Fly fishing gear

Fishing for longnose gar in upstate New York with hook-less rope flies: nothing like it

Fishing guide John Gaulke said there was no experience like this in freshwater.

Veteran angler Joel Spring said given the combat and the size of the fish he wonders why more anglers aren’t trying.

They talk about fishing for the long-nosed moth using artificial flies without hooks made from thin strands of rope. Gaulke prefers to use a fly rod; Spring, a light spinning outfit.

“They are neither protected nor studied. No one seems to care. But they’ve been around for 100 million years or more. They look primitive and pretty cool in my opinion, ”said Gaulke, of Finger Lakes Fishing Area, which specializes in taking customers on Cayuga, Seneca, Owasco and Skaneateles lakes for trout, landlocked salmon, northern pike and bass.

Spring, of Ramsonville, Niagara County, gave seminars on the topic at the Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Show during the winter. Author of a book on kayak fishing, Spring uses his kayak to target the gar on the nearby Oak Orchard River, which he says is teeming with them.

“They’re not that heavy, but they fight like pikes. They stay down, ”he said. “When it comes to size, 30 inches is common. I caught a couple of them pushing 50. The bigger ones will tow your kayak in a circle.

The boys have a long, narrow muzzle and a mouth lined with sharp teeth. With their gills, they can absorb oxygen by swimming on the surface and sucking air into their “highly vascularized swim bladder”. Legumes can survive in water with very little oxygen and even completely out of the water for many hours as long as their bodies remain moist, ”according to

Gaulke and Spring are both self-taught, learning by reading about this unique fishing activity and learning by trial and error. The two tie their own rope flies (streamers) from the core of a nylon rope and paint it. Gaulke said he tied his around a long-stemmed hook and broke the hook. Spring ties his around a big swivel. The final product is approximately 8 to 16 inches long, and when striped or rolled up, looks like a small fish in water. White is the best color.

This 16 inch hookless rope fly was tied by John Gaulke, a fishing guide.

The best time to fish the gar? Both fishermen said late May to late August, with the most action amid the hot, sunny days.

Gahr, which mostly cluster or hang in pods, stick to the surface of a stream and are often visible near the water’s surface, sucking in air, Gaulke said. They vary in number from a few to several dozen.

And the way to catch them is to throw on sight, preferably just past the fish and pull or coil the rope next to the gar where he can cut it with his beak, Spring said.

Gaulke, who teaches a few fishing lessons at Cornell University, explained that using a hook to catch them can present problems because the muzzle of the fish is practically made up of bones and teeth and a hook often does not hold. With a rope fly, the muzzle and teeth of the fish get tangled in the strands. Sometimes it doesn’t work and you miss the fish. More often than not, it is, he says.

“With the bait, the boy has to swallow it before they can hook it, which usually results in the death of a fish. Rope flies allow capture and release,” Spring said.

Roach fishing

An underwater photo of a longnose withers near fisherman Joel Spring’s kayak. Notice the long muzzle of the fish edged with sharp teeth.

The two fishermen practice catch and release. These slender fish are particularly bony and would not be very tasty.

Spring said he doesn’t use a net because the fish is so thin that it often goes through the holes in the net. When the fish gets close enough to his kayak, he grabs the gar by its snout, which he says “immobilizes them”.

“The hardest part is disentangling them. It depends on how they spoil themselves. It may take longer than with a normal fish (caught with a hook). Sometimes three to four minutes, ”he said. “You have to remove the whole rope because it is blocking their beak. If you don’t pull the whole rope out and let them go, they will starve to death.

Gaulke noted that once on a boat, gar and generally quieter than other fish. They don’t collapse “and go crazy like other fish” because they can breathe air, he said.

However, care must be taken with their teeth. said spring. Even with rubber gloves on, he said he had “some puncture wounds on his hands”.

“And once I had a big feminine ankle clamp. I have some war wounds because of it, ”he said.

.  Long rose peach

A DEC map showing the location of Longnose Gar in upstate New York. Map courtesy of NYS DEC.

The state record for a long-nosed gar is held by Michael Gatus of Hoosick Falls. His fish, caught in 2018 on Lake Champlain, weighed 14 pounds 10 ounces and measured 52.25 inches. He caught it using chunky bait.

Gaulke said his biggest boy to date is 48 inches. Spring said he had marks on his kayak paddle for 52 inches.

“If I catch a bigger one than that, I keep it and officially have it weighed and measured,” Spring said.


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