New York Fly Fishing 5 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Chautauqua Creek in New York

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

December 20, 2020

Chautauqua Creek in New York

For many, the lure of fly fishing is real– and with so many great destinations to check out, it’s really an angler’s paradise all over the country. New York, specifically, is well-known for having tons of great creeks, streams, and rivers for all kinds of fly fishing. 

Thinking of planning a trip? 

Well, save your pennies and start planning your own fly fishing trip with the help of this guide. Keep reading to learn all about fly fishing at Chautauqua Creek in New York. We’ll discuss where it’s at, what it offers, and what you’ll need to get hooked up.

River Overview

Fly fishing for Steelhead on Chautaqua Creek in Steelhead Alley

Chautauqua Creek is a 15-mile creek that flows from Sherman through a deep gorge and out into Lake Erie, located in the heart of Steelhead Alley in upstate New York. In its early days, the stream was used for industry by the nearby village of Westfield. Thanks to the gorge, it’s a unique remote wilderness just minutes from the busy New York freeways. 

If you’re looking for adventure, Chautauqua Creek has a lot to offer. Rather than just walking up and wading in, you’ll be able to hike in and around the gorge, see some beautiful sights, and find some secret pockets where you can fish in peace. 

You’ll find steelhead in the lower reaches, and both stocked and wild brown and rainbow trout. The steelhead range from 5 to 10 pounds in size.

Chautauqua Creek Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access points on the Chautauqua River in New York

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

This creek isn’t as large as some of the Lake Erie tributaries in upstate New York, but it certainly has a lot of great fishing potential. You can find steelhead all the way up to the Westfield Water Works Dam, where you’ll find catch-and-release fishing year-round. The stretch runs for about 1.3 miles. 

There are also plenty of rainbow and brown trout upstream of the dam. This creek has a total of 8.5 miles and in the areas that aren’t catch-and-release, there’s a limit of three fish per person per day, with a minimum 12-inch size requirement. It’s also an artificial lures only fishing area, so stock your tackle box. 

You’ll find that this creek freezes a lot faster than most in the area. However, you’ll be able to plan a great trip as long as you call ahead and check the creek conditions and weather report for the dates you want to travel.

Best Places to Fish Chautauqua Creek

This creek has plenty of public water access up and down the gorge, not far from the road. You’ll also find direct access to Chautauqua Creek in Chautauqua Gorge State Forest. The Westfield Dam area is popular for fly fishing. 

You’ll find plenty of clear ledge pools running up and downstream near Route 5, but you can enjoy decent fly fishing all up and down the lower five miles of the stream. There are some access points on side roads running along the creek, as well as near the I-90 junction and where Route 20 runs through Westfield. 

Most access points offer easy wading. This is a lower running stream, so it isn’t going to have a lot of difficult water. Although there is a marina nearby at Chautauqua Lake, boats typically aren’t able to access this stream because the water runs so low. 

There is public bank access for this creek along its entire lower section through the gorge. You can head to one of the local popular fishing areas or take a stroll and see what you can find. Wading and shoreline fly fishing are plentiful all along the creek.

Best Time to Fish Chautauqua Creek

Like a lot of creeks and streams in New York, Chautauqua Creek is open year-round for trout and steelhead. The fall season, which is peak steelhead season, often gets busy on the weekends, but it can still be good fishing considering the catch rates here. 

Fishing trout above the dam is open from April to October. Spring and summer see plenty of steelhead and trout fishing opportunities, too. This is a lower-flowing creek, so you may not be able to fish in the winter months if the creek freezes over. However, if you can, you’ll still find a decent catch. 

Ultimately, if you want to have the best fly fishing trip for steelhead, you want to visit between October and December. April is a good time for trout as this is when the best hatches occur. You’ll find mayflies, caddisflies, and midges as things get cooler, which can all encourage the fish to bite. 

The fall and winter weather can be fickle in upstate New York, so you shouldn’t necessarily avoid going in winter. Just check the weather reports. Many years, the creek only freezes once or twice, if at all.

Best Flies for Chautaugua Creek

The steelhead in Chautauqua Creek see a lot of pressure and get be difficult to catch.  That said standard egg patterns and nymphs, along with small streamers like Woolly Buggers are all you really need. Swinging big streamers in some of the larger pools during high water can also be effective.

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Chautauqua Creek:

  • Glo Bug (#8 – 16)
  • Sucker Spawn (#8 – 12)
  • Nuclear Roe (#10 – 16)
  • Black Stonefly (#12 -18) 
  • Brown Stonefly (#12 -14)
  • Hare’s Ear (#10 – 12)
  • Woolly Bugger (#6 – 10)
  • Muddler Minnow (#6 – 10)
  • Pink Panther (#6 – 10)
  • White Bunny Spey (#6 – 10)
  • Pot Bellied Pig
  • M.C. Hammer (#4)
  • Spawntruder (#4)

Gear Recommendations

A single-hand 10-foot, 6- or 7-wt fly rod with a weight-forward floating line is perfect for fishing nymphs and small streamers on Chautauqua Creek.  

Similar weight switch rods 10 and 11.5 feet in length are also popular. If you like to swing flies, a 12-foot-6, 6- or 7-weight rod is all you need. 

A 9- to 14-foot leader, tapered down to 10- or 8-pound-test is pretty standard.  In super clear water conditions you may need to taper down to 6-pound-test.

A standard leader configuration for use with a floating or intermediate line is:

  • 2 feet, 25-lb monofilament (mono)
  • 2 feet, 20-lb mono
  • 2 feet, 15-lb mono
  • 2 feet, 12-lb fluorocarbon (fluoro)
  • 2 feet, 10-lb fluoro
  • 2 feet, 8-lb fluoro

A standard heavy sink-tip leader is:

  • 2- to 5-feet straight 15-pound Maxima
  • 2-feet straight 12-pound Maxima

Chautauqua Creek Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Chautauqua Creek fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

The state of New York requires that all people who are 16 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available.

You can purchase a New York State fishing license and learn about the most current regulations through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Trip Planning Tips

Westfield, the nearest town to where Chautauqua Creek spills out into Lake Erie, is about halfway between Buffalo and Erie, Pa. You’ll be right off I-90, so it’s easy to get to by car whether you’re driving the whole way or flying into Buffalo-Niagara Airport.

You might be able to find camping in the area if you want to save on accommodations. If not, the close freeway access guarantees cheaper hotels and motels just a short drive from the creek. There’s plenty of dining in the area, too.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in New York

Feature image by Oceangod8