1. Redwater Creek is a small, remote stream in the upper drainage of my home river and, in terms of my fishing experience, has been regarded as something of a “last frontier.” It
was the last significant tributary of the upper river in New York State from which I hadn’t yet caught a brook trout.
After the lumbering carnage of the early twentieth century, followed by the rapid rise of agriculture and other land use in the region, Redwater was one of only several streams in my region whose brook trout population continued to flourish for a while, according to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
But something detrimental happened after the lumbering era hit its peak then faded. According to some recent reports from conservation officials and older fishermen, something happened to this stream (and others like it) that caused its flow rate to diminish and, not inconsequentially, its fishing to “go south.”
My several previous attempts to catch a native trout in Redwater Creek were fruitless. Granted, the stream is an obscure blue line on the topographic map, a blue line with resurgent forest cover, but it just didn’t look like a home for brook trout. The stream is tiny, averaging five to nine feet wide, mostly shallow, and without the kind of pools and undercuts preferred by native trout in hilly or mountainous terrain.
2. The day before my visit to the stream was a day of “almosts.” I almost made positive
identification of a bobcat stepping from the roadway in the distance. Several miles later I almost surely identified a coyote running across the road, and then I stopped to check a boggy area for moccasin-flowers.
I finally found several of these interesting pink lady’s-slippers but their blooms were only in the bud stage, or were almost at their peak of color.
It was that kind of day, almost perfect.
Early in the morning of May 23rd, I felt the need to revisit Redwater Creek (my alledged OCD kicking in?), to see if I could finally locate a brook trout in the stream and to state with confidence that the water was alive.
I almost didn’t have my way.
3. I parked on a rough seasonal road and dropped down to the stream, as I’ve done a few times over the past several years. Access is difficult here; an angler needs permission from the timber/mining corporation that owns the land, and then needs to be prepared for a bushwhack.
I was armed with a 5’9″ three-weight and a short tapered leader with a weighted fly. There was frost in the valleys, and the likelihood of dry fly action, as sweet as that could be, was minimal.
The first half-mile of water looked familiar– shallow, flood-torn, and littered with the detritus of industrialism– old tires, bottles, shards of plastic– washed down from the road. But I’m glad I forged on and didn’t quit, as in previous years.
The forest became more attractive. Foamflower and wild geranium colored the floor. Vireos and ovenbirds gave an auditory dimension to the heights above the stream.
11″ brook, W. Br. Genesee
I finally found a little pool with some depth but its roof of fallen trees prevented a traditional cast. I made a bow cast through an open “window” and the fly plopped into the center of the pool. A sizeable trout took it but quickly twisted free. Damn! Another lost opportunity? My almost link to Redwater Creek?
Ordinarily, I would’ve moved on, but this pool might be the only one I’d find, so I waited several minutes and tied on a different fly.
The trout took again, and I pulled him out– a hemlock-colored native more than seven inches long, a small fish but a nice adult from a tiny feeder stream in rivertop country.
Green Drake, W. Br. Genesee
So, what does it mean to catch a singular fellow in a stream that might otherwise be seen as totally devoid of trout?
Could Trout Unlimited do a little project there (assuming it was willing and able) to help improve the habitat for trout, or should everyone just keep their hands off the place and let nature take its course as it’s done for many years?
Granted, my little survey of the stream was amateurish, but it’s given me a fresh look at its flow. It looks to be a microcosm of the world of brook trout– as it was before the day of European settlers and as it is today. It speaks of both diminishment and hope.
There are numerous brook trout streams in my rivertop country that have more fish and have better brook trout angling than Redwater Creek, but now there’s a new addition to my family of waters that I’ll have to keep an eye on.
I could say that my Redwater quest is almost done. Considering my attempts over the years, I almost proved that brook trout could no longer be caught in this headwater stream. Instead, I found the creek essential.
pink lady’s slipper