Black River Fly Fishing – Central New York


Perhaps the Black River gets its name from its tannic acid water color, or perhaps it’s name comes from the lack of fishing pressure it receives. Nonetheless the Black River is one of NY’s prized fisheries for trout, Bass, Pike, and Salmon. There are only a few major rivers in NYS that flow north. Like the well-known Ausable River in the high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains, the Black river also encompasses this characteristic.


The Black River is located in the foothills of the Adirondack park. Its headwater comes from a few main watersheds.
One section of the Black flows from North Lake and receives additional water from other drainages around Cool Mountain. From here the upper stretches of the Black River flow southwest until it joins with Little Black Creek.

Little Black Creek

Little Black Creek receives its water from the drainage south of North Lake in the town of Wheelertown and North Wilmurt. Its headwaters are marshy and boggy in the farthest reaches close to Maple Lake, Forty Mountain, and Party Hill. The creek flows directly west through meandering golden sand shoots and tumbling waterfalls. Decorated by tag alders and driftwood it true treasure wares a cloak of vibrant pink and electric blue.

When it joins with the Black River the confluents of this river begin to take hold. Vast amounts of pocket water are characteristic to the typical topography of the Adirondacks. Glacial erratic boulders everywhere you look, with an eager brook trout waiting in hiding in the quiet current seam just behind the shadows. It is in this stretch where an angler can explore new territory with little chance of seeing another individual. The element of loosing yourself in this beautiful environment is a danger I have deliberated often.

Kayuta Lake

As one proceeds down river they will run into the beginning of Kayuta Lake and in convergence of another stream; the Woodhull. Here too you will find brook trout, as well as brown trout and rainbow trout. Down into Kayuta Lake the shore widens, the water warms and the species change. You will find Bass and Chain Pickerel, both heavily populated and eager to bite a fly.
Continuing downstream you will run into a dam and the continuing Black River. As the River turns Northwesterly and heads towards Forestport, Hawkensville, and Boonville, you will come across parts of the Black that are home to my favorite holes.
Spattered with riffles and large long pools, it is a kick boater’s heaven. Continuing northwest, the Black connects with the Moose River, taking on larger characteristics making it easily fished from a motorboat.

Fish Species

One will also notice the population of fish changes as well. The species of fish are mainly warm water species, with occasional pods of large Rainbow and Brown trout. The river continues is haunting pace as it flows to Carthage and eventually dumps into Lake Ontario in Watertown. I must confess that I do not fish any sections form Port Leyden North, not because I do not fish for bass and pike, but because there is too much good water above this section, and it begins to be too far from my home.


Some of my best days fly-fishing have been on the Black River. The hatches of insects are wonderful and often predictable. In the spring you can always count on the usual early season hatches. Quill Gordons, Sulphurs, and even Green and Brown drakes are good hatches. March Browns are good in the riffles, and I have even seen Hexagenia Mayflies on the pools in Hawkensville in July. Caddis flies are a norm. They are sporadic and consistent. I have also found midges to be a great source of food in the summer months, as well as Isonychias, Ephrons and Blue Winged Olives.

I enjoy the terrain the Black River flows through, however be aware that the irregular topography on land is sure to carry on beneath the surface. I have often waded right into deep bone chilling holes where I once was only knee deep. These are the sections that hold big fish.

If you like to hunt for large trout, fish the pockets anticipating the unpredictable rise, or floating down a lazy pool, the Black river can accommodate your requests.

Summer Smallmouth Bass

Normally the trout laden sections of the river get over run by smallmouth in the summer, however this season should be a different story since we have good amount of water.

Dry Fly Fishing

Normally I enjoy fishing for the smallmouth in the summer, but I will gladly resume my dry fly fishing this season, as the Sulphurs seem to lead right into the Drakes, which lead to the Ephrons, and eventually to the Slate Drakes.
Last year was a good season for the Black River, and once again I did not see a section crowded. I you are making your way to the Adirondack Park and are heading up route 12 north to 28 north, you are going to go right over it. Take a chance to fish this beautiful river of Central New York. The Black River is where I like to call home. I am humbled by its trout and left speechless from its beauty.

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