North Coast Angler
2006 Fishing Reports

Oak Orchard River, Albion, NY
October 30- November 2, 2006
My next trip out to western NY was out to the Oak Orchard River in Albion. Albion is about 30 miles west of Rochester on state route 98. On this trip I was joined by Capt Dave Beshara and longtime fishing buddy Tom Kolterjahn. We set out from Newburyport at 4 in the morning, picked up Dave in Salem, NH and hit the road at 5. The drive out took just about 7 hours and we arrived at the Dollinger Motel (585) 589-5541) at noon. The motel is near the center of town and about 15 minutes to the river and is a popular angler’s choice. The rooms are clean and spacious and reasonably priced. After unpacking and changing we set out to Olean’s Outdoors Fly Shop; Tom and Dave needed a license and we wanted a bit of info on the current conditions which they supply freely and accurately.

The river conditions were going to be challenging to say the least. Most times that I have fished the Oak, I enjoyed normal water levels and reasonable water clarity that allowed me to sight fish. This would not be the case since the area had received excessive rainfall and with the Erie Canal let-down, added up to very high dirty water; at least 2 feet higher than normal and clarity barely a foot. However, the King Salmon were still coming, steelhead were present, and the browns were showing in increasing numbers. Based on these facts, we decided our best choice of fly patterns would need to be quite visible and so we chose flies that would contrast well with the stained water and be of patterns that the fish would come to. We chose spawn fly patterns and Whooly Buggers, in colors of black, purple, blue and chartreuse.

A few of our flies, spawnfly in blue, pink and chartreuse, Whooly Buggers in black and purple

We arrived at the river parking area to find fewer cars than normally expected for this time of season; the high water conditions were no doubt the reason. “All the better for us”! Three anglers that were friends of Dave had arrived in Albion a day earlier and were on the river when we made our way down the access path. They had some good luck and landed a few fish, a couple of browns and a steelhead but indicated that the conditions were tough and getting the fly down in the strike zone would require some extra weight on the leader. Dave set up fishing with these anglers and Tom and I made our way upstream to the top of the Archers pool. There were about 30 other anglers in the water course and all whom we talked with told us that they were hooking up more king’s than trout, but overall, the hookups were fewer than expected. Tom and I arrived at our spot and began casting. Tom hooked up on his (black whooly bugger) 4th cast and landed a smallish 2 pound steelie!
Tom was ecstatic, since this was his first trip out to NY in 5 years. We continued fishing that area for an hour or so hooking up a couple of “wasted” kings. We decided to head back down river and see how Dave was making out. Dave’s friends had left for the day and Tom and I stepped in to the pool that Dave was fishing. We hung in there for an hour or so with only one small brown for our efforts so we called it day and headed back to the motel. After having dinner at the Village House restaurant, we discussed our plan for Tuesday morning. We all agreed to hang in there at the Oak and hoped for improving water conditions.

Tuesday morning broke clear and mild with temps in the mid forties. We arrived at the parking area at 6:30 am to find about the same number of cars as Monday. We decided to begin in the same area that we finished with on Monday. After an hour of casting, I finally hooked up and landed a 4 pound brown. I quickly released the fish with no photo taken. Little did we know, that turned out to be the only trout of the day! The water conditions seemed to be unchanged from Monday except with some improved visibility and a drop of a few inches in depth. Tom and I moved upstream and fished several other spots on both sides of river with a few “wasted” salmon hookups, but no browns or steelhead. At mid day we decided to check another area trib, Sandy Creek. Sandy Creek is 20 minutes east of the Oak and usually fished well when there was good water volume as was the case. We arrived at the bridge crossing to find about a dozen anglers fishing upstream. There were a couple of guys hanging out at the roadside so we went over and said hello and asked about the fishing. They said the fishing was as slow here as it was at most of the other area tribs and that the high, stained water was the problem. We agreed! So rather than fish there, we headed back to Albion and had some lunch. After lunch, we decided to return to the Oak for the remainder of the day. Later that afternoon, a push of fresh salmon made their way up river and we hooked a ½ dozen kings. The fast running water made it very difficult to control the large, hard fighting kings especially if you didn’t want to chase them down river….and I was not interested in pursuing that! Dave got a call from his three other friends who decided to head further west and fish 18 mile creek at the Burt Dam. They had fairly good success there, hooking and landing a few good sized browns and a few kings. The poor fishing at the Oak was the focus of our discussion that evening at dinner. We figured that if the water quality improved on Wednesday, the Oak would most definitely “turn on” so we decided not to change our plan and we would fish the Oak again in the morning.

Wednesday morning broke clear and chilly with temps in the low 30’s. A cold front had moved through overnight and we hoped that the change in weather would improve the fishing. We arrived at the parking area just before 7 am and to my astonishment, not one other car was present! I had never seen this in all of the seasons prior. We made our way to the river bank and did not find any other anglers. We had the place to ourselves………..but where was everyone? Were we the only anglers in town or did everyone else know something that we didn’t. It wasn’t long before several other anglers showed up across the river and upstream. We set up in the same area as the day before, at least hoping that fresh kings might be in the offering. The water level had not changed but the clarity had improved somewhat so I remained optimistic that we would experience some good action before the day was done. And we were rewarded with some fantastic fishing.
Throughout the afternoon, several good pushes of browns made their way up river. Most all the anglers present had a few hookups including a very happy angler, Rich, who hooked and landed a very nice 12+ pound Rainbow on a drifted spawn sack.

All three of us hooked and landed a mix of male and female browns. I was especially fortunate to land a male brown over 10 pounds and a female that topped out at 13 pounds.

The super day came to close but we each experienced some great fishing and hoped that Thursday morning, our last morning of the trip, would be as good as Wednesday afternoon!

We slept well that night and awoke to another chilly morning with temps again in the low 30’s. We grabbed breakfast and arrived at the river at 7 am. The parking lot had about a dozen cars parked, not bad. We headed for the same area that we had fished Wednesday and set up. I left Tom and Dave to fish the run and I headed upstream to see what might be happening. The day started very slowly, no one was hitting anything. I returned downstream to where Dave and Tom were. They reported a couple of takes but nothing landed. Dave decided to move downstream to where he had fished earlier in the week. Not long after he left, Tom hooked a nice brown and he confidently fought the fish to the net. A nice 6 pound male! Tom was real excited as this was his very first male brown of this size. Shortly after that, Dave called out for the camera. He had landed, with the assistance of another angler, a large female over 10 pounds. Great fish! To this point I hadn’t had a touch…but that changed when I hooked up and landed a super 10 + pound male. I followed that one with a 7 pounder. We all had a great morning of fishing the Oak….the big browns had started their run and we had an opportunity to catch and release several large fish. It was now 11 am and we had to call it a trip. A 7-8 hour drive lyed ahead….but we knew the long drive would be filled with great talk about the fishing on this trip and when we would head out to this phenomenal fishery again.

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Captain Skip Montello