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Subscriber Tim Stoodley has good things to say about the fishing he did on West Branch of the Ausable River in upstate New York this past June with the help of guide John Ruff.
He writes: “I had the opportunity to spend some fishing time on the West Branch of the Ausable River this past June. My wife and I were there camping for a few days, and she is a late riser on vacation, which left a good part of the mornings free. This was my first visit to the area, so I contacted Tom at the Ausable River Two Fly Shop in Wilmington, New York (www.ausablerivertwoflyshop.com). Tom set me up with one of his guides, John Ruff (www.ruffwatersflyfishing. com). We met at the shop around 6 AM.
“The West Branch is famous for its pocket water, which is what John prefers to fish. But, in deference to my knee replacement two months earlier, we fished a slower stretch in the town of Jay about eight miles from the shop. There was a public access point there, but John took us across a private lot since he knew the owner. It had been dry in the Northeast since spring and, by mid-June, the heat was starting to build. The day was very bright and warm.
“The water in this area was about two to three feet deep and easy to wade. John was looking for rising fish and planned on targeting every one we saw. There weren’t a lot of them that morning, and they were fairly tight to the right bank, which, in this stretch, was the east side of the river. Almost all the fish we saw were in the shade of trees on the bank. There were a few small tan caddis coming off, but the rises were sporadic. We tried several flies from John’s stash, including imitations and attractors, to no avail. We also tried some nymph combinations. John had brought his rod along, and we used it as a second rod that always had the next fly he wanted me to use already tied and ready. This saved me a lot of valuable fishing time changing flies. Eventual¬ly, we went to a small streamer called an Ausable Ugly, which John had me fish dead drift. After a few minutes, I had a solid take from an 18-inch brown. We fished the Ugly down the bank a ways and had two more pulls but no hookups.
“As the sun got higher, the rises that we saw were more concentrated in the shade of the trees, but they became even more sporadic. I man¬aged one other brown of about 14 inches on a variation of a Usual tied by John. A lot of the local flies were originated by Fran Betters, who lived in Wilmington and fished the West Branch extensively. John tied all of the flies we used himself. They were of excellent quality. I was not surprised to learn that he ties flies commercially. On a side note, John sent me a picture of a 24-inch brown taken by his client the following day on an Ausable Wulff out of some pocket water. John knows the river well and also knows of a few private places to take brook trout when the West Branch gets too warm.
“I fished the same area the fol¬lowing morning on my own. The rises were very infrequent and, although I used the same techniques and flies, I did not manage any hook-ups. I then tried some pocket water that evening behind the KOA campground where we were staying and got two nice browns on a caddis nymph. I was going to fish that area again early the last morning but managed to break the tip on my rod. Without a backup, I had to call it quits.
“Some comments on the West Branch are in order at this point. There is a lot of accessible water along Route 86, but it is pretty heavily fished. Virtually every pullout along the way had one or more cars parked. Water quality is excellent, though there is a little tannin stain to it. Fran Betters tied most of his flies with a pinkish tint to the body, as he felt that this color was prevalent on most of the fly life because of the tannin. Interestingly, the shop sells custom leaders that are made from brown Maxima, which really disappears in the tannin water. The town of Wilmington, where we stayed, is about eight miles from Lake Placid, so there is plenty to do in the area, including sightseeing, shopping, golf courses, and so on. I also recommend a ride up to the peak of White Face Mountain, where the Olympic alpine events were held. The views are spectacular.
“As for my guide, I think he was excellent. He knew the water very well and was able to adjust to my reduced ability to get around following a knee replacement. His preference is pocket water, but we fished a slower stretch. The water was low and warm, but the fish still cooperated well enough, given the circumstances. The fly shop was well stocked and the staff very knowledgeable. The quality of their flies, mostly all tied locally, was excellent.
Postscript: Tim Stoodley gives the cost of his half day of guided fishing as $189. The only other cost was $50 for the camping at a KOA camp¬ground.