Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The West Branch
Ausable River In New York
The AuSable River consists of three main sections
including the East Branch, the West Branch and the
Main branch. It's the West Branch that is known for the
large trout. The West Branch of the Ausable River is
located in the Northeastern part of New York in the
Adirondack Mountains. It's one of the best trout streams
in the entire Eastern United States.
There are plenty of anglers that will argue that it's the
best stream in New York but that would also get a quick
response from other anglers who would disagree. It has
some very nice trout that range from ten to seventeen
inches and a few even larger There's one thing for
sure. It's one of the most beautiful streams in the East.
South Meadow Brook and March Brook flow from Mount
March and merge to form the West Branch of the
Ausable River. It's joined by several other small streams
as it flows through meadows for a distance of about five
miles. The water is slow to moderate in this section as it
twist and turns through the meadows. Below the bridge
at Route 86, the stream changes to a faster flowing river
with some pocket water and a more typical pool, run,
The river gains even more strength below Wilmington
Notch. There's a hundred foot high waterfall,
appropriately named High Falls, in this section. The
river finally settles down some with a series of pools with
more moderate flowing water but not for long. Yet
another set of high waterfalls, the Flume Falls, exist
farther downstream. It's about a mile below the Flume
Falls before the river begins to settle down again but
only because it is damed farther downstream in
This section is technically a lake but it's more like a
wide, slow flowing river. Fly fishing the Ausable River in
this section is tough due to the deep water. The
tailwater below the dam provides some of the best fly
fishing waters the West Branch of the Ausable has to
offer. It appears more like a freestone stream than a
tailwater in some respects. The river falls at a
moderately steep decline. Three are large boulders and
plenty of prime pocket water.
Fly fishing Ausable River in this section isn't so easy
though. There is a section of the river about two miles
long that lies below the Lewis Bridge just downstream of
Wilmington that cannot be accessed for fishing
Below Black Brook, a small tributary stream, the fishing
is usually very good. About seven miles of the river can
be fished before the next dam at Ausable Forks. It too
has a decent tailwater section about a mile long. Just
below the short section of tailwater, the river converges
with the East Branch to form the Main Branch of the
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 71/2
ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rod:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five or
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Loon Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Fly Fishing Guide for the West
The water in the West Branch is often tannic
acid water the color of tea. It can be difficult
to see the bottom, so wading can be
dangerous due to holes in the bottom of the
stream. A wading staff is recommended to
provide additional stability.
From a mile above the Rt. 86 bridge at
Holcomb Pond Outlet, down to the
Wilmington Notch, is a five mile long catch
and release section. From this section down
past the Wilmington Notch State
Campground to the small lake in Wilmington
is a section that usually holds some very
large trout. It is best fished from a canoe or
There is a small catch and release section is
this area as well. The next ten miles of
tailater below the dam consists of fast pocket
water. This section is known for its excellent
dry fly fishing.
The best time to fish the West Branch of
the Ausable is from the first week in May to
the end of June.
Fishing continues to be good during the
summer because of the many springs and
overhanging branches to shade the water
which helps keep the water cool. The most
famous hatch of all on the Ausable is the
Green Drake hatch. This is followed by
good hatches of Sulphurs and Tricos.
Continuing downstream to Ausable Forks
is a section known as “Bush Country”
which is more remote but can be
accessed from the lower end of Ausable
of this section is private property and is
Some sections of the Ausable River is top
notch dry fly water and some would favor
nymph fishing. It all depends on the
section you choose to fish. The abundant
hatches of mayflies caddisflies and
stoneflies support healthy population of
Hatches and Trout Flies for the
West Branch Ausable River:
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in the
West Branch Ausable and in all stages of
life that are applicable to fishing. If you want
to fish better, more realistic trout flies, have
a much higher degree of success, give us a
call. We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.
The flies you need to fish the West Branch
of the Ausable River depends on the
particular section you plan on fishing. The
stocked trout are fairly easy to catch and
can be caught on just about any fly for a
short time after they are stocked. To catch
one of the larger holdover trout, or one of
the few wild brown trout there, requires skill
and a lot of luck. Streamers fished during
very low light conditions sometimes pays
off. Other than that, mayfly nymphs and
caddisfly larva and pupa imitations fished
near the bottom produce most of the wild
and holdover brown trout.
One thing you should not overlook is the
terrestrials. Again, the low light situations
provide the best opportunity. Beetles, ants
and hoppers all three work at times. Just
don't expect to catch one every few cast. A
larger wild brown trout or even a year, or
two year old holdover brown trout, should
be considered a very good catch.
Hendricksons hatch in May and early June
followed by March Browns and Light Cahills.
If you are fishing during the early spring,
you may encounter some good hatches,
the most famous of which is the Green
Drake. Sulphurs follow and then it is Trico
time. The Green Drakes hath in early June,
then Tricos in late July, August and
Starting in the last week of August until
mid October the Slate Drake hatches will
There are even some Little Brown
Stoneflies hatch in the early part of the
season. If you do run into a hatch of any
aquatic insect, by all means fish it. Be
prepared to fish subsurface most of the
There are plenty of caddisflies and all in
all, they provide the best dry fly fishing
opportunity. The Cinnamon caddis hatch
most of the late spring and summer. There
is a decent Little Sister caddisfly hatch.
Green Sedges and Short-horned Sedges
make up most of the balance of the
Be sure to have plenty of "Rock Worms"
(larva stage of the Green Sedge) on hand.
They work very well most of the season. If
you stick with the caddisflies, midges and
nymphs fished deep and you are likely to
Don't forget about the midge. It usually
becomes the most important insect to try
to match in colder weather. I would have
plenty of them in hook sizes 20 and 22.
Terrestrial insects become a choice about
the middle of June. Imitations of inch
worms, beetles, grass hoppers and ants
will catch trout until the first frost appears.
We always recommend "Perfect Flies".
They are the most realistic and most
effective imitations that are commercially
available. You will find our caddisfly
imitations work great for this stream. We
hope you give them a try.
Streamers are also very effective during
the fall season, especially those that
Although you can fish during the winter,
most days are too cold to be very
productive; however, It is possible to catch
trout especially if your using imitations of
midge larvae and pupae.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
Headlines: The river is up a little
above normal levels and difficult to
wade in many places. You will need
to watch the stream levels this
coming week. There is more rain
and some snow in the forecast.
There are some very large
blue-winged olive hatches taking
place. Our customers have been
catching a lot of trout until the water
rose up high recently. Brown trout
are in the pre-spawn stage and can
be caught with the Brown sculpin
streamer. Keep up with the latest
stream levels, temps, weather and
recommended strategies and flies
with our fishing report linked above.
Map of West Branch Ausable River
10/16/15 Conditions remain fair on the West Branch but higher water levels are preventing
wading in most sections. The weather has turned cooler and there is more rain in the forecast,
so levels are likely to continue to be a problem. Blue-winged olives, Great Autumn brown
sedges and Slate Drakes represent the majority of the hatches taking place.
10/25/15 Good stream levesl exist now and will most likely continue. It is raining as I am writing
this and will rain again the middle to the end of next week, so what the stream levels. Great
Autumn Brown Sedges are hatching and bringing trout to the surface to eat the egg layers in
the late afternoons. Blue-winged Olives are hatching.
11/01/15 Great fall conditions exist right now, with good stream levels and flows, and great
weather. Brown trout are taking streamers like our Brown Sculpin fly very well and will soon be
spawning. Blue-winged olives are hatching and so are the Great Autumn Brown sedges. It is a
good time to fish the West Branch with few anglers doing it.
11/08/15 Currently, conditions are excellent for this time of the year. Good stream levels and
weather but rain is coming this week and can change that. Blue-winged olives are hatching
good, especially on cloudy days. Midges are now important insects to imitate. Don't forget to
use the Brown Sculpin streamer on the post-spawn brown trout.
11/15/15 The river is high right now but falling fast. It should be in decent shape in a day or
two at the most, but there is more rain in the forecast beginning on Thursday. We will just have
to watch the levels. Hatches are down to the Blue-winged olives, but in two sizes and Midges.
The midges will become more and more important as the water temps fall.
11/22/15 The West Branch discharges and stream levels are good at the current time and little
change is expected. There is no rian or snow until a chance next Saturday. It is colder now but
will be warming back up some. Hatches will be mostly midges. The Brown sculpin streamer is
still the top producing fly.
11/29/15 The stream levels are normal for this time of the season. The water is much colder
and hatches consist mostly of midges. We recommend fishing the midge larva and pupa in
tandem with the pupa fly about a foot or more above the larva. This rig producing well in cold
12/06/15 Getting out on the water on a warm day at this time of the year is not only a pure
pleasure, you can catch trout provided you use the right strategies and flies. As mentioned in
the report, the trout won't hold or feed in fast current. The move to slow to water with little to no
current when the temperature is in th low forties. MIdges are the best choice of flies at this time.
12/13/15 I mentioned in the report that it is rather odd that it is raining rather than snowing but
we are in a warm spell and that's great. Fishing should be excellent right now for the month of
December. Winter stoneflies, Blue-winged olives and midges are hatching. We recommend the
Brown Sculpin streamer as the first choice with all the cloud cover.
12/20/15 The West Branch is finally getting a little cold and actng like it is the beginning of
winter but it is still very warm. The stream levels are high right now, so be sure you check that
out before attempting to fish. The trout won't hold in the fast current, so fish the slack water
and holes in the bottom of the pools and pockets.
12/27/15 The stream levels are a little high right now and there is a lot more rain and snow
coming in the next four days. If most of it is snow, the stream levels may remain fishable but if
not, the levels will likely be too high to fish. You will just have to watch them. Otherwise, the
unseasonably warm weather will give some good opportunities to fish.
01/03/16 It is getting colder. The bathing suit weather of fall is over. Dress right, get the little
midges tied on the tippet and get out on the river. The trout haven't stopped eating. Keep the
fly or flies if you fish tandem midges, out of the fast current in holes in the bottom of the pools
and runs where the current is slow to still.
01/10/16 It is that time of the year when getting to the water is as big of a problem as catching
trout when you do get there. It is cold and staying cold with lots of snow in the forecast. Midges
and Winter stonefly nymphs should be the choice flies but streamers like our White Belly
sculpin will work with the cloudy skies.
01/17/16 It is that time of the year when it gets cold and that, it has done. The water is
averaging about 36-37 degrees. Midges and winter stonefly nymphs will catch trout when it is
that cold but they won't be in water with much current. Fish holes in the bottom of the runs and
pools, out of the current.
01/24/16 The discharges should continue to be low in the tailwater, but you always have to
check them. Fish as close to the dam as legal for the warmest water. Midges, Winter stoneflies
and the Brown sculpin are the flies you need to be using.
01/31/16 There is going to be a warm streak of weather the first of this coming week, and if for
no other reason, that's a good excuse to get out on the water. Midges, Winter stoneflies and
Black Flies are hatching. The water is still going to be very cold and fishing tough, but it is
possible to catch trout.
02/07/16 The river is flowing high and fast. You will have to watch the discharges and stream
levels closely. The water is very cold, averaging about 33 to 35. The warmest water you will
find is near the bottom discharge of the dam. Midges and winter stoneflies are the insects you
should be imitating.
02/14/16 The West Branch is as cold as it can get and flow, with the exception of the tailwater
near the dam. That is where you will find the warmest water. The bottom discharge comes out
of the bottom of the lake at about 38 degrees but cools fast as it heads downstream. Midges,
winter stoneflies and black flies are the insects you should imitate.
02/21/16 The weather forecast for the coming week is a wild one, with highs and lows that
range all over the spectrum. In other words it will be cold and snowing or warm enough for
shorts. There is some rain and snow in the forecast most every day but there will be some
good chances to catch a trout for those that give it a try.
02/28/16 This part of New York is cold as blank,normally, but there have been some warmer
days. It has only melted snow, stained the water and kelp it cold near the freezing point. The
best location to fish is still near the bottom discharge form the dam. Midges, creams and reds
and winter stoneflies are the insects you should imitate.
03/06/16 The stream levels are down some, and the water clearer than it has been. It is also a
couple of degrees warming. The warmer weather has a lot more snow to melt before the river
hits its spring time prime with bugs in the air and trout jumping out of the water. You can catch
them now fishing near the discharge of the dam in the slower currents.
03/13/16 The weather has been very warm and this is melting a lot of snow creating a runoff
situation. That tends to hold the water temperature down. The USGS gauge we list is working
again and that's a good sign. Blue-winged olives and midges are hatching and things looking
up. The water is a little high and will likely get higher.
03/20/16 The stream levels are back down and the water in good shape. It won't be long
before it starts to warm up some and then you will see a explosion of several aquatic insect
hatches. Right now, you will have to stick with midges and little BWO nymphs. The Brown
sculpin streamer works good under low light conditions.
03/27/16 The West Branch is one of the last destinations in New York to come alive with
hatching insects, but when it does, it will rival any stream in the state. The water is getting a
little warmer each day and it won't be very long. Now is the time to stock up on the right flies.
Shoot us an email and we can help you do just that.
04/03/16 We have some more winter weather to deal with here in upstate New York. The
stream level is also a little high, too high to wade. Midges and little BWOs are still the best
choice. It won't be long before Little Black Caddis, Little Brown stoneflies and other larger
insects begin to hatch.
04/10/16 The weather has been cold the past few days but that is about to change and warm
back up. There is some snow and rain for a couple of days, and then clearing. The water is
still cold and midges and little BWOs are still the main insects to imitate. The stream level is
back down to a normal level for this time of the year.
04/17/16 The weather is gettting much warmer with less rain and no snow. The water
temperature should follow and fishing conditions improve. Little Blue-winged olives and midges
are hatching but it is mostly subsurface. Stream levels are in good shape running just a little
below normal for this time of the year.
04/24/16 The weather is back to normal for upper New York state and the water will continue
to be in the mid to high forties. Quill Gordon, Blue Quill, Little Brown stoneflies and Little Black
Caddis are near hatching but not yet. The water needs to get to fifty degrees and stay there
two or three days in a row for these to start.
05/01/16 The West Branch has finally come alive with insects and trout feeding on them. The
water levels are low and that has helped it to warm up fast. The less water, the faster it will
warm. Several new hatches are taking place and our customers are doing good catching a lot
of trout and some on top on the dry fly.
05/08/16 The West Branch is always a little complex to those just starting to fish it. The water
temperatures vary greatly at this time of the year, depending on teh section of water you're
fishing. That varies the hatches as well. Right now there are several insects hatching but that
doesn't mean all in one place.
05/15/16 The weather is turning a little cooler and this may affect the hatches some. There will
be more cripples. Fish nymph more than you normally would until you see surface action. The
stream levels are in good shape now and hopefully, the rain won't change them drastically.
They are not expecting any big downpours.
05/22/16 The stream is in good shape with good stream levels and clear water. Several
hatches are taking place and more is on the horizon as the water continues to warm. There is
some rain in the forecast, so make sure you check the levels. Our customers are giving some
very good reports as to the number and sizes of the trout they are catching.
05/29/16 Wow, is the right word for the West Branch right now. The stream levels are in good
shape. There is some heavy rain but we don't think that is going to adversely affect anything.
There are a lot of new hatches starting up including some of the big drakes. Remember, some
of the insects we slow are fast water residents and some slow. They all are not just any and
06/11/16 The river has really gotten into good shape this past few days. We received two
good reports from customers fishing the river this past week. Good numbers and sizes of trout
were caught. There are several hatches taking place. The weather forecast looks good for the
next week. Conditions are about as good as they can get.
06/18/16 We are getting some very good reports from customers fishing the river lately. The
stream levels are down offering good safe wading opportunity. There are a multitude of
hatches taking place. It varies with the section of water you are fishing. Late evening egg
laying of the little Yellow stoneflies and two species of caddisflies is giving those that fish late in
the day a good shot at lots of trout.
06/26/16 The West Branch is in very good shape. The stream levels are a little low but that
makes it easy to wade some otherwise difficult places. There are a lot of hatches taking place.
Our customers are catching a lot of trout on the surface on the dry fly;, however, most are
coming subsurface. Stay low and well hidden from the trout.
07/03/10 The river is in good shape in all sections. There are still a lot of insects hatching.
Don;'t expect them all to be in every section. We added terrestrials to the fly list but they
shouldn't take priority to any hatches. They will become more and more important as hatches
subside. Our customers reported catching a lot of trout this past week and the coming week
should be as good or better.
07/10/16 The West Branch is running a little high and getting higher. It is raining now, and the
stream will likely to continue to run high for a while. There is more rain forecast at the end of
this week. There are still many different hatches taking place. Wading is going to be out for a
while in many sections of the river. Be careful, if you do attempt to wade anywhere. Streamers,
like the Brown sculpin, will be a good option.
07/17/16 The river is in good shape in all sections and anglers are catching good numbers of
trout. The hatches are slowing down in terms of numbers but there are still plenty of them.
There are a lot of caddisflies, consisting of three species. Little Yellow stoneflies are very
plentiful in most sections of the river. The best time to fish is very late in the day, with egg
laying caddis and stoneflies.
07/23/16 The river is low in all sections. Stealth is required if you expect to do very well. Stay
low and as hidden from the trout as possible. There are still a lot of hatches taking place. Little
Yellow stoneflies, Cinnamon Caddis and Light Cahills are hatching very good. There are still
some Sulphurs in some sections. The weather is going to be warmer but it will have little affect
on the water temperature.
07/30/16 The weather is going to cool back down a few degrees. The stream levels are still in
good shape. It is raining but should be ending tomorrow. We received mixed reports from
customers this past week. Some were having trouble and some were catching trout. There are
still plenty of hatching insects but terrestrials are also becoming important.
08/07/16 The river levels are up some, near normal levels. There are not as many hatches
taking place as there have been, but still plenty of them. They vary with the section of water
being fished. The little Yellow stoneflies, two species of caddisflies and some mayflies are in
most all sections. Terrestrials are working but again, we wouldn't fish them in priority to any
08/15/16 The stream levels are up some but still a little low. That will be changing fast. There
are flash flood warnings out for the next three days. Make sure you check the stream levels
before driving very far to fish. There are still plenty of insects hatching. BWOs, sulphurs,
cinnamon caddis, slate drake and tricos are the main ones. Terrestrial insects are also
working good. Ants, beetles and hoppers are catching trout.
08/21/16 The river has been a little high but is back down near a normal level for this time of
the season. The hatches are subsiding some, but there are still plenty of them. Cinnamon
Caddis are everywhere. Their late afternoon egg laying is bringing a lot of trout to the surface
to feed. Streamers, especially our Sculpin patterns, have been catching trout in the early
mornings. It is turning cooler and that will also help.
08/28/16 The river is in good shape with normal stream levels for this time of the year. Unlike
most other trout streams in the state, the weather is warm but not blazing hot. Our customers
are reporting catching trout throughout the day and in most sections. There are a lot of
hatches taking place. It is still a good idea to fish early and late in the day, but again, you can
fish all day at the current water temperatures.
09/04/16 The river is in good shape but the levels are a little low and low enough that you
should use extra caution to not spook the trout. Longer, lighter leaders and tippets will help.
There are still plenty of hatches taking place. They vary some with the section of the river but
caddisflies are in all sections. Terrestrial imitations are working good as well - ants, beetles
09/11/16 All sections of the river are fishing good. We received two good reports this past
week. There are still a few hatches taking place but streamers and nymphs seem to work
better than anything. Terrestrial imitations of ants and beetles work good according to some.
The water levels are up some but sill a little low in places. The weather is much cooler and this
coming week should be a very good one.
09/18/16 The stream levels are down and it is easy to wade many sections of the river. It
makes it easy to spook the trout just as well, so you have to use some caution when wading.
Stay low and dress to blend in the with the background. We received some very good reports
from customers this past week. Fishing early mornings or during cloud cover with sculpin
streamers is resulting in some larger fish being caught.
09/25/26 The river is in good shape with good stream levels and lower water temperatures.
The weather is much cooler and that has the trout in high gear and feeding good. Our
customers are catching them on terrestrials and hatches. There are several new ones. The
Brown trout will be soon going into the love mode, moving around looking for spawning areas.
10/02/16 For the past two weeks, I have mention the brown trout were looking for spawning
areas but now they are in the pre-spawn mode for certain. Our customers managed to catch
some very nice size ones this past week. The Brown sculpin streamer and the Black Matuka
sculpin streamers work good for this. There are lots of Blue-winged olives and Mahogany duns
10/09/16 The brown trout are either spawning or in the pre-spawn stage. Don't wade though
the redds, please. The weather is much cooler and it is possible to catch a lot of trout, you just
have to stay hidden from them. It isn't exactly easy but can be done. Dress to match the
background, use longer, lighter leaders and tippet. Streamers like our Brown Sculpin will catch
the pre-spawn brown trout.
10/16/16 The stream levels are currently low but that will be changing soon. The discharges
and levels will be higher thanks to rain in the forecast everyday but one for the coming week. It
is a little warmer than normal but that will change soon. Streamers will be a choice fly this
coming week due to the cloud cover and higher water. The Brown Sculpin would be a top
choice.. Blue-winged olives will hatch big time.