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FLY FISHING THE OAK ORCHARD RIVER IN NEW YORK

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Located in western New York just west of Rochester, Oak Orchard River is a quality migratory fishery for brown trout, salmon, and steelhead. It is a medium sized river that is easily wadeable in all but the highest flows. Being a tailwater fishery it generally remains ice free and fishable during the winter months. Many anglers come from all over to fish this renowned tributary to Lake Ontario.

Steelhead can be present from late October to early May and average approximately 10 pounds with fish topping 20 pounds. Steelhead numbers in Oak Orchard are usually best from February to late April (runs of steelhead come in with the Fall salmon migrations to eat their eggs). Brown trout and salmon usually start entering the river in late September. The browns average 6-8 pounds and can get as big as 18-20 pounds! The brown trout are what Oak Orchard is famous for and the area is likened to a sort of "poor man's Patagonia." Numbers can stay strong through the winter with the best runs between mid October and early December. King Salmon (Chinook) average 20+ pounds with "trophies" over 35 pounds. The salmon run till November with the best runs from the end of September to the end of October. In limited numbers both Coho and Atlantic Salmon enter the waterway during the Fall and provide a truly diversified fishery. As in all fisheries, please check all the Special Regulations before you fish.

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The river south of Lake Alice spills into both a power generation turbin channel and natural overflow channel at the town of Waterport. The dam on the northern end of the lake is the start of the tailwater section where anglers fish. This marks the limit to upstream migrations of trout and salmon. The area immediately below the dam tends to be a more popular spot since fish stack up there. The river bed is made up of gravel and small stones with fallen trees and some boulders around as well. It is a beautiful river especially in the fall when the leaves turn to a bright orange before falling to the ground. Look for seams, runs, riffles, and pools where fish will hold or gravel areas where fish are actively spawning. Wading Oak Orchard is not nearly as difficult as the Salmon River to the east although caution still needs to be taken.
Hatch Chart
Thanks to the demands of power generation at the Waterport hydro and other upstream generating facilities, water flows in the Oak Orchard vary and can go up (or down) at any time. In fact, due to the "buffering" effect of impoundment behind the Waterport dam, the river is often fishable when many, if not all, area waterways are too high and / or turbid. After hard rains fish will often enter the river and the fishing can be outstanding when water levels recede and water clarity returns.

Fishing Oak Orchard is done in much the same fashion as all of the Great Lakes fisheries, although traditional fly lines and set-ups easily out number running lines and "slinky" rigs (lead sacks on a snap swivel.) Temperate flows and depths allow the more popular method (a tapered floating flyline, long leader and split shot or weighted fly) to be effective. The same technique is used here as in nymph fishing for trout. Another fly fishing technique is the use of a sink tip line and a short leader(approximately 5-7 feet). Flourocarbon leaders sink easier than standard monofiliment and sink tip lines combined with the new sinking tip leaders allow fly fishers to fish effectively without lead. The sink tip method can be productive when using spey flies, woolly buggers, and egg sucking leeches during periods of warmer water when the fish are more active. In this method, the fly is swung on a tight line. Colder water dictates a slower swing. Mending upstream properly will help you control the speed of the swing.

Access to the river can be found using Routes 18 and 104 from the east and west or Route 98 from the south. (The New York State Thruway, Interstate 17/86, Interstate 390 and Lake Ontario Parkway will get travelors to western New York from points east, south or west.) Once in the vicinity, Park Avenue on the east side of the river affords most of the access to the mile or so of productive, driftable water below the dam.

Oak Orchard River is a one of a kind fishery, often described as "World Class." With the angler friendly size of the river and the large number of migrating trout and salmon, it is no doubt a famous Fall, Winter and Spring fishery. Angling pressure can be high as on some Great Lakes tributaries. When the fishing is on, it is phenomenal, and there are plenty of fish to go around. The next time your looking to catch a trout measured in pounds, not ounces and that has the capability of "cleaning your reel", take a look at Oak Orchard River.