Fly-Fishing: Spey anglers target summer

Being somewhat freewheeling in nature, Spey Nation, the two-handed fly-rod fishing conclave along th

Being somewhat freewheeling in nature, Spey Nation, the two-handed fly-rod fishing conclave along the Salmon River in June, doesn’t take attendance.

Even so, it was plain to see that this year’s event, which took place Saturday, was the biggest yet — “judging by the number of people in the food line,” chuckled its founder, Geoff Schaacke of Ballston Spa.

Fishing for salmon and steelhead rainbow trout in our part of the world has traditionally involved fishing deep with nymphs or egg flies to fish holding near the stream bed. Spey anglers use long rods, floating lines and large, colorful streamers swung just below the surface, hoping to entice fish to rise and strike.

And in another departure from tradition, these fisherfolk are beginning to fish in the summer. Pur­suing coho and Chinook salmon and steelheads is mostly an autumn and winter proposition, but more and more anglers are targeting the Atlantic salmon and Skamania steelheads that run the Salmon River in the summer months.

There aren’t nearly as many fish as in the epic fall spawning runs. But the opportunity to tease 10-pound salmon with streamers in shirt-sleeve weather brings a little of the mystique of the Canadian Maritimes or the Pacific Northwest to New York.

Now, the Department of Envir­onmental Conservation is planning new regulations that will encourage fishing for summer salmon and steelheads the proper way. The DEC has published a proposal to ban sinking lines and leaders, split shot and weighted flies from the upper fly-fishing-only section of the Salmon River between May 1 and Aug. 31.

“Input from summer fly-fishing anglers indicates that these fish will actively chase artificial flies in the flows that occur during the summer and aggressively take wet flies fished just under the surface or in the surface film, as well as dry flies fished on the water’s surface,” the DEC said, explaining the proposal. “Atlantic salmon and summer steelhead are the most aggressive takers of flies in the Salmon River. These fish should not be disturbed when they choose to be inactive due to elevated temperatures.

“Adding weights significantly increases the probability of anglers intentionally or unintentionally foul hooking all salmonids in summer flows,” the agency said, adding, “There is currently some level of abuse occurring.”

This rule, which would only apply to the uppermost half-mile of the river, would bring the Salmon mostly into line with the landlocked Atlantic salmon fishery across the Adirondacks, in the tributaries of Lake Champlain.

Weighted flies and sinkers have long been forbidden on the Sar­anac, Ausable and Bouquet rivers.

Observers report significant improvement in the fishing for Lake Champlain salmon, due to successful lamprey eel control in the lake.

And then there are the efforts of the Fish Creek Atlantic Salmon Club, which is working to restore Atlantic salmon to their native streams in the Tug Hill Plateau. Spey Nation raised $3,600 for the group last weekend.

The more Atlantic salmon in New York, the better. And now we can fish for them in the summer — as if we didn’t have enough fishing to do.

Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at [email protected].

Categories: -Sports-

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