Photo by Mike Lynch
Blue Line Sports Shop owner Matt Rothamel helps stock the Saranac River in April.
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Matt Rothamel owns Blue Line Sports in Saranac Lake with his wife, Cory. An avid fisherman, Rothamel talks about a section of the North Branch of the Saranac River between Look Lake and Clayburg.

EMBARK: Why do you recommend fishing the North Branch of the Saranac River between Redford and the Clinton/Franklin County line?

ROTHAMEL: There are a couple of good holes in the areas that the state Department of Environmental Conservation has designated as special trout-fishing waters. Some of the holes can be eight feet deep or more during peak runoff. It’s very underrated. You can shoreline fish, and you don’t need waders to go into these particular areas. There’s good shoreline fishing if you are rollcasting upstream using dead-drift nymphing techniques.  

EMBARK: Any recommendations for fishing this stretch?

ROTHAMEL: Approach slowly, maintain camouflage, and stalk your quarry. There are some nice holes here, but you can easily spook the fish if you’re too hasty about getting in and out of the water. I like to fish along the eddy lines and boils in the water. Fishing upstream diagonally, floating your flies back toward you over the deeper holes, can often produce a strike.

EMBARK: What type of flies do you recommend for April and May?

ROTHAMEL: I would do a stream sampling by turning over rocks in streams, seeing what life is attached to the rock bottom. Most of the time, I’ll fish a few different patterns. I’ve become a big fan of fishing droppers and piggybacking two to three flies together. It increases your opportunity. If you space them far enough apart and weight them differently, you can maximize your coverage of the water column. The way I look at it, if you are double-nymphing, you are just basically opening up more opportunities.

EMBARK: Would these patterns work as the season progresses?

ROTHAMEL: You can fish larval patterns throughout the season, but as the season goes by, the fish become more in tune with the natural cycle that is going on. From the perspective of a nymph or a stonefly or a muddler, insects are going to mature and grow in size as time goes on. Or they may molt and become something complete different. The general idea is that people start the early season with smaller patterns and then graduate to bigger patterns. 

EMBARK: What time of day do you usually go?

ROTHAMEL: There are a lot of variables to consider, environmentally speaking. Stream and air temperature need to be taken into consideration, as well as water levels. Hatches you definitely have to match to the time of day and place when a hatch is going on.

EMBARK: Any recommendations for equipment that one normally might not think of?

ROTHAMEL: A good wading belt. I feel it’s important in terms of wading, but it can also give you a little floatation and support. If your waders fill up, its miserable and dangerous. Also, one might consider a wading staff and inflatable-style life vest.

EMBARK: Any final recommendations? 

ROTHAMEL: Mix it up. You have to keep in mind that the ecosystem is always changing. Don’t be dogmatic; don’t be afraid to try different things. If you’ve fished it for 10 or 15 minutes and you haven’t had a rise or a strike, be patient, but you may be better off changing it up. The ecosystem is dynamic, and you should always be in sync with that ecosystem.