Cayuta Creek

Cayuta Creek is a wonderful little creek, 40 miles in length, running parallel for much of its length with Route 34 as it meanders to its terminus with the North Branch of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.  Indian legend has it that its source, Cayuta Lake, is named after a beautiful Seneca princess who was kidnapped by another tribe, causing her mother’s tears to form the lake.  An older spelling of the creek’s name, still sometimes used, is “Kayutah”.  The name translates to “little gem”, and that is exactly what this creek is to the fly fishers who frequent it.

Little Gem...

Little Gem...

Cayuta receives healthy stockings of brown trout every year, but is also known for its holdovers and natives.  This is classic upstate fly fishing – fast riffles, slow runs, brush-lined pools, and deep, snag-infested holes abound.  Every year at least a few large browns are taken; indeed, a coworker once told me his son pulled a 6 lb brown out of the lower section.  I had my doubts about this until one bright spring day when my Hendrickson nymph stopped dead as it swept under a downfall.  I set the hook and saw the golden flash of a big brown in the murky green depths.  The weight of the fish in combination with some heavy current did their thing, but suddenly I was a believer, as they say.

Open all year, Cayuta offers solitude, gorgeous upstate surroundings, and the chance for good trout fishing.  While there are only two DEC angler parking areas in the upper section, finding a place to park along most of the creek is not difficult.  Wading and navigating the creek, however, can be tricky.  The best places to do well are going to be the ones the lazy fishermen pass up.

Riffle water...

Riffle water...

Staff Hydrologist Dan and I usually hit Cayuta before the traditional NY opener as a warm-up for the season.  We fish the special regs section, from the Rt. 223 bridge downstream to the Wyncoop Creek Rd bridge, as this is open to artificial lures only.  I’ve fished above this stretch once before and did well.  The section below the special regs stretch I’ve yet to explore, but I’ve been told this area can produce some real slabs, if you’re willing to work for them.

I arrived at the special regs section on Sunday afternoon around 2 pm.  After stringing up my 7′ 4 wt JP Ross Beaver Meadow rod and getting down to the creek I noticed a few caddis about, and as these patterns typically do well here, I tied on a tan caddis dry to see if the fish were looking up.  I worked over a nice riffle, run, pool and another combination of the same and all I could come up with were creek chubs that hurled themselves at the fly.  As I fished, I noticed the water had a slight “snowmelt” color to it.  The temp was a very cool 52 degrees F.  I re-rigged to fish wet, and tied on one of my favorite search patterns – the infamous Picket Pin.

Old Faithful...

Old Faithful...

I hiked down the road about a quarter mile to a place Dan likes to fish – a nice brush-lined riffle that spills into a long run and meandering pool.  I fished the picket pin upstream dead drift, then let the line belly out with the current, swing down, and hang for a moment.  I fished the fly weightless, but let the upstream cast and mend give the fly some depth.  A few casts at this spot and I was tight to a fish – a nice 2 year old.  He came up slow, head-shaking, then ran upstream.  I worked him across into the slack water and quickly released him.

I moved upstream to another good spot – broader in width, shallower in depth, but with good cover.

Looking upstream - a nice pool with good cover...

Looking upstream - a nice pool with good cover...

After much ducking and grappling through those nasty thorn-covered crabapple trees, I was able to position myself across a pool that cut into the bank and had great cover.  I watched the water and a flash of butter yellow and silver caught my eye.  Looking more closely, I could see a brown trout picking off nymphs.  I cast upstream, giving my unweighted fly time to sink as it reached the deep middle of the pool, then I’d let my line tighten and swing the fly through.  I did this 3 times before the fly stopped, my line tightened, and I strip set the hook into another nice brown.  This fish came to the surface, thrashing the water to a froth, and settled back in the pool to slug it out.  I worked the fish out upstream, and released it after a quick photo op…

Cayuta Creek brown...

Cayuta Creek brown...

Pool by pool I worked my way upstream.  I fished the riffles, pools, holes, and downfalls, one by one.

Downfall - deep hole...

Downfall - deep hole...

I picked up 2 more browns, smaller in size, but just as big in their fighting spirit.  Around 5 pm I reached the point upstream where I had parked and decided I had been blessed enough.  I stowed my gear, broke out a cigar, and enjoyed the warmth of the late afternoon.  Across the creek was a cornfield, partially harvested and mowed, and beyond it, hills turning scarlet, copper, gold, and brown.  I felt lucky to be alive…

Autumn afternoon...

Autumn afternoon...

Tight lines…

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6 Responses to “Cayuta Creek”

  1. Bob,

    That first pic, “Little Gem,” is indeed a gem–great shot! Great commentary and accompanying pics. Sounds like an excellent day and some nice fishing too.

    -scott

    • stflyfisher Says:

      Thanks for the comment, and compliments, Scott. Cayuta is probably 180 out from the type of water you fish – be interesting to do a piece with a side-by-side comparison. Just gotta love the diversity of fishing we enjoy here in America…

  2. […] donned my chest waders, as the creek was certainly much higher than I’d seen it on my last visit. Based on the creek’s color, I figured dark or very bright-colored flies would be the rule. […]

  3. I grew up living near and fishing Cayuta Creek (we called it Shepards Creek). In those days (1960’s and 70’s) there were almost no trout except in the very upper reaches and mostly they were stockies that didn’t hold over — probably due to excessive agricultural run-off and lack of sewage treatment in the villages along the creek. Below Van Etten there was always a good population of small mouth and rock bass that would hit just about anything including spinners and crawlers. Occasionally, a nice brown could be caught — but was extremely rare. About 6 years ago, when visiting my parents, I had the opportunity to hit the creek again using the same type baits thinking I would catch some small mouth and was absolutely amazed at the number of nice 12-16 inch browns that I landed in only 2-3 hours of fishing Mepps spinners. No bass at all. While I now live in South Carolina, I look forward to a time when I can get back on the creek — this time with a fly rod. For me Cayuta Creek is ‘The ‘River that Runs Through’ my life and was the place I went to find solace and to get away from the turmoils of that difficult time and my adolescent and teenage years. I guess the fact that I found this website says volumes about the impact Shepards Creek had on me.

  4. I fish that Stream often, Only the the special rgs zone. I have caught browns over 20 inches and 1 last spring that was 24inches. All fish are on fly rods only and even the big guys go back into the stream as Im a huge Catch and Release nut. If you havent ever been to “shepards” creek do yourself a favor and try it. Ive been fly fishing for 5 years now and ive learned everything I know from fishing that stream.It offers so many types of water so you can dry fly fish, wet fly fish and even nymph it with indicators. Being from Elmira, Its only a 20 minute drive to what i believe is the best year round trout stream in Central NY. Ive had mornings this early summer were Ive caught 20 plus fish. I consider that creek my “home” creek and I go as much as possible all the way through the fall. I have a ton of fish pics from that creek on my facebook page. Just look for Cubby Proctor on facebook and check out my albums.

  5. On my way this Saturday, 3/30/13. Theres a run a little down from the old bridge, I always catch a couple nice ones.

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