Cattaraugus Steelhead run from Silver Creek NY at the mouth of the creek feeding into Lake Erie to Springville NY and is one of the most beautiful Steelhead Streams on the east coast, but also one of the least understood. The Catt runs the State of New York and also through the Seneca Nation of Indians land which runs from the town of Gowanda NY to the I-90 bridge towards the mouth of the river. These two locations require two different fishing licenses to fish in either NY State or the Seneca Nation of Indians.
If you are fishing on the Seneca Nation of Indians land you'll need a reservation license, however you do not need a New York state license to fish on the reservation. A reservation fishing license cost $45.00 (2009) and can be purchased at the Seneca One Stop gas station in Silver Creek (Purple in Color) and one in Salamanca NY (Purple in Color). New York state fishing licenses can be purchased at any Wal-Mart or courthouse or online if you have purchased a fishing license before and still currently have your old fishing license. Ok now that we got the fishing license stuff out of the way lets talk about fishing the Catt.
The first thing to understand about the Catt is the river will muddy up and get very high with any amounts of rain. Understanding how the Cattaraugus River flows should be number 1 on everyone's mind who wants to learn to fish this river. A great tool for monitoring the river is the USGS Real-Time water flow charts, which show the feet per second that a river is running. The Catt is best fished when the level is 2.0 or lower and the weather has been stable for some time. During the fall the level is usually good and the flow is good and the color is great. During the spring months the exact opposite is true bad color and high water. During the spring month's you are lucky to get on the creek once during the months of March and April. May however is a different story and the creek is often fishable, but the best fishing in May is by the mouth of the creek. The Steelhead will run up the creek feeding on Golden Shiners that run into the creek to spawn in the month of May. Many of these fish however will be smaller in size and are often called jakes or skippers.
So now you know about the fishing licenses, the water flow, now how about what types of flies seem to work the best? The Catt is streamer water and nothing could be more fun than swinging a streamer for Steelhead. Just know you will need sinkers to get to the bottom and at times a PS 4 sinker is required to get the bottom other times you can get away using a single 3/0 sinker or a couple of BB sinkers. If your not getting to the bottom your not catching fish, beware you will get snagged a lot in this river. The Catt is filled with trees and rocks and the river takes great pleasure in capturing half of your fly box. Other flies that I have had great success fishing the Catt with is sucker spawn flies in colors cream, white, and chartreuse. At times you may want to fish the flies under a float to get a perfect dead drift. Other popular flies are egg sucking leaches, black wooly buggers, olive and gold bead head buggers, black stoneflies, and various spey flies