With only a few days left in the New York trout season (aside from waters with special
regulations), I visited a rivertop brook to tell the fish adieu. The season was shutting down; I would not be wading its pools or stepping across its narrow form again until the coming spring. The federal government had nothing to do with this. It had more to do with science and New York State philosophy than with the actions of our idiot politicos, although admittedly, the distinctions might seem arbitrary at times.
It was a gorgeous autumn day; I’d been rambling over the hills for hours. Now it was time to say goodbye to a few of my favorite little streams by casting to their trout once more. When the angling season was closed, the fish were on their own, as evolution intended. They would spawn without aggravation from me or any other crazed and hopeless angler.
The brook, dropping through the foothills near the NY/PA border, is one of the remotest in the state, outside the designated wilderness areas. It’s cold and clean, and small. In many places along the stream I can jump from bank to bank, especially in a dry season. But in one location it makes an impressionable exit from a large culvert beneath a gravel road. It forms a deep pool that measures roughly 30 feet wide by 50 feet long. The pool is full of native trout.
I approached the pool from its lower end. I had an hour or two to fish. I carried a 6-foot rod that throws a 4-weight line. The Elkhair Caddis was the only fly I needed.
With every few casts, I hooked a trout (and occasional chub). The brookies were small, none of them greater than nine inches, but their beauty made up for what they lacked in size. After 50 minutes of casting I released my 21st trout and called it quits. I didn’t want to stress the pool too much.
Given such action in a tiny stream, it’s critical to use a barbless hook and to lift the fish from the water (if at all) for as little time as possible. Usually the hook slips easily from a corner of the lip and the fish swims away unhurt. But let’s not fool ourselves. Fishing remains a blood sport, and even with the use of barbless flies we lose one now and then. Whether we’re practicing catch-and-release or not, it’s always best to try and minimize our impact on the ecosystem.
The regular season was shutting down. The sun was setting and the air was growing cool.
It seemed like a natural closure, modest in comparison to the clamp-down from the Palace of Political Parties. Sure, I could fish the streams of Pennsylvania, as long as I continued to catch and release, but New York has different regulations. There’s no government shutdown involved; it’s just the way it’s been for years on end.
Brookies, just love ’em. Charles M. Russell sunsets are a neat way to end the day too. Cheers!
Hey Les, I like the sound of “Russell sunsets,” a westerly feeling, and all!
Isn’t it a catch 22 that culverts, which are usually one of the first projects slated for removal or replacement in stream improvement planning, often provide some of the best habitat on small streams ? While all too often a fish passage barrier, the downstream pool sometimes offers the best combination of depth, oxygenated water, and a convenient “food funnel” on a small stream’s course. Throw in some overhead cover, and it can be a brookie’s Shangra La. Often as not, my best fish of the day comes from said pool.
Bob, I’d say it is a catch 22 in some cases (“catch 21” in this pool, heh hey!). But you’ll note that this culvert has been installed correctly, with its lip beneath the surface of the pool, unlike some infamous culverts I’m familiar with. And still there’s plenty of structure and oxygenation for the fish. On a nearby stream that has an improper culvert with a drop too high above the pool for brookies to migrate through, we’ve tried to get an improvement plan moved into action, but the county highway department has, so far, refused us. In that situation the water drop provides for depth and oxygenation but the trout populations are divorced from each other, and the downstream trout can’t migrate through the culvert to reach the better spawning beds just upstream of the barrier. I know some less conscientious bait and hardware anglers who stop above that culvert and cast in from the road, culling every bigger fish before it has a chance to move. I’d gladly trade that barrier for an upstream passage even if the resulting habitat is a little less idyllic for the fish. Of course, I’d give that trade only if I knew there was suitable structure elsewhere in the stream which, in this case, there is.
Right on, bro! I’d noticed that the culvert in the picture is of the more enlightened design; unfortunately, they number in the minority, at least in this neck ‘o the woods. Luckily, it seems that most of the habitat improvement devices employed today are more than capable of mimicing the conditions a culvert unintentionally provides. The combination of water jacks, deflectors and vanes and so on offer depth and oxygen and a host of other benefits, and I agree with the principle that the overall health of a waterway is only as good at its least favorable habitat. And isn’t it a pain in the rear that it takes so damn long to implement improvement projects? Our local TU chapter has been working on a stream for several years now, culvert removal included, one day a year because that’s all the guy from the Fish Commission who oversees such things can spare. Bringing it back around to a theme of this post, let’s take a moment to curse the inefficiency of beauracracies!
An acute analysis Bob, perfect! Once we’re able to get those habitat improvements into place where needed, they really do satisfy the needs of trout and man. But yeah, damn the inefficiency of the bureaucratic processes! A TU project can take way too long to evolve, if it gets anywhere at all. I spearheaded a TU project on a local stream and it took more than a year to come to fruition, and that was with a DEC man/biologist who really wanted to make it happen and to be there for us. Beyond that, though, the waiting and organization can kill you. I’m glad you commented on those stream projects. I’m revisiting our headwaters project for TU and should do a post on what it feels like these days.
Man, after reading your reply, I realized that I took some liberties with the word bureaucracy. Bowing out of the spelling bee early this year.
Close enough, Bob. Bureaucrats wouldn’t ask it, wouldn’t know it.
Beautiful pictures Walt, nice way to end the season!
Thanks Long. Luckily for some of us, another/other seasons keep us casting right along.
The last photo captures the end of summer.
That’s the way I saw it, Keith. A bittersweet farewell.
Well Walt I guess you’ll be in PA fishing.
It was a good season, and a nice way to have ended it.
It was a good season, Alan, and I’ll continue in PA, but we also have the Genesee and Conhocton rivers nearby, which offer year-round fishing, as the Farmington probably does for you. That said, many of the NYS brookie waters will now be rested.