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Plenty of patterns to pick on Ausable River
By Mark Waslick
Special to GOG

The Ausable River will once again host the One Fish Fly-Fishing competition.
Flyfishers competing in the ESPN Great Outdoor Games will return to the West Branch of the Ausable River for the second installment of the One Fish Fly Fishing competition. While the event will draw an international field of anglers to the river July 12-15, 2001, the Ausable has drawn flyfishermen from great distances for years based on its well-earned reputation as one of the East's premier trout streams.

The Ausable begins as many nameless brooks in the High Peaks Area near Mt. Marcy, south of the village of Lake Placid, NY. From here, the river flows generally northeast and, with the addition of countless tiny brooklets, becomes an-honest-to-goodness trout stream just north of the village. Over the next several miles the river takes on the appearance it is best known for and is at its most scenic; boulder-filled pocket water, dark undercut banks and more than a few waterfalls (the largest claiming a one-hundred foot drop). Much of this water here is designated as catch and release and is heavily stocked each year by New York State. Relatively easy access and well-publicized stocking draws the bulk of visiting fishermen to this stretch of the river.

Beneath this section, the river matures and is slowed briefly by a couple of dams. Access to this lower run is much more difficult and, as such, retains much of its wilderness feel. Adventurous fishermen willing to explore beyond the few access points will often find this large section of the river abandoned. If nothing else, the well-stocked catch-and-release area upstream has reduced angling pressure on this lower section.

The pools, pockets, ledges and runs here offer the seasoned flyfisherman an intriguing mix of habitats to choose from. While this stretch may not receive the hatchery additions benefited upstream, numerous deep holding pools and undercut banks help ensure that both wild and stocked fish survive from year to year through the tough winters. It is here, in the miles of the lower river, where the One Fish Fly Fishing competitors will go head-to-head. Holdover trout up to twenty inches long are not uncommon, with trout in the three to five pound range always a possibility.

While in many areas of the country July offers the flyfisherman little more than warm, low water and empty worm containers, the West Branch runs clear and cold with substantial insect activity - both of which are vital to healthy trout populations. This is made possible because much of the upper Ausable is undeveloped and, in the summer months, shaded by streamside vegetation.

When the ESPN Great Outdoor Games comes calling in July, the Ausable River will be at its best.

Summer insect activity on the river will come in a variety of forms; the ever-present caddis will hatch all day, with sporadic large stoneflies thrown into the mix. Mayflies will still be active, mostly small blue-winged olives and tricos, as well as mid-sized cahills and sulphurs, and large yellow and golden drakes. Anglers will have to be on their game to determine which of these bugs the trout are feeding on.

Then again, the trout may not key in on any of these hatches. They may be looking for a larger mouthful in the form of one of the river's resident minnow populations. The larger trout of the Ausable are often taken on streamers fished slowly in deep pools or flashed through pocket water.

The prolific insect life and abundant forage fish give the resident trout plenty to choose from, and therefore, plenty for the One Fish Fly Fishing competitors to ponder. As flyfishermen over the years have discovered of the Ausable River, there is no one-way to catch the largest trout in a pool. The trick is to find the way for a certain pool, for a certain trout, on a certain day.

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