[BELL CHIMING] SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
SPEAKER 2: In a reunion talk given at Mann Library in June 2011, angling master Michael Lenetsky of the Leon Chandler Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Ithaca, New York introduced the year-round fly-fishing opportunities in the Finger Lakes region. His presentation highlighted the varied settings for excellent fishing in the Finger Lakes area, as well as which species to target during different seasons of the year.
This talk was held in conjunction with Mann Library's spring 2011 exhibit, "Rainbows and Plunge Pools-- Fly Fishing in the Lore of the Streams," a display about our age-old fascination with fish and fishing as revealed in illustrated treasures from the library collections.
MICHAEL LENETSKY: All right. So as Mary alluded, I'm going to talk about fly-fishing here in the Finger Lakes region. I'm want to talk about fly-fishing here in the Finger Lakes region throughout the year. So I'm going to talk. I'm a 12-month fisherman. I see some folks in here I fish with who are also 12-month fishermen.
And what we're going to talk about is what's available here in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York, whether they're the small streams, whether it's fishing in the lakes, whether it's fishing in ponds and smaller lakes, or whether it's fishing in the tributaries for our pre- and post-spawn fish.
So right around here is primarily what I'm going to focus on. And most of the fishing that I'm going to talk about, most of the pictures of fish that I'm going to show, were caught within 25 miles of where we're sitting and standing right now. So that's part of the thing to remember is that I'm really talking very regional.
There are a couple of exceptions in the winter. Sometimes you travel a little bit farther. And sometimes we go up to Lake Ontario to fish for some of the big salmon. So I'll talk briefly about those.
But the primary point of what I'm going to be talking about are opportunities that are fairly close to Ithaca. They include tributaries to the lakes, so some of the tributaries to our lake, as well as Seneca Lake, include Fall Creek, and Salmon Creek, Catherine Creek. On Owasco Lake we have Owasco inlet. We also have the Cuyuga Inlet.
We have up there-- I guess I've listed Cuyuga Lake and Seneca Lake. There's also Owasco Lake. Although I have to admit, I don't fish it very often, if ever, and certainly not enough to have pictures or any expertise to share with you.
With respect to the small lakes, we have Dryden Lake. We have Jennings Pond. There's actually a fly fishing and fishing class here at Cornell University that teaches out on Beebe Lake. So there's also fish there, right on campus.
And we have some of the cold-water freestone streams like Upper Fall Creek and Cayuta Creek. And then regionally, we have Lake Ontario and some of its-- some of its tributaries. The big one is the Salmon River.
So I'd like to start this with the spring. Kind of when I was asked to do this, it was spring. And all of my thoughts of fishing were looking forward to not clearing ice out of my guides, not wearing 5-millimeter neoprene, and gloves, and a face mask, and a couple of hats to keep warm.
In the Finger Lakes, the spring is really amazing, when the trilliums come out and the skunk cabbage come up. And the first thing that I start to do, as well as many of the people that I fish with, are think about our tributaries. So the tributaries, as I'm going to define them here, are the portions of any stream that run from a lake to the first impassable barrier.
So if we talk about Cayuga Lake and we talk about Fall Creek, the tributary section of Fall Creek is about a mile long. It starts-- it ends at Ithaca Falls. Or we could say it starts at Ithaca Falls and terminates where it joins Cayuga Lake.
If we were to talk about Cayuga Inlet, there's really no impassable barrier there. So the whole inlet would be is considered a tributary. That's about a 16-mile long stream. When you get kind of past the New Field area, it really turns swampy. So most of what we're talking about on the inlet is kind of New Field and downstream of there.
So it starts on April 1st, is kind of when our season officially opens here for everything. We start kind of-- the first thoughts are rainbow trout I hope you can see the picture. This is about a 19-inch rainbow trout caught in Fall Creek. And I won't say it was by me. It was by one of my friends, caught on a large streamer.
What's really nice about this spring tributary fishing is that you're fishing for fish that are active, that want to eat, that are looking for streamers. They're aggressive they tend to hit things. They move. Streamers in white and chartreuse are generally what we're using, although occasionally our water can be a little bit muddy, in which case we often switch to dark nymphs below a strike indicator of some sort.
This year, in particular, the landlock salmon also came back. So many people, I will say not myself included, had spectacular-- I look at my friend Josh back there-- many people had spectacular landlock seasons this spring. The landlock fishing in the spring is very different than in the fall, again.
They're in, chasing smelt that are also spawning in the streams. And they're there to eat. So you find them generally early in the morning and late in the day. We're generally swinging larger flies at them, casting them across the stream, letting them drift down. And the fish will generally strike them on the swing, what we call the dangle, kind of at the bottom of the swing.
They'll strike them pretty hard. They're fairly aggressive. They jump a lot, not that they don't jump in the fall. But I find that they jump a lot more in the spring. They're very, very energetic.
One of my fishing friends, who managed to hook up with several of them this spring, didn't actually manage to land any of them. They all broke him off. And particularly in the spring, we're using a tippet that tends to be in the 10 to 12 pound fluorocarbon range.
We want to bring the fish in relatively quickly. Most of us are catch and release fishermen, not exclusively, and not all the time. But I would say 95% of the fish I'm taking a picture and putting them back. And we like to be able to land the fish kind of effectively and quickly, and get to fly out of their mouth, and put them back in the water, hopefully kind of unharmed as best as possible.
So these are some of the flies. Obviously egg patterns work, although I can't say that I use them very much at all in the spring, woolly buggers, zonker-type flies, and up there is a big Gartside soft tackle. So kind of, again, all big, with the exception of the woolly bugger, kind of big, white, bright flies, things that have a lot of action in the movement and movement in the water.
There can also be browns. So this is one of the exceptions to within 25 miles of Ithaca. This is actually on Seneca Lake, about 45 miles away from here, on the west side of the lake. Seneca Lake in the spring, what I have found, gets-- traditionally it gets a much better run of the big browns.
We do catch browns here in our tributaries in the spring, but certainly not to the numbers that you catch-- that you catch on the west side of Seneca Lake. This fish was actually caught in about 12 inches of water, which is the really amazing part about it. When they come in and they're looking to eat things, they're coming in and they're looking to eat things and they don't care where they are.
As the water starts to warm up, the smallmouth bass start to come in. I am not a trout fisherman or a salmon fisherman exclusively. I am a fisherman. And I like to catch things that bite my flies and fight a little bit.
So as the spring comes in, the small largemouth bass comes in. I think particularly here in the Ithaca area, we have of wonderful smallmouth bass population. Up on the north side of the lake, there's a lot more largemouth.
The smallmouth come in, in traditionally pretty decent numbers. And you can catch them. Plenty of fish in the 12- to 16-inch range, and a lot of fish above that. I think this is about a 16- or 17-inch fish. The fish on the left was a 19-and-1/2-inch smallmouth.
All of these fish were caught in or below Ithaca Falls. So the first picture and the picture on the right are both in Ithaca Falls. I feel confident saying this because these are not secret spots. I'm not giving anything away. There are a lot of people who fish at Ithaca Falls. But I don't really know that everybody understands what's in there and what the capability is, particularly those of us who are really local. Sometimes we kind of overlook what's right in our backyard. For a couple of us right now, Fall Creek really is right in our backyard and we do spend a lot of time there.
This one on the left, the bigger fish, is something that I cut down by the high school. I would say probably in Fall Creek 75% of my fishing is between the high school and the falls. And I fish about 125 days a year. And I would probably guess about 75% of those are right in Fall Creek, which is nice because I can walk there ride my bike.
AUDIENCE: What are you using?
MICHAEL LENETSKY: I'm using woolly buggers, almost exclusively woolly buggers. I was just introduced to a new pattern, called a chili pepper, which is essentially an orange and copper woolly bugger. I haven't tried it yet. But Josh, who's sitting in the back, landed a few smallmouth bass on it the other day, as well as a 27-inch carp.
And I have no problems landing carp. The only time I've ever been spooled in the Finger Lakes was a carp, about a 25-inch carp, that decided it didn't want to be anywhere near me and would really like to be back in the lake, where it felt probably much, much safer than on the end of my fly rod. So they do fight.
A lot of people don't target them. But they are an aggressive eater. I think of much as fishing bonefish. There's really not a whole lot of difference. They're moving along the bottom, eating crayfish, insects that are down there. If you throw something crayfish-looking at them, or even a small nymph thing, they'll generally-- unless they're not eating, they'll generally suck it up and fight pretty well, even a 5-pounder will put up a really nice fight.
In the spring though, I also do start thinking about the Salmon River. I will say it's a little difficult for me to often drive up there. It's about a 2 and 1/2 hour ride from here. And generally I can catch 24-inch fish in my backyard. So it's a lot to motivate myself to travel up to Lake Ontario.
When I do go up there, what we're fishing for in the spring our drop-back rainbow trout. So there are rainbow trout that move in during the winter. The Salmon River does not freeze. They move in during the winter.
They spawn very late in the winter and very early in the spring. And then they kind of hang around and eat stuff until they feel like-- until the water levels get too warm, and too low for them to feel comfortable in the rivers anymore. And then they drop back into the Lake.
So-- I'm sorry-- So when we're going up there, we're fishing for-- we're fishing for those drop-backs. This is one of those drop-backs. It's a male, 25 inch rainbow trout. I guess up there they would call it a steelhead. I'm not really sure that there's any scientific difference between them. But this is a large rainbow, about 25 inches.
Again, I'm fishing streamers up there. A lot of people will use a nymph or an egg below an indicator. I really like swinging streamers. It's probably more of a personal choice than anything else. I enjoy the take and the strike more than watching the bobber drop down.
Also in the spring you can start fishing some of the smaller freestone streams. We do have a lot of them around here, including the upper stretches of Fall Creek, parts of Cayuta Creek, the upper stretches of Virgil Creek. And those streams will hold bass, as well as brook trout and small brown trout, and some of them some smaller rainbows.
None of the fish that you're going to catch in these streams are going to be monsters. Although the Leon Chandler Chapter, through that we did a stream renovation on a tributary to Owasco a couple of years ago. And part of the process in the project was to do a stream sampling and shocking the fish.
And the stream was maybe 12 feet wide at its widest point, and at best had pools that were 12 to 18 inches deep here and there. And we shocked a couple of 16- and 18-inch fish up out of that water, which really shocked me. So as long as the water stays cold and as long as it's clean, there will occasionally be some bigger fish, not that I can say I've ever been fortunate enough to catch one. I think they're bigger because they know what to eat, and when to eat it, and what to stay away from.
AUDIENCE: What's the stream on the right?
MICHAEL LENETSKY: They're both Upper Virgil Creek. Both of those were caught in Upper Virgil Creek, above the Dryden area, really beautiful water, not a lot of people fish it. It gets stocked with brown trout, but not brook trout. In early April, it gets about a week and a half to two weeks of heavy pressure and then the people go away.
So here's just another one of those. This is what many of our streams look like in the spring. They're muddy. This is a stock stream, Buttermilk Falls.
This is the upper portion of the park. It's stocked in the spring by the DEC, with brown trout, generally between 9 and 11 inches. It's one of those streams that I like to target when I feel like having a meal of brown trout because I know the fish will not survive in this stream beyond about now. The stream in the summer warms up to about 70, mid-70s to upper 70s. And the brown trout that haven't dropped back into the gorges and into the deeper pools below the plunge pools won't make it if they stay up there. So I generally don't feel bad going up there and bring home two or three brown trout for a meal.
But the picture is really to show what our streams look like in the spring. You never know that they're going to be clear. They do get muddy. They do get cloudy. And that's the thing about the bright flies. I think they really do accommodate for this type of water.
You can find trout in a lot of different areas. That's my son on the right, with one of the fish that he caught, and another fish that he caught fairly recently on the left. Again, woolly buggers is probably-- a lot of my fishing is woolly buggies. Probably the most of it is size 8 or 10, black or olive. I do like dry fly fishing. But it tends to be very cold here and limited opportunities for which you can successfully drive fly fish.
So we do also have other local streams. You can catch rainbow trout. So that's, I want to say, a 10-inch rainbow trout, looking from the net, that was caught on a local stream, and 24-inch brown trout. That's a wild fish, in a wild freestone stream, that was caught just outside of Portland, just kind of swimming around.
And again, that was taken on a woolly bugger. The big fish like big, meaty flies, and generally not the small, dainty ones.
We also have ponds. As we get to the summer, I start thinking about other places, mainly because our cold water resources-- when they start hitting that 70 degree mark, catching the brown trout can be a little risky if you're going to try to put them back. It stresses them out. The water's already kind of towards the end of their tolerance.
So I start to think more exclusively about fishing for warm-water species. We have a lot of farm ponds around here. We have a lot of ponds in state and national parks around here. Those ponds have bass, largemouth bass. They have sunfish. Some of them-- and I'll show pictures in a little bit-- also have trout in them.
This is a warm water pond that I fish over in Ellis Holly. It's a little horse farm. You can see a couple of horses behind there. The owner lets me and some friends go on there every once in a while and kind of thin out the population of sunfish. And there's some really big bass in this relatively small pond.
But we also have some other ponds and lakes that are also-- you don't need permission to access. We have Dryden Lake. There are pickerel, there are bass. there sunfish, all of which are pretty fun to catch on a fly rod, particularly on lighter gear, 3 and 4 weights.
All of them in that particularly in the summer, when we go out with kayaks and canoes, they'll take poppers on the top. Pickerels will pretty aggressively take the popper on the top, as will the bass.
We have Jennings Pond, which is over in the Danby area, just past Ithaca College. There's two ponds there. One is a relatively large pond. It's pretty good to access with a canoe or a kayak. Or if you had a float tube, you could go in the float tube as well.
Again, there are a lot of bars in there. Are a lot of sunnies in there. It tends to be a real good place to fish early in the morning and later on in the evening.
There's also a small-- there's also a small swimming pond, that if you go out there early in the morning, it's a really nice place to fish because you can cast anywhere in the pond from the perimeter of the pond. And last year, my son who was fly fishing, learning how to fly fish, took an 18-inch largemouth out of there, which is a pretty solid fish.
And there's a lot of sunnies in there. Actually, very early in the season, my friends and I found midges on Jennings Pond, coming off in the bass. And the sunfish were eating midges. So we had a rainy, miserable, cold afternoon where we couldn't find a trout to look at anything we were throwing. We found an opportunity to catch to catch sunnies, and bass on size 20 Griffith's Gnats, which was pretty neat and pretty unexpected. But it was enjoyable.
Over in Homer, which again is a little bit farther away than the 25-mile radius-- I think that's about 40 miles away-- there's a pond called Casterline Pond. It's got rainbow trout in it. It's got brown trout in it. The fish hold there all year.
This past winter, one of my friends, ice fishing, took-- I want to say it was-- I think it was a 36-inch pike out of there, ice fishing. And every year, you hear about somebody taking a pretty significant pike out of Casterline Pond.
Again, Wameta and Lamoka Lakes are also lakes that I fish primarily for bass and pike. They're are a little bit outside of that 25-mile radius. They're on the other side of Watkins Glen. They're both relatively small, relatively shallow lakes.
You can easily paddle, kayak, or canoe around them. They have a lot of accessibility. And they are loaded with largemouth bass, in the 3- to 5-pound range, lots of pike. And I believe that it's in Lamoka, they have a very healthy population of tiger muskies; yeah, very healthy population of tiger muskies.
They're very, very hard to catch. And they can be a really big fish. And I think I'd be a little scared if I was in my float tube and I hooked one. But they are there.
And again, there's numerous farm ponds. I've occasionally fished farm ponds just by knocking on doors or seeing somebody out front, and just stopping and saying, hey, can I fish? When I do that, I often have a six- or seven-year-old boy or girl with me. It really opens up the doors to get you on the pond. If you don't have your own, borrow one.
I have never-- I will say, I have never found a five-, six-, or seven-year-old boy or girl who doesn't want to go out and fish. And even if they only last fishing for 10 minutes, you've broken the ice with the person who owns that pond. And they'll let you come back again as long as you don't destroy their land.
And it's a really-- I will say, one of the things that I do in our local chapter is really try to work towards promoting fly fishing, towards promoting environmental conservation, particularly with an emphasis on water conservation, to kids. So take out kids, whether or not they're yours.
They could be a neighbor's kid. They could be someone down the street. People are interested in it. I have so many parents come to me and say, my son or my daughter wants to learn how to fish. And I don't know anything about it.
So if you ever hear that, I would encourage you all to just go out and pass the sport along. It's a lot of fun. And once they're out-- pardon the pun-- once they're hooked, they'll pretty much stay with it forever. And I think that's important to both our sport as well as our water resources.
Sorry for the preaching. Sometimes it just comes out.
You know, again, I fish for a lot of different things, bass, pickerel, sunfish. Occasionally, you can find croppy coming in shallow enough to catch them. There are all things that I fish with, with a woolly bugger for the most part or a popper. Bullheads can be a lot of fun, especially on a 3-weight.
A 12- or 13-inch bullhead is going to give you a decent little flight. And it's another one of those fish that, if you're interested in, frying a little fish for dinner you're not going to feel bad about taking home a 12- or 13-inch bullhead or two, to bragging and pan fry.
It is very basic. I'm using poppers, nymphs sometimes wet flies and streamers. This is actually a fish that I don't know that we can actually fish for anymore. But before they put up the fences around all the gorges, in the middle of the summer, I would actually go down into the gorge, right through campus, below Beebe Lake, and fish for bass and sunnies.
This is a sunfish that I caught on-- below the pedestrian bridge on Fall Creek. I caught it on a very small-- I think it's probably a woolly buggers. I tend to use a lot of woolly buggers. And these are a couple of bass that I caught in there.
In the summer, the nice thing about fishing for the bass is they're not as worried about the Sun and they're not as worried about the temperature of the water. Sometimes I will park my car at the Plantations and walk upstream. And right around the bottom of the Plantations area, just walking to Fall Creek, around Flat Rock, and work my way downstream to Beebe Lake, and just catch bass and sunfish, and occasionally creek chubbs, but things like that. And they don't worry about the warm water. And they don't worry about the sunny weather.
Not a lot of people do it, again. So there's really not a lot of pressure. You're not going to catch a big fish. The fish by the fly rod might be a 10-or 11-inch smallmouth. That's a pretty big smallmouth for the Fall Creek section.
But I'm also fishing a 7-foot rod that-- I've got it weighted up with a 5-weight line to bamboo. And it's fairly slow to load. And on these small streams, you don't have a lot of room to load the below the line. So it's overloaded. But it casts a 3-weight and a 4-weight line, if you have enough room, fairly nicely. But that's a little overloaded so I can cast in short quarters.
We also have ponds. There are a couple of pay-to-play ponds. I'm not ashamed to admit occasionally I have-- occasionally, I have gone to a pay-to-play pond. These ponds are deep and they're cold.
They are about 25 miles away from here. People can keep the fish. I have put every fish I've ever caught in there back, although I've been tempted with a couple of channels cats. They are loaded with brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout. There are also a couple down in Pennsylvania, around the Pennsylvania and New York border as well. They have some giant rainbow trout in them.
They tend to run about $25 for a half day of fishing, which given some rod prices that I've paid to fish in other places, $25 for a half day really isn't very bad. I've caught some of the biggest fish I've ever thought about catching just on a little pond in-- well, on a couple of little ponds when I stay in Burdette. If anybody's interested in the guy's phone number, stop me afterwards. I'm happy to share the information.
This is a big brown trout. I caught it in the middle of summer. Again, it's one of those things, when I really want to catch trout in the middle of the summer, I'll go there because the ponds tend to be very cold. And I'm not worried about the fish being overly stressed by 75 degree water. The ponds tend to stay in the upper 60, mid-60 range.
I think I've got a few pictures from the pond. This is another one. These are just enormously aggressive, and hungry, and big fish. That's the biggest rainbow I've ever caught in my life. It's 30 inches of jumping rainbow trout. It jumped about seven or eight times.
AUDIENCE: When was that?
MICHAEL LENETSKY: That was in the pond, in the middle of the summer, on a-- I think it was on a-- you're going to be surprised here-- a big woolly bugger.
But it was amazing. It really-- it not only-- I would say, it made-- when I left there, I thought you could spend $25 on a lot of things. But, my gosh, that's about as good as-- I personally am not sure that I could spend a better $25.
And actually when I fished there, it was the first year he was open. And he wanted people to know about it. So it was only $20. And he wanted me to tell a lot of people about it. So I actually only paid $10.
And unquestionably, that's the best $10-- that's the best thing I've ever gotten with a $10 bill. And it's a monstrous fish.
I'll just kind of move through. But we also start thinking about the lakes and the ponds. One of the things that I found around this area, is that all of these local ponds that people swim in, they don't fish in. But they have fish in them.
This is a 20-inch largemouth. As far as I can figure out from my records in my brain, it's probably the largest largemouth I've ever caught. I caught it in a swimming pond in a little park in Homer. No, sorry, in Cortland, a little park in Cortland-- Durkee Park? Is that the name, the west branch? I think-- I'm sorry. What?
AUDIENCE: Was it Yamen?
MICHAEL LENETSKY: Maybe it's-- I don't know. Maybe it is Yamen. It's a small park in Cortland, right behind 81. Maybe this Yaman Park. I bet it is Yaman Park.
It's a little swimming pool-- swimming hole-- back there. And it's got-- this was one of three fish that-- I was casting a zonker, too. It's a little different than a woolly bugger.
The woolly bugger dropped too fast. And they didn't like it. But the zonker drifted down real slow. And they hit it.
This was the smallest of the three fish that were swimming around the edge, that I could see. And there were a lot more fish in the 15-inch range. It was just amazing. And as far as I can tell, nobody ever fishes this little park.
The aside to that is right behind it is the east branch of the Tioughnioga, which is a stock stream. It gets kind of warm in the summer. But in the spring to early summer, you can occasionally find-- you can occasionally find some trout in there. But I think you can always find-- you can always find smallmouth in there as well.
You know, just because I say I spent a lot of time fishing on ponds and things, and not really thinking about trout, I do really like catching trout. There are times where you can safely go out and find trout on the top early in the morning, later in the evening. After the water is-- the Sun's off the water, it's gotten the opportunity to drop down in temperature.
A couple of our streams do have springs spread throughout them. And you can find places where there are a mile or two of water, that in the winter never freeze, and this summer never break 70 degrees. This is one of them, south of us, in the Spencer area.
You can find a lot of different holdover fish. And they're fun. And they're fun to take on top. Right about now is really when our caddises and our mayflies start to come off in numbers that are enjoyable to fish for. And on the right evening, you can find so many fish coming up on top.
One of my favorite streams-- again, I don't feel bad giving this out-- is the Tioughnioga. It's the west branch of the Tioughnioga. It's in Cortland. It runs through a shopping mall.
So this is why I don't feel bad giving it out. It runs to a shopping mall. I spend most of my time, when I'm not fishing on Fall Creek fishing, in a shopping mall.
It doesn't freeze in the winter. And in the summer, it doesn't get over 70 degrees. And that's in a really hot, stressed-out summer. So generally, in the summer, it peaks at around the 68 degree range.
We have, in the past year, caught more fish over 20 inches from the stream than I've ever thought possible. And again, I'll emphasize this, it's in a shopping mall. My backcast sometimes comes precariously close to the people in the drive-thru window at McDonald's.
Sometimes you have to watch your backcast for the trees and the bushes behind you. I have to watch my backcast there for the guy at the drive-thru window. And I'm not kidding. So if you're not familiar with this, I'm not making this up.
The Cortland Lime store also has a shop over there. They have a lot of things, gears and things that I go and play out with when I'm not catching fish very well. Yes?
AUDIENCE: What's in that water? In the shopping mall.
MICHAEL LENETSKY: There's a lot of springs. There are springs spread through the whole thing. That's all I can figure out.
Last winter, we had a fairly cold winter here. It didn't freeze at all. You could go there on the coldest day and fish.
AUDIENCE: It's got to have some things in there that are doing it.
MICHAEL LENETSKY: Yeah, I think there's a lot of springs that are coming up.
AUDIENCE: Those springs, yeah, yeah.
MICHAEL LENETSKY: Yeah, I think there are a lot of springs coming up. And in some places-- around the mall area, you get a little bit upstream, a little bit downstream, you can see a lot of seeps coming down in the winter because there's snow everywhere. So you can really see where the water is seeping into the ground.
It's a remarkable body of water just because the springs really regulate the temperature. And the state puts a lot of fish in there. And people don't fish it. Again, just like I think, all of our stock streams around here, people go out on April 1, to the stock streams. And they fish until, I don't know, April 15. And then they go away.
And they leave all of these fish. And what happens is these fish get big. Because those of us that are fishing these streams, we're for the most part catching them and putting them back. So they just get bigger.
And this stream in particular has a lot of grass beds. There's a lot of insect life. The insect life stays there. I've been there on the coldest winter days and seen midges coming off. So it's got-- it's got a lot of-- it's got a lot of life in it. There's a lot of things for the fish to eat, and they do. And unlike our local streams, they can also reproduce.
So in our tributaries, the brown trout can't reproduce because of a vitamin deficiency that is attributed to the alewife population. That's their primary forage base. In these streams, they're eating what they're supposed to eat, that doesn't have this enzyme that gives them a vitamin deficiency. And they eat, and they eat, and they grow. And we just catch them and put them back.
Here's another one. So these streams can include Enfield Creek, and Upper Fall Creek, the Tioughnioga, Virgil Creek, the upper stretches of Six Mile Creek, kind of above Slaterville. They're all places where you can find fish, not throughout the year because some of them actually do freeze up. Enfield freezes. Upper Fall Creek, on the real cold days freezes, but not always. And the Tio doesn't.
AUDIENCE: What was the name of that stream near to the shopping mall?
MICHAEL LENETSKY: Oh, the Tioughnioga. Its the west branch of the Tioughnioga. It's a 35-minute drive from here. I've done it a lot.
So again, when I'm fishing in these smaller public streams, these freestone streams, I'm looking for brown trout. I'm looking for rainbow trout. And I'm looking for brook trout.
This is one of the brook trout on a local stream, real small stream; real pretty, wild fish. This is one of the streams I'm not going to give you the name of. Sorry.
It's a really small stream. And it's got wild, beautiful fish. And if more than one person fishes it in a day, the stream is done, and down, and over. So there are-- I don't have very many secrets in this talk. This is the one.
I really-- as we're moving through June, the part of the dry fly fishing that I really love, particularly on our local streams, are the tricos. I like them because they're a fun dry fly to fish with. And I don't have to get up at 6 o'clock in the morning for the hatch and the spinner fall. I can get up around 7 o'clock in the morning, and be on the stream somewhere around 8 o'clock in the morning, and kind of watch things.
And then the fish start looking on top, somewhere in that 8:30 to 9 o'clock range. And they stay active until about 11 o'clock. And then I can go home and do other things. And the fish kind of go away.
Almost all of our streams-- I don't even want to say almost-- all of our local streams do have trico hatches. They start around the end of this month, early in June. And they stay right through September. Although when you get into that September range, it's really hard to fish for them because they tend to get to be like a size 32, if you know the fly size. They're way too small to fish.
Early in the season, they start bigger. You can get away with 18s. By mid-July, your fishing 20s and 22s. And by the end of July, I'm on to other things, hopefully big, white mayflies, which come off at night, which I really like.
So tricos, blue-winged olives on cloudy days in the Ithaca area. Again, every stream will have a hatch. On cloudy days, there will always be blue-winged olives. They tend not to get microscopic. Sometimes they can get down into the 20 and 22, which is very, very difficult to tie on. But they make these little threaders now that help with bad eyesight that we find as we get older.
And the threaders are really good. I personally think if you've gotten to that point where threading a 20 is difficult, buy the threader-- by the little fly box with the threaders. And they're great.
The blue-wing olives, mostly what I'm fishing with our 180s. And I generally fish with parachutes, just because I can see the posts a lot easier on the water. I was just fishing with them last night. It was a little-- where I was, it was a little cloudy and overcast.
In the evening, there were sporadically fish coming up. I didn't catch a lot. I did lose a few. The biggest one I lost was on a-- guess what-- anyone want to?
AUDIENCE: A woolly bugger.
MICHAEL LENETSKY: A woolly bugger, yes. It was on a woolly bugger.
AUDIENCE: Was it black or olive?
MICHAEL LENETSKY: It was olive because I love-- I will say another one, I love olive woolly buggers. Black is nice. And I have them. And there are times when I use them, particularly in stained water. But olive is probably my-- I'll tie that on before I even see what's going on in the water.
A lot of people will tell you should look and see first. And I'm kind of like, well, I can look and see while I'm casting a woolly bugger. And if it's an olive woolly bugger, I feel really good that I might catch something on it.
So there's also-- we have these-- we have-- on all of our streams, we have these great white mayfly hatches. They hatch pretty much July and August, sort of into the September frame. I like them because they hatch at night. And the spinner falls at night. And they're big flies.
They're big bugs. So you can throw a 10 and a 12. And it's easy to tie on. And it's even easier to see in the dark-- or guess that you're seeing, I think is what we really do when we're fishing in the dark, as we guess where the fly is. And we have some faith belief that it's there and we're looking at it.
AUDIENCE: Are those green drakes? Or what are those big white guys?
MICHAEL LENETSKY: I don't-- I don't-- I mean, I know they could be drakes. We do have a big, green drake hatch on Skaneateles and on some of the Skaneateles trips right around now. That's another one of those things. I don't have any pictures of it. If you canoe, or kayak, or have a small boat, and you can get in at Skaneateles, the next three weeks, any evening, the green drakes could come off. These are giant mayflies.
You're throwing anything on the top that's greenish, the biggest dry flies you've ever seen. Size 8s and size 10s are not small. You can catch everything, and I literally mean everything. You can catch perch, bass, sunfish, landlocks, rainbows, and browns out of Skaneateles.
It happens it dark. So if it's getting dark, and you don't see anything going on, don't get nervous. It does not start before it is dark. You can see the stars when the hatch comes off.
It's a blast. I've only done it a couple of times and it is an unbelievably fun thing to do. And you never know what's going to be at the end of your line when you bring it in because you're just-- you can't see what you're casting to. You're just throwing it out there.
And the couple of times that I've been out there, when the hatch is really on, and it's generally a week either side of-- generally, the high point is a week either side of the 4th of July. With a week either way on top of that is kind of being where it starts to ramp up. They just-- it's just boiling water. It's just bizarre to see.
And a lot of what I'm doing with fly fishing in the summer is in the night and is on top. So these are fish that were caught right around dusk, or in the case, the upper one, at dark-- beyond dark. The fish on the top is the Tioughnioga. There's a shopping mall behind me.
Upstream, one of my friends caught a bat. It then it flew around him, while he was screaming I've got a bat flying around me. Fortunately, he's a large animal veterinarian. And he has had rabies shots. So he was vaccinated for that. But it did make me come up with my bat emergency evacuation plan for if I ever thought a bat.
The bat actually swooped on the water and ate his white mayfly, which is kind of an interesting thing. Bats will also take your white mayflies. They find them to be tasty.
AUDIENCE: So catch and release?
MICHAEL LENETSKY: You know, yes. Distance-- and long distance release. If you hook a bat, their long distance release is completely acceptable. My emergency plan in catching a bat is to strip downward, trying to bring it onto the water-- so that it's no longer flying, so it can't fly around me-- and then run to the shore, dragging my rod behind me. So that the bat comes up out of the water because I don't want to drag it, drown it. And hopefully, the wings of the bat will get caught in the grass on the side.
And I'm using fairly light tippet. So it'll snap the tippet. And then the bat will dry off and fly away, never to come near me again.
I did have to use it once, again on the Tioughnioga in the night. I mean, at that point in time I was really glad I had an emergency bat response plan because I don't like bats. I don't like the thought of bats. And even though I work in the vet school, I have not received any rabies shots. So I just really don't want to have any of the post-exposure shots.
Summer, like I said, summer can be a lot of fun. There are a lot of fish. You're generally not catching huge fish, 12, 14, 16 inches. Again, the bass though are fun. I like targeting the bass.
You can probably see this is Fall Creek. This is the middle of August, bright, sunny day. I generally-- again, on Fall Creek, I'm out in the morning or I'm out in the evening, not because of the bass, but because of the swimmers.
It's really difficult to fish when there's 20 people swimming in front of you. But if you get out at 7 o'clock in the morning, and you leave by 10:00, you'll seldom find one, which can be pretty good.
It's really nice. You can wet-wade. You don't need waders. You can just wear shorts, and a pair of Crocs, or a pair of Tevas and you're good to go.
Anybody-- woolly buggers is a really good choice. I have popper fish, which is fun. And it also-- Fall Creek, particularly this plunge pool, does hold a nice population of small rainbows and browns all year. Although I've seen some people catch just tremendously big fish out of there. I don't know how they do it. I never have.
They're pretty small. And if you skate like a small caddis fly or a size 16 or 18 olive or parachute Adams across the water, they'll generally come up and hit it. And they can be fun on a two-weight. But when I'm there, I'm looking for smallmouth bass.
This is one of the big fish in a plunge pool, actually not on Fall Creek, but on Salmon Creek, which is just bizarre to actually have somebody catch one of these in the middle of the summer. Again, I have no clue. This person is like the most brilliant nymph fisherman I've ever met. And he just pulls giant fish out of places that you would never guess they'd pull giant fish out of.
And here's some more brown trout. Fall is a really fun time to be here. If you ever get the chance to come up here in the fall, and you want to fish, you're not regional, the advice that I would give you is pick election day. And then either come up the week before or the week after. And if it's a moving body of water and it enters one of our Finger Lakes, whether it's Owasco, Cayuga, Seneca, Otisco, you will find fish. And it's one way or the other.
I don't take a lot of real uninterrupted vacation time from work, particularly that doesn't involve my children and my wife. There is one week a year that I do take vacation and that it doesn't involve anything but fishing locally. And that's always the three days before election day and the four days after election day. That's my time.
Some years, it's great. Some years, it's good. This year was good. I ended up with-- one day, I actually caught what we call the grand slam in Finger Lakes. I caught a rainbow, two browns, and a landlock standing at one point in Fall Creek, with an olive woolly bugger, just standing in one spot, didn't move.
The landlock was about 21 inches. The rainbow was 15. The Browns were 17 and 12. But I was pretty happy with catching all of them without having to move. And it made the day really well.
Last year, I had an eight-- I think it was last year or the year before, I had an eight landlock day on one of those days in a local stream, really just amazing, even though they're-- particularly, around that time, they haven't fully started into spawn, where they're just lockjaw.
Our salmon here, our landlock Atlantic salmon, unlike the Pacific salmon, they don't die after they spawn. So they will eat when they're in. And they will come back the next year. So again, it's pretty much that we try to do a catch and release because every year they get bigger.
A few years ago, we had a really nice 17, 18 inch class. And now most of the fish in our lake are getting into the 20 and 21 inch range. And a 21-inch landlock will jump seven or eight times and be a lot of fun on your 7-weight.
So here are some landlocks that were caught. Again, I think one is-- I think they're both Fall Creek. They're both Fall Creek landlocks. The one on the top was a 26 inch fish. The one on the bottom, I want to say it was a 21 inch, maybe 19 inch-- that's a 19-inch landlock.
Again, fishing big streamers. A lot of people like eggs, egg flies. A lot of people like nymphs. I like woolly buggers and another fly that I call-- that's called a double bunny. It's essentially a clouser minnow, only it's tied with rabbit fur.
My friend Josh back there likes articulated leeches. I've had some real good luck with those as well. But I think we all have the fly that we like and we believe in. And my like and belief is really olive woolly bugger around here-- actually around everywhere.
Brown, occasionally you can-- as the season moves on towards the later fall, the rainbow trout do come in. That's a 25-inch rainbow trout, very aggressive. It actually took a-- I think it took articulated streamer. So did that brown up, it's a 24 inch. Here's another landlock, the smaller landlock as well.
Again, Fall Creek, Salmon Creek. That's my friend Ken. I think that's Salmon Creek over in Lansing. That took a big double bunny. Yellow and brown were the colors. Lots of fun, lots of fun.
Rainbows, that's a small rainbow that I caught, probably about 12 inches. Really, just a-- it wasn't phenomenally long brown. But it was really fat, just how full it was with eggs. The sad part is that, again, our fish spawn, but the eggs all die. They're not viable fry.
It's another big brown. I think this is the biggest brown I've ever caught in a stream. It's a 28 inch fish. I sadly did try to net it because this was the only net that I had with me on the time. I was not expecting to catch anything that even remotely looked like this fish on this day. Hmm?
MICHAEL LENETSKY: Well, I'm not killing them! I think that would be gnarly to eat, man. Hmm. Another male landlock.
So occasionally I do manage to pull myself away and I go up north. I don't generally go north to fish the Salmon River in October. If you've ever been there in October, when the salmon run, it's full throttle. It's shoulder to shoulder, combat fishing. I don't find it to be even slightly fun.
But what I do like to do is go up there in early November, towards the end of the salmon run, and fish for the browns and the rainbows that have come in to eat all the salmon eggs, as well as the dying salmon. It's again, an opportunity to catch some big fish.
I've caught a lot of browns in the 25- to 28-inch range. You don't have to use eggs with them because they're there to eat. So streamers are really good. This was a yellow woolly bugger, the day that we were there.
My friends and I found that yellow was the color anywhere you went. You could throw every color that you had and the fish didn't look. And as soon as you put on yellow, you hit a couple. I think on this day, between the three of us, we struggled through the day. And then we figured out yellow. And in our last two hours of fishing, we each landed three fish and we lost about three or four more.
Again, they were all browns. So we weren't fishing for the big salmon. Occasionally, you catch one. And I would love to be able to go up and do that. But I don't like being shoulder to shoulder with people. You can't get a cast or a swing.
So that's one of the salmons. That's the only picture I could get, big, dead salmon. It was like a 36-inch king, that somebody had built a cairn around. They called it the "Lord of the Flies." It was kind of funny.
It was November. So there really weren't very many flies around. And this was a completely mummified fish.
But again, here's another one of those Lake Ontario browns. There's a little snow and ice on the ground. It does get cold. When you get north in November, you could see a couple of feet of snow on the ground in some years.
There wasn't a couple of feet there. There was just a little dusting here and there. But when we got out in the morning, it was pretty crispy. And we were wearing our 5-millimeter neoprenes.
The smaller streams, they really start to pick up again. Those fish that made it through the summer are now back in cooler water as we get through the fall. The water temperatures have dropped into about 60, upper 50 range. And they start to want to eat things.
And we have a great fall caddis hatch on most of our streams. The olives stay out all-- right until frost. And then we've got stones. And most of our local streams don't fly. So they're kick around all season long.
So again, you can get out on those days. What I found, oddly enough, in the summer particularly-- in the fall-- I'm sorry-- on these real cool days, when the water is cool, the Sun doesn't bother the surface feeding at all. And you can still continue to use dry flies.
So this is a 24 inch. I was not fishing for this. I was fishing a 3-weight that day, with really, really light tippet, when this fish ate my olive woolly bugger. It was in the strip mall. I was fishing right behind the McDonald's.
This fish decided it was going back to the big river and it was taking me with it. But when I saw a flash of this fish, I was like, if you got to die or break bones, this is the one that you do it for. I'm sorry.
So I kind of ran underneath the bridge and fought it for a little bit longer than I would have actually liked to fight it. But eventually, one of my friends managed to get downstream and net it a little bit below me, so that we could get the picture. It was amazing.
I would say up until this point in time, I heard that they could grow this big. And I'd seen them. But I'd never actually caught them.
This brown trout is just beautiful. You can see a little bit of the orange on its belly. It was one of the most beautiful fish that I'd ever had the opportunity to land, just how bright it was, how colored up it was.
I spent about 20 minutes nursing it back to health so that it could swim away. And I actually think that a couple of weeks later one of my friends caught it again. And this time, we were using gear that was appropriate to land a giant fish. So it was a shorter battle.
I don't think that's it. But it's the same stream. It's actually-- he landed this fish where I was standing. He caught this fish, hooked it, and landed it where I was standing in that last picture. This is the Thanksgiving weekend.
So these streams stay open. The trick, particularly in the fall, is a lot of our streams close on October 15. So you really have to watch those streams, that you can fish past that. Actually, this is also-- this is two years before that, also Thanksgiving.
So you can see we can have some real variation in the weather on Thanksgiving. It's cold. We've got--
MICHAEL LENETSKY: It's really cold. I didn't catch anything. I had to take that picture. And I had to be fishing because I was able to.
When the winter comes, it gets a little harder to fish here, but not impossible. What we start doing is looking at the lakes primarily, and looking at warm water discharges. On our lake, we have a warm water discharge, just above Lansing Milliken Station.
On Seneca Lake, they have a warm water discharge called Dresden, at Dresden, New York. This is Dresden. There's a Navy station there as well. It's very hit or miss fishery, really generally very early in the morning or later in the day.
This is the first of two rainbow-- of two lakers that we caught that day. This was the smaller of the two. And this was a 29-inch fish. It really annoyed my friend that I caught the larger of the two. And it really, really annoys him when I catch the larger of the two. So I kind of like it.
This is another one. I think, again, they're both Dresden. They're both lake trout. Dresden, though, you never know what you're going to catch when the fish are in. Most of the time, 50% of the time, it will be a lake trout. But we've caught brown trout there. We've got rainbow trout there.
We've caught several pike, including one that was about 46 inches in length. I've caught plenty of smallmouth there. I actually twice largemouth there. There's a lot of perch.
So a lot of stuff will come in. When I opened up that laker-- because I did take that laker home. I like laker chowder. I took that laker home.
And when I opened it up and looked at what it was eating, its stomach was filled with these little 3-inch minnow type things, that actually looked exactly like the streamer that I was throwing. So I understood why it was eating on them.
Where that fish is, and actually in any of the points where you fish on the lake, you don't necessarily need-- you don't necessarily need warm water. Warm water will concentrate them. What you need to find when you fish in the lakes in the winter are bars, are gravel bars that go out, that provide some drop-off on one side or the other.
And what I like to do on Seneca Lake is, when there is a wind coming up out of the south-- not too fast, because if it hits the 20-mile an hour range, you can't cast it all. But in that 5- to 6-mile, 8-mile wind, coming up out of the south, I like to go and I like to fish every point that I can find on Seneca Lake. Because what happens is the waves come up and they break on these points. And they knock all the stuff that's hiding in the gravel over to the other side, where it's deep.
And on the other side, where it's deep, the lakers, the pike, the bass, the perch, just sit there. And when something washes over, and it looks kind of like this, kind of floating around attractively, they eat it.
You're never going to catch a lot of fish. But you're going to catch fish. And the fish that you catch are always going to be big. And they're almost always going to be huge.
This is a pike, a smaller one. On this day, Shehab and I caught, between the two of us-- and I'll say between him, because I only caught two-- between the two of us, we caught 17 pike in the spot.
You could see the power plant. At a certain point in time, they drop the level of our lakes to prevent too much freezing and damage to docks and shoreline property. When they dropped the lake to a certain level-- I think it's about 300 feet above sea level is what they drop it to-- the warm water discharge flows along the shore and into this cove. And it keeps the cove about 50 to 55 degrees. And the pike just massively come in.
Again, this is one of those things. A lot of people know about it. I've hardly ever seen anybody fishing there. They generally-- people always fish the discharge. And they don't think about what we call casting into the abyss. In this case, it's not really so much an abyss. The water is only about 12 feet deep.
And you just wade along the shore and catch fish. I've caught rainbows there, browns there, landlock. Some people ice fish. These are a bunch of chain pickerel. They were caught at the north end of the lake. I'm a little scared to ice fish. I'd rather just be in the cold water than be a mile out on Cayuga Lake, in the middle of the winter, standing on three inches of ice.
On Fall Creek, you can fish right through December 31. If any of you go and visit the falls today, when you're walking back, you will be looking at the Lake Street Bridge. That's a 24-inch brown. It was the first of four that I caught in that pool that day. Caught it on a big brown and yellow double bunny streamer. Like I said, it's basically a clouser minnow tied with rabbit, instead of bucktail.
A great day. I've actually had a lot of great December 31sts. Most of our streams closed on December 31, the tributaries. Fall Creek, however, about five years ago, we petitioned the DEC to open a catch and release season on Fall Creek, from the falls to the top of the black iron bridge, which is the railroad bridge below the Route 13 bridge. So you can catch and release artificials.
I can't say that we've had a lot of luck because every year it's been frozen, except for the first year, where the best fly fisherman I've ever seen-- I watched him catch seven rainbows in the same pool, fishing behind me. I didn't catch anything. He caught seven rainbows.
AUDIENCE: That's why you didn't catch any.
MICHAEL LENETSKY: Yeah. So here, these are both days, last day of the year, the picture on the right, Fall Creek; the picture on the left, Salmon Creek. On both days, we did catch fish.
Again, Salmon Creek, browns. It was the 31st of December, and probably right after it-- right before Christmas, probably right on the winter break, time for the rainbow.
The public stream stay open-- I'm going to rush now. I'm sorry. I'm over 11 o'clock, I think.
The public streams stay open-- 19-inch brown. This gentleman, Dr. [INAUDIBLE], runs the diagnostic lab at the vet school. He caught this fish on a fly that he learned to tie the day before in a fly-tieing class that I and some other folks in this room offer through Cooperative Extension each year.
He was pretty proud of himself. He was pretty happy. A 19-inch brown, I think one of the biggest browns he's ever caught in a stream. And again, they stay around.
This is the Tioughnioga. It's snowy. It's cold. That's a 17-inch brown. There's a lot of places to fish around here again.
I like woolly buggers. So we fish with a very simple fly, a green weenie. It's basically a piece of chartreuse chenille tied around the hook. We fish with soft tackles, some that are kind of sparkly, Adam's. Ants and beetles are great in the summer, caddises work. The Usual works, which is a Fran Better fly.
Clouser minnows are great. Hare's ear nymphs and egg patterns are all things. These are shots of four of my fly boxes. And this is-- oh, there's a lot of what we're using, so caddises, nymphs, Adam's, clousers.
There's a chartreuse-tied San Juan worm, with a big landlock that was taken around here. This is the middle of the summer, fishing. This is actually the Salmon River. We go up there in the summer.
Big fish come in, following the dam releases. Actually, this was a 18-inch brown on the tiniest woolly bugger I tie, which is like a size 12. And I was just putting my line in the water to make a cast when it ate it.
There's another one, another local stream; some more. Bass again-- another bass from the gorge here and some trout. And I think that's it.
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In a reunion talk at Mann Library in June 2011, angling master Michael Lenetsky of the Leon Chandler Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Ithaca, NY introduces the year-round fishing opportunities in the Finger Lakes region for fly fishing enthusiasts of all levels.
His presentation highlights the varied settings for excellent fishing in the Finger Lakes area as well as which species to target during different seasons of the year. This talk was held in conjunction with Mann Library's spring 2011 exhibit "Rainbows and Plunge Pools: Fly-fishing and the Lore of the Streams," a display about our age-old fascination with fish and fishing as revealed in illustrated treasures from the library's collections.