Hopefully the three to four-inches of rain over the past weekend signifies the end of a long drought in rivertop country, but only time will tell if that’s the case or not. The streams and rivers had risen quickly into flood stage, and the old beaver dam near our house, the one I’ve often photographed, the one the animals had been building day by day for several years, was blown-out by the pressure of an unrelenting flow…
I drove, once more, to the Lake Ontario watershed where the tribs had collected less overall rainfall than my local waters, but where the flow had become substantial, nonetheless. The runs of king salmon and brown trout from Ontario had begun.
The numbers of fish were minimal this past weekend, but they were certainly growing. My fishing strategy for the flatlands is contrary to my general “upstream and across” technique on inland waters. I walk downstream toward the lake, studying the creek for signs of moving fish, then swing a long, stout leader and a fly across the current.
If I detect the glimmer of a trout or salmon that I want to target, I let the fly drift across its window of vision, aiming to avoid snagging the fish, which isn’t always easy because the fish are frequently in motion and my aim isn’t always the best.
For king salmon on a spawning run, their days of predatory hunting are through. They no longer eat but will attack a fly or other lure that’s deemed a nuisance to their final days of life. That’s where the allure of fishing for a king or coho enters into play, at least for me. It’s a challenge to get a big green fish that’s fresh from the lake or ocean to strike at a fly, to do it legally without the “snag,” and then to finally land it…
I talked to one fly-fisher casting futilely to brown trout that had slipped into a deep pool to feed on salmon eggs behind the larger fish. These brown trout weren’t little, maybe two feet long, but they looked small behind the salmon, and they weren’t having much to do with the nymphs and streamers drifting by.
“Salmon kind of bore me,” said the angler. Oh, really, I wondered. Were the browns being more cooperative today, and that’s why salmon are boring? I knew I was in the minority of fly-fishing opinion when it comes to chinook, or king, salmon. I like to warm up and to keep in physical shape by wrestling with a fresh-run salmon or two in a mid-October outing.
Lots of guys thumb their noses at these fish– the salmon are easier to snag and to lose tackle on than to deal with in a legal way. The browns are more aggressive with the take, and they’re certainly more beautiful. If they survive their spawning run, the trout are capable of returning to the lake once more– unlike the salmon, that are no less regal but are destined to be compost at completion of the spawning ritual.
Okay, so Pacific salmon bore a lot of fly-fishing guys for some inexplicable reason, maybe in the same way that nymph and streamer casting “bores” a strictly dry fly fisherman. In my opinion, there’s no casting equal to the wonders of small stream fishing for native trout with a fly, but for sheer excitement and a physical work-out, there isn’t much to compare with a wild green salmon or a steelhead with a fly in its toothy jaw. That fish will bend an 8-weight rod to the max while a fighting butt threatens to disembowel you…
By the way, the browns were really starting to pulsate on their upstream run. I managed to catch a couple of pretty males that measured 22 and 25 inches. Overall, not bad for a day of catch-and-release fishing where I, too, felt brought out by the rain.