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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Now is the time to learn fly fishing

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 it is 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 tieing. Mohawk Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited ( welcomes new members and is very helpful. The Madison County Chapter of TU ( is involved in casting clinics and fly tieing, in addition to its stream improvements and stocking.
For most of the trout fishing in this area, an 8 and 1/2 or 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 a heavier 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, Hendrickson, 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.
Most of the significant hatches on trout streams are mayflies or caddis flies that occur as the water warms. Generally, the following major hatches occur within a week of these times each year: Hendrickson - early May to mid June; Blue Winged Olive – May 1 to June 30; March Brown – mid May to mid June; Light Cahill – early May to the end of June; Sulphurs – early June to mid July; Green Drake - mid June to July 1; Isonychia early June to mid July; Golden Drake – early to mid July; White Mayfly - August and September. Not all Central New York streams have these same hatches.
Many years ago Pete French, an excellent fly fisherman and guide, gave me good advice. Pete said that the first thing he did when he arrived at the stream was nothing. Essentially, Pete was saying that he sat an observed any activity of mayflies hatching and emerging, or dying and floating on the water, and signs of whether the fish were feeding on the surface or on emerging hatches beneath the surface.
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. If you don’t have a sinking line, you can use a split shot on your leader to get the fly down.
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.
Short Casts
Save The Date: The Madison County Friends of NRA Banquet will be held on Saturday, June 7 at the Rusty Rail in Canastota. Contact Ralph Meyers (363-5342) for more information.
Record Striper: The first new record fish of 2014 was a striped bass caught in the Hudson River near Newburgh on May 14. The new record fish weighed 60 pounds and was 53.4 inches long with a 33-inch girth. It surpassed the old record set in 2007 by 4 pounds, 10 ounces. Eric Lester was fishing alone when he hooked the monster striper and then began a comedy of errors with the reel coming off the rod. He managed to re-attach it but found the line snarled around the engine prop. He untangled that and managed to land the fish alone. Photos of the record fish are available on the DEC website.
Spey Nation: The 2014 Spey Nation weekend will be June 20–22 on the Salmon River with three days of fun at no charge. There will be free movies Friday night at Tailwater Lodge in Altmar, presentations all day on Saturday at the Pineville Boat Launch. The free lunch will be catered by Tailwater Lodge and at 4 p.m. there will be the drawings for the raffles which will benefit the Fish Creek Atlantic Salmon Club. Sunday will be free fishing at the Douglaston Salmon Run or lessons from Spey Casting.
Fenner Fur Rondy: The Independent Fur Harvesters of Central NY will hold their annual summer Fur Rondy on July 11 and 12 at Nichols Pond. There will be family fun, trapping business and a Trapper Training Class. Contact Al LaFrance (682-2050) for more information.
Wild Boars Off Limits: As reported earlier, the hunting or killing of free-ranging wild boars is illegal in New York State. Although NYS wants to eradicate any wild pigs, the shooting of them by random hunting is counter-productive. The pigs are extremely wary and intelligent and if one is killed the rest scatter and become more difficult to trap or kill. The state has been able to eliminate all of most of them in various areas of Central NY but some areas of wild boars apparently remain. It has been an expensive process but the free-ranging hogs do incredible damage to the environment, wildlife and agricultural crops. Any Eurasian boars that are in enclosed hunting preserves may still be hunted but those are scheduled for elimination by next year.
Deer Take: According to results released recently by the DEC, the total deer harvest was slightly above the previous year and an increase from the previous five year average. The number of bucks killed was down by about 4,000 but the number of does killed on DMU permits rose by over 5,000. However the DEC was disappointed that the DMU desired quotas were not reached in many units, especially in western NY. We will have a breakdown on local figures later or you can check the reports on the DEC website.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

ECOs hold successful youth turkey hunt

Oneida County Youth Hunt
The Federated Sportsmen Clubs of Oneida County and Region 6 Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) teamed up to hold its fourth annual Youth Turkey Hunt on April 26 and 27. The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Oneida County Sheriff Dept. and NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame and other interested sportsmen and women from the area assisted and supported the event. A total of 16 youths signed up from Herkimer, Oneida and Madison Counties to participate in this year’s hunt.
A Safety Day for the 16 youths and their parents was held April 12 at the Cassety Hollow Rod and Gun Club in Oriskany Falls. A presentation on turkey hunting safety and regulations was conducted by ECO Ric Grisolini. Mr. Tim Furner from Gander Mountain and the NWTF put on a small presentation on the setup of turkey decoys in the field and a calling demonstration.
In the afternoon each youngster patterned their shotguns under the instruction of ECO Mike Dangler, a certified firearms instructor. Each youth was partnered up with an ECO and mentor from their area. They talked about the equipment they had and what they might need.
On April 26 the ECOs and mentors took 16 youths out hunting. Four of the youths harvested their turkey on this day. They had three misses that day as well. Everyone had turkeys all around them that morning but many of the turkeys hung just outside the range of their guns, so those youths could not get a shot. The largest turkey harvested that day was 22 pounds, with one seven-inch beard and another one and one-half-inch beard on its chest and spurs that were one-inch long. The youths all had a great time and they received lunch after the hunt.
On April 27 the ECOs and mentors took out twelve youths out. The weather was cold and rainy but they harvested two nice birds. The largest bird that day was 20 pounds with a 10-inch beard and spurs of one and one-half inches long. The second bird was 18 pounds with a nine-inch beard and one-inch spurs. They also had three misses that day as well. The youths all had a great time and enjoyed lunch after the hunt.
The Oneida County Federation and the ECOs would like to give a big thank you to the following groups or organizations for their donations for this year’s hunt: NYS Conservation Officer Assoc., National Wild Turkey Federation, Gander Mountain of New Hartford, Bass Pro Shops of Utica, Otis Technology, Zink Calls, Mountain Hollow Game Calls, and Mr. Steve Heerkens.
The Oneida County Federation and the organizers of the event would like to give a big thank you to Environmental Conservation Officers and sportsmen and women mentors that took the time out of their schedule to take a kid out hunting.
Thanks also go to the cooks for the event, Brian Day and Larry Chandler, and the Cassety Hollow Members for the use of their Club for the Safety Day, and the two days of hunting.
Turkey Tales
The turkey season is a week old and a lot of nice birds have been taken. Typically the majority of hunters have had some excitement or frustration but haven’t bagged a bird yet. However, those who know turkey hunting realize that statistically the odds of getting a mature tom are less than getting a deer.
One thing that many hunters have commented on is the relative lack of gobbling on the roost and general scarcity of gobbling after they fly down from the roost. However if you do get a bird within hearing range, they are likely to respond to your calls with aggressive gobbling. Getting them to come within range, however, is another matter.
Dick Cooper has had a lot of excitement calling in gobblers but the big toms have stayed out of sight or out of range. “Coop” did pass up shots at jakes who wandered within range to check out his decoys. Glen Garver called in a nice tom on opening day but there were no hens to draw the big birds’ attention away.
Sue Bookhout got a big tom of 22 pounds, 8-inch beard, and one-inch spurs earlier this week, shortly after the tom came down from his roost across the road. I was successful early last week on Friday when I heard a lone gobble about 9:30 a.m. down at the bottom of the ridge I was sitting on. I called sparingly and about 20 minutes later two big toms snuck up the ridge silently. The one I bagged weighed 22 pounds with a nine and one-half-inch beard and one and one-quarter-inch spurs.
So far the story seems to be don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear one gobble on the roost. Be patient, call sparingly until you get a response, and be ready for one to sneak in silently.
Vernon Rod & Gun Club Chicken BBQ: The Vernon Rod & Gun Club will hold a chicken barbecue on Saturday, May 17 from noon until done. Location will be at the clubhouse on Stuhlman Road across from Vernon Downs. Menu will include half a chicken, roll, coleslaw, salt potatoes and dessert. Meals are available for sit-in dinner or take out. Proceeds from this event will be used to fund the kids fishing derby in June.
Walleye Report: The cool, damp weather last weekend failed to dampen the enthusiasm of walleye fishermen on Oneida Lake and the tributaries. Windy weather made fishing conditions difficult, especially on Sunday with nasty waves creating rough boating conditions. Partly because of the weather, and partly because there were still a lot of the male walleyes in the tributaries, much of the boating activity was concentrated in Fish Creek. A considerable number of fishermen took keeper-sized walleye, although very few of the fish were large. Anglers generally had to put in a lot of time or miles on the lake for the fish they did catch.
Paddlefest: Adirondack Paddlefest, the largest on-water canoe and kayak show in the Northeast returns to Old Forge May 16–18. There will be hundreds of canoes and kayaks on sale, and all types of accessories available. Meet with manufacturers representatives, take skill classes for a modest fee and attend free seminars and demonstrations on everything from tandem paddling techniques to kayak fishing. Of course, this is also your chance to test paddle canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards, as well as try out various paddles.
There will be a special one-day contest of fishing for northern pike from a kayak on Saturday, May 17. First prize will be a Wilderness Fishing Kayak. There will also be many booths of various outdoor related organizations. For more information check the website or call 369-6672.
Bass Pro Shops Go Outdoors Weekends: Local Bass Pro shops, including the North Utica store, will host two weekends of free workshops and activities May 16–26. The weekend of May 17-18 will include seminars on camping, survival, proper fit of PFDs and cooking demonstrations. The weekend of May 24–25 will be geared towards youngsters with BB gun shooting range, metal detector treasure hunt, scavenger hunt and crafts. There will be kids workshops on camping and water safety. See the website for times and details.
L.L. Bean Camping Weekend: Local L.L. Bean stores will hold a camping weekend May 16–18. This will be a weekend long event at local L.L. Bean stores. There will be free clinics with expert staff on camping essentials, hiking and backpacking trips, and beginner birding. You can see product demonstrations and test gear in a wide variety of tents, chairs, sleeping bags, etc. There will also be fun games and crafts for kids of all ages. See the website for more information.
Oneida Lake Team Walleye Trail: The team tournament returns to Oneida Lake on June 1 with the Team Walleye Trail, sponsoring a one-day tournament. Winning team is guaranteed a minimum of $2,000 and the lunker prize is $750. Hours are 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. with the tournament based in Oneida Shores County Park in Brewerton. See the website for complete rules and details.
Paddlefest Fishing Tournament: A new event at Paddlefest this year is the inaugural Paddlefest Fishing Tournament with first place winning a new Wilderness Systems Fishing Kayak. The day is Saturday, May 17 and registration is from Friday noon or Saturday morning between 9 and 10 a.m. Preregistration must be in the mail by Monday, May 12. See the website for on-line registration and details.
The contest will be for northern pike and will be a catch and release tournament. Pike must be caught from a kayak in the Fulton Chain of Lakes or tributaries. Kayak rentals are available. Second prize will be a carbon paddle valued at $355 and third place will receive a $75 gift card. Registration is limited to the first 50 participants. The event is sponsored by Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company, Adirondack Outdoors magazine and Wilderness System kayaks.