Skip to Main Content
New York's Falls to the Finger Lakes
New York's Falls to the Finger Lakes

Make the Turn for Upstream Tributary Fly Fishing

by Ron Bierstine

Fish off the pier at the mouth of the Oak Orchard River in September as you "make the turn" from lake fishing to stream fishing.

Pier head trolling passes like the classic figure 8 at the Oak Orchard River mouth, account for vicious strikes from angry King salmon staging for their upstream spawning runs.  Small runabouts and full-sized charter boats are all in on the last chance action for those biggest of the year Kings.  Even land lubbers on the piers toss glow spoons and get in on the hard-charging salmon lashing out at anything that gets in their path.  

But is it your last chance of the season?  After that last trolling pass finds your J-plugs wiggling no more – make the turn for upstream tributary fly fishing!

Limber 7 to 9 weights replace the stout boat rods for dead drift and swinging presentations.  Mixed bag hook-up chances are the norm for migrating Kings plus colossal brown trout, feisty steelhead, awesome Atlantics and cohos.

Slip into your waders and head upstream in the fast water stretches of Orleans County and area tribs such as the “Oak”, Johnson and Sandy.  Wading is simpler then the trolling game, so it’s just you and your casts to the holes and gravel runs.  There are other anglers out and about, but typically a lot of fish, so anglers can expect multiple hook ups in a day.  


Fishing the Oak downstream for Brown Trout

The Kings and cohos are on borrowed time before their post spawn demise, so target the freshest fish in the fastest water that you can find with good drifts and swings of nymphs or streamers.  Try dark patterns but definitely include some chartreuse and red mixed in with those flies.  Brown trout and Atlantic salmon are enthusiastically targeted on the Oak – they are suckers for simple egg patterns.  Anglers have legit chances at double digit browns.  The Atlantics won’t cost you a small fortune for the chance to pursue.  Steelhead that are only starting their migration in the fall will offer up fly fishing chances all winter and spring too.  

You can keep making the tributary turn until you splash that trolling spread back in come next Spring!  Bolstered water feed from New York State’s “Reimagine the Canals” program has enhanced this Lake Ontario trib fishery in Western New York with the intent to spread out more anglers and increase the angling chances.  Fly fishing and waders, sans boat – come Make the Turn in Orleans County!    

Ron Bierstine, Orleans County Sportfishing Consultant

Request The FREE travel packet

Discover all the adventurous things you can see and do in the Fresh Air Adventures region. Then bring your travel packet with you to use while you're visiting destinations in the area.

Get the packet