area can be caught on dry flies in Adams, Light Cahill, Hendricksen, Caddis, Gray Fox, March Browns or Elk's Hair Caddis. Your wet fly selection should include Wooly worm, Royal Coachman, Dark Hendricksen and Hornberg. Toss in some Wooly Buggers, Muddler Minnows and Hare's Ear and some streamers and nymph imitations and you are on your way.
In addition to fishing dry flies on the surface, or trolling streamers, a common tactic of fly fishermen is to use wet flies like the Muddler Minnow, Hornberg or Wooly Bugger. These are best fished with a sinking line near the bottom of the pond and gently twitched or moved with the drift of the canoe.
It is true that the better you are at casting and fly selection the more fish you will catch. But you get better by practicing it on the stream or pond. Thus you can catch fish and have fun while learning.
So join the growing number of people who find that fly fishing isn't a difficult challenge - it's just plain fun.
LADIES ONLY SPORTING CLAYS CLINIC: On Sunday May 6th, Vernon National Shooting Prserve will be holding their first Ladies Only Sporting Clays Clinic. The Clinic will run from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm, and will include a light lunch, clinic work book, instruction, targets and snacks at the clinic's end. All levels of shooters are invited, and will be grouped by ability level. They are taking a maximum of 15 ladies. You can register by calling Bonny at 315-941-6513 or Tom Fiumarello at 845-625-3151
FUTURE ANGLERS OUTREACH SETS RECORD: The Future Anglers Outreach (FAO) Program set a new record last Sunday with over 140 youngsters attending. The FAO is not a clinic, but is designed to give basic instruction to parents and youngsters, provide a fun morning of fishing under supervision, and give each young participant a rod and reel to keep.
The initial goal of 100 participants was reached by pre-registration and last minute additions swelled the number to 141. Fortunately chairperson Ted Dobs had planned for such a situation and had additional rods and reels and other supplies and food. The event went smoothly thanks to the professionalism and organization of the sponsor – S.H.O.T.S. S.H.O.T.S. (Sportsmen Helping Others Through Sharing) sponsored the event and provided lots of skilled volunteers. Other volunteers helped in instructing families in the basic skills of fishing.
The success was made possible by the efforts of Dave Alberico and Pete Siver of Marion Manor Marina. By providing a large secure area with plenty of cooperative fish it was possible to effectively spread out and have a positive experience with such large numbers. Thanks and congratulations to all involved.
SPRING MIGRATION FESTIVAL: The Great Swamp Conservancy of Canastota will hold its Spring Migration Festival this weekend, May 5 and 6. It will be 10 – 4 both days at 8375 North Main St., Canastota. There will be artists, crafters, “Talons” birds of prey, environmental displays, music, children’s activities, and guided bird walks. Call 697-2950 for more information.
FIRE TOWER TRAILS: Common Man Books has just released the latest in its popular series of hiking and guide books. The book “29 Fire Tower Trails in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains” is about the 29 remaining fire towers, all of which are part of the ADK Firetower Challenge. In this book they have included explicit directions from Interstate highways, where to park, what you might see and what the authors found. They also included GPS readings and more than 60 full color photos.
You can ask for this book at your local bookstore or outfitter or order it from the publisher, Common Man Books at: or call them, toll free at: 866-793-0555.