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Fishing the Niagara
What’s a
Niagara Yellow

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What’s a Yellow Sally,
a spinner, a 3-way
and a worm?   In some regions a yellow sally is a dry fly that
resembles a adult stone fly and tied on hooks like #14’s to #18’s. In this
region, I don’t know what it a sally represents except  it is not a
dry fly nor fished with a fly rod. Complete opposite for Lake Erie and Niagara
River Fishermen. This regional Yellow Sally and it’s sister colors have survived
successfully for well over a half a century.

Yellow Sally
Fishing the Niagara River
creates a challenge for first time fishermen trying their luck in the
Mighty Niagara. Whether you are fishing from a boat or from shore there
are a lot of things to learn. It’s not like fishing in a pond or a creek
or a lake where currents sometimes go unnoticed. 
Some methods, some lures and some baits
used will be discussed here. It is hoped this will be a help to first
time visitors and also a brush up for our local fishermen. This is
favorite with walleye & bass fishermen.
First, lets start
with the time proven yellow sally and spinner. A lot of people outside
the area are puzzled at what a yellow sally is. The yellow sally is a
hand tied fly and was never duplicated in the oriental countries because
of its small market of interest. Even other domestic manufacturers show
any interest. Locally we have always had to depend on our local fly tiers
and they are tied as well today as they were 65 years ago. The yellow sally was developed by the early
Lake Erie and Niagara River walleye and bass fishermen that many years
ago. Colors varied as you can see in the photos. The flies are
generally  tied on a #1 or a #1/0 size Sproat hook with straight
eye as you can see in the top photo. 


 Light Erie Fly

Yellow Sally

Dark Erie Fly


The top three flies were the tops
in colors used in the past and still highly effective today.
The “red ibis” fly below was also a great producer as was the black
knat. [all black] and the white miller.
There are many colors of this type of fly in use today as they have been
created using modern day materials like fluorescent chenille’s. There is
a bumble bee pattern that is tied with black & yellow chenille and
with a fluorescent yellow and black chenille.
The original “red ibis” fly was all red
with red tail and all red chenille.
Fluorescent colors didn’t come into play until the late 70’s

Red Ibis

Fluorescent Green

Fluorescent Pink


Rigging the fly for use in the Niagara River is a fairly
simple matter as shown here:

The following is part of an article
written by John Long Sr. in 1996 for a magazine. Long is a life long
outdoorsman and back in the 1950’s he fished the Niagara River extensively
and back then you were able to sell your fish. Long did, and it helped him
pay for his college tuition. Long went on to be an outdoor writer, outdoor
TV producer among many other outdoor related vocations. Long has
New York  Governor  George Pataki’s consultant and advisor on
conservation issues. 

This is a typical Yellow Sally rig with a spinner and drop sinker off a
3-way swivel. The empty “eye” on the swivel is where the line is
attached from the reel. The only thing missing here is the Sally must be
tipped with a nightcrawler! ……Notice the sinker. They come in
different sizes and it is recommended you start with the 1 ounce size and
change it depending on wind and drift conditions.

By John Long Sr.

The old timers never varied
their terminal tackle with the exception of the color of the spinner or
the fly. The time-honored rig consisted of a three-way swivel attached to
the end of the line. To one eye attach an 8-pound leader with a spinner
the size of your thumbnail attached to it. The spinner can vary from
copper to silver to brass, and some days a hammered finish seems to work
better. Flies vary from the time-honored “Yellow Sally” to White
Millers, Eries, and various fluorescent shades. Don’t be afraid to try a
variety of them. For some reason, this can make a difference. 

Finally, attach an
8-inch length of 6-pound test leader
to the last eye of the swivel.
Depending on the wind, add a sinker of somewhere near an ounce. Add a half
of a night crawler to the hook and you are in business. Fish right on the
bottom, bouncing or carefully dragging with just enough line out to touch.
When a fish hits I always allow it to tug at the bait for a second or two
before I strike. Other fishermen disagree. You’ll have to develop your own
technique. Some anglers, especially on quiet days, cast and let the rig
settle to the bottom then slowly reel in as they drift. This works well
where there are few snags. Some drifts have more snags than others, but
all have areas where you can comfortably drag bottom. 
I always have the most problems at the
Artpark Drift and the Coast Guard Drift, although the Stella Drift and the
Back Drift also have bad spots. You’ll soon learn the areas that require
special care. The light leader on your sinker will allow you to break off
a lot of snags without losing all of your rig. Don’t let the snags keep
you from fishing right on the bottom. That is where the walleyes seem to
stay. One advantage that the old timers’ boats had over most of today’s
were oarlocks and the ability to keep the boat drifting straight by
keeping one oar active in the water. An electric trolling motor can be
used for the same purpose today. Modern boats have more freeboard and are
higher in the water. Wind has much more effect on them. They will drift
better in light winds, but mush faster in stronger winds. A heavier sinker
may solve the problem in these cases and some fishermen resort to

NEXT: Fishing with hard baits
such as the famous Kwikfish.
sure to check back

rigging is done basically just like rigging a Yellow Sally with the 3-way
swivel and drop sinker. Wind, wind direction and current are critical for
proper presentation. 


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Wife says “Where are you goin’?”
You tell her “I’m going to the bar” She says “why are you taking
the boat?” You tell her “because the bar I’m going to, I need
boat!” ……..Let her figure it out!