Upstate New York is a fly fishing magnet in the fall and winter months. You don’t have to go all the way to Alaska for some impressive salmon fishing thanks to the tributaries of Lake Ontario such as Sandy Creek. With so many anglers looking for the best spots, guides are popping up all over to assist.
However, what if you don’t want to invest in a guide, or you just prefer planning your own trip? Well, you’re in the right place. We’ve got a different kind of guide to help you learn the area and find out everything you need to know so you can plan a great fly fishing excursion.
Aerial view of Sandy Creek in New York
Sandy Creek empties into Lake Ontario, flowing through Monroe and Orleans counties to the west of Rochester. This is a stocked and natural tributary, offering plenty of salmon and trout species throughout the year.
This creek features various species of Coho and Chinook (King) salmon, steelhead and lake-run brown trout. The Department of Environmental Conservation stocks this river with more than 140,000 fish each year, guaranteeing good fishing throughout.
This creek follows Lake Ontario tributary rules and regulations, which can be found in the New York Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide. There are technically three different sections of Sandy Creek, known as North, South, and Little Sandy Creeks. Each offers its own fishing perks and considerations.
Sandy Creek Map and Fishing Access Sites
Fly fishing the Sandy Creek tributaries is great for waders, specifically because their water levels are fed by rainwater for the most part. Thus, sometimes, the water might not even be high enough for the steelhead and salmon to enter during spawning season. South Sandy Creek is said to have the most productive fly fishing.
These creeks are small, but that shouldn’t deceive you. They do offer some great fly fishing. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of water to cover a fish, and as long as the water levels are high enough to enter, you’ll be sure to have a good time.
You can always call ahead when planning your fly fishing trip to see what the water levels are expected to be like, or when they are highest, to ensure that you have a good trip. Special regulation fishing is available from September 1 to March 30 in these creeks.
Little Sandy Creek is probably the smallest, being only 20 feet wide at some points. It’s best known for steelhead and brown trout. North and South Sandy Creek have more steelhead and plenty of salmon.
Best Places to Fish the Sandy Creek
Fall salmon run on Sandy Creek in New York
All of these creeks run along Route 15, where you’ll find plenty of access from it and other nearby and intersecting roads. You can find Little Sandy Creek off Route 81, Route 3, and Route 11. Route 120 also runs alongside the stream for access.
You’ll be wading in no matter where you go, and parking is plentiful at each access point. North Sandy Creek can be accessed from Route 75, 3, and Route 193 that actually crosses the stream. South Sandy Creek, the most popular, is also easy to get to.
South Landing Road near Ellisburg takes you to a great fly fishing area on South Sandy Creek. You’ll also find roads off Route 193 that provide access, but the main access near Ellisburg is probably the best for this part of the stream.
The area is well-signed and you’ll have no trouble finding stream access once you get there. Just as a reminder, be sure to check water levels and make sure they’re high enough before getting too geared up and heading in.
Best Time to Fish Sandy Creek
Fly fishing for King Salmon on Sandy Creek in New York
This is an area that you’ll need to check state regulations for fishing seasons. Depending on what you want to catch, you’ll find them in different areas during different months and seasons.
Fall runs of Coho salmon, brown trout and Chinook salmon offer good opportunities for anglers. Runs of steelhead occur in late fall and early spring, offering additional angler enjoyment.
The winter does provide some good fishing on Sandy Creek, but again, this is dependent on water levels. The winter months may find the creeks too shallow if the rains have not been heavy enough.
Hendricksons, March Browns, and Light Cahills hatch in the early summer, along with mayfly hatches in the spring and caddisflies galore. Midges are also common and are the ideal choice for colder weather.
Beware of potential Lake Effect weather when traveling during the winter months, as well, as the streams feed into Lake Ontario and are very close.
Stream Flow and Current Conditions
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish Sandy Creek. The USGS stream gauge at North Hamlin, NY provide a good indication of current conditions.
The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions maybe not be ideal.
SANDY CREEK AT NORTH HAMLIN NY
- Temperature: 79.88 ° F
- Streamflow: 32.5 ft³/s
- Gage height: 9.10 ft
Best Flies for Sandy Creek
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Sandy 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)
If you like to swing flies, RiverBum offers a great selection of classic steelhead flies that will catch fish anywhere. Set includes 30 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and durable fly box.
If you prefer to dead drift flies, BASSDASH offers a great selection of some of the most effective egg flies and attractor patterns. Set includes 57 flies (see list below) and high-grade double-sided fly box.
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 Sandy 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 for steelhead and trout.
If you come for the salmon run you'll need need to size up your gear to at least an 8- or 9-weight rod.
A 9- to 14-foot leader, tapered down to 12- or 10-pound-test is pretty standard. In super clear water conditions you may need to taper down to 8-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
Heading out to do some steelhead or salmon fishing and need an affordable fly rod, reel and line to get started?
Look no further than the Orvis Encounter Fly Rod Outfit. An 8 Wt. setup that is perfect as a first big-game outfit or backup travel rod.
Sandy Creek Fishing Report
Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Sandy Creek fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:
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
The Sandy Creek fly fishing access points are easy to reach and not far from town. Nearby Ellisburg has plenty of parks and outdoor activities and is a village of just over 3,400. If you need a place to stay, it’s a short drive.
Pulaski, located just minutes from the Sandy Creek access, is home to several hotels and motels, and just off I-81, offering convenient access even for those who aren’t from the area. If you’re visiting between September and March, beware of busier waters and special regulations.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in New York
Feature image CC by Bill Blevins