Steelhead Fishing in Ellicottville, New York
Flowing through Western New York approximately 20 minutes from Ellicottville, Cattaraugus Creek (known as the Catt to local anglers), is a real fly anglers destination. It’s headwaters and the tributaries feeding it provide a great opportunity for catching wild rainbow and brown trout. Meandering its way through Arcade, NY, there are a multitude of sections that are also stocked with Brown Trout.
But the Catt’s greatest claim to fame is its great returns of the Lake Run Rainbow (steelhead) from Lake Erie. Steelhead are fondly referred to as “chromes” due to their shiny scales. Anglers can catch these lake-run giants from late August through early June. The actual date of the steelhead runs are largely weather-dependent.
The Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area is a region that offers a lot of PFR (Public Fishing Rights) areas. Those who are steelhead fishing near Ellicottville can also utilize angler access on the Seneca Nation section of the Catt downstream from Gowanda, NY.
Please respect the land owners of any stream you fish. There is plenty of public water on the Catt, which can be easily identified by referring to the NYS PFR (Public Fishing Rights) website.
The wading angler will find the Catt forgiving or treacherous, depending on the section you choose to fish and the water level you’re fishing it. Its substrate can range from wader-friendly gravel bottom, to slick shale chutes, to greased bowling balls. Cleats, studs or a wading staff can come in handy as you work your way up and down the Catt.
While the Catt can be fished with a single handed fly rod, two handed rods and switch rods find their place as the pools open up with good flow for swinging and narrow up with pocket water that’s fun for indicator fishing. Some times, with an organized backpack, you can carry two rods and fish the best of both worlds or re-rig a switch depending on the run or pool you’re fishing.
With either method, you’ll find that egg-sucking leaches, bunny spey, wooly buggers, stonefly nymphs, various other eggs and nymphs work throughout the Catt for steelhead.
Regular water reading methods work here too. Current seams, eddies and buckets all hold fish. Unlike trout, steelhead are always on the move and require a little adjustment to understand their behavior based on water conditions, temperature or time of year. Once you get the hang of it, they’ll provide you with a day of rod bending, reel screaming fun.
While floating the Catt can bring anglers into tough to reach or nearly impossible Public Fishing areas, New York law states that you can’t beach, anchor, touch bottom or fish in non-public areas. So the best use of a watercraft is to “riffle hop” your way from spot to spot in the Public Fishing areas.
If you are looking for a truly unique and adventurous experience, consider fishing the Catt on an inflatable SUP onthefly stand up paddle board. Adventure Bound offers guided fishing trips on stand up paddle boards. A little skill and sense of adventure will get you to some seldom fished spots on public stretches.
When to go?
The annual migration of steelhead on the Catt can start as early as late August and run until June. As with any cold water species, it’s good practice to fish steelhead when the water temperature is cooler so the fish can be properly released unharmed.
The peak times for steelhead fishing in Ellicottville are usually October, November, December and again in the spring months of March and April.
Check New York regulations as some of the smaller tributaries of the Catt are closed during the spawn. When wading, be carefully not to disturb spawning fish.
What to Throw
A large range of flies will catch willing fish on the Catt. A few flies work reliably and will get you through the season. Here is a quick list to get you started:
- Black Wooly Bugger
- White Wooly Bugger
- Sucker Spawn
- Egg Pattern
- Black Stonefly
- Hare’s Ear Nymph
- Squirmy Worm
- Bunny Spey
7 weight rods with a fighting butt and a good large arbor reel with an adjustable drag system will cover most of your indicator fishing needs.
A switch rod in 7 or 8 weight with a good large arbor reel with and adjustable drag will give you the option to indicator fish and swing flies at a quick switch of your leader and fly rigs.
A short two handed rod in a 7 or 8 weight is a fun way to explore the Catt while waiting for the tug.
Whatever method you choose, generally speaking, a 9ft. 2X fluorocarbon leader on a floating line will get you through most days.
All your steelhead fishing gear can be found at Adventure Bound in Ellicottville.
A New York state fishing license is available in-season, with 3 and 7 day options. The Seneca Nation Fishing License costs an additional $60 for the season. Both licenses run a year from the date of purchase.
Ellicottville – Fun for the Family!
Steelhead anglers will appreciate the lodging, dining, outfitting and entertainment options in the beautiful village of Ellicottville, NY. In addition to providing great places to eat and stay, Ellicottville offers fun for the non-anglers in the family. Holiday Valley ski resort is home to a golf course, ropes course, as well as miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. Ellicottville also offers great options for shopping.
Be sure to come to Ellicottville for steelhead fishing on the one of Lake Erie’s most scenic tributaries. Water conditions on the Cattaraugus make for some of the best steelheading western New York has to offer!