Thanks to recent rains, the creek was high and colored. The morning sun was disappearing as the rain clouds drifted in again. At last, the tributary to Lake Ontario was looking good for a run of trout and salmon.
My main interest today was finding brown trout on a spawning mission. In the past I’ve taken and released some beautiful large trout in this location, but in recent years those encounters have been sparse.
A dozen cars were parked at the bridge where I typically gain access to the creek, more than I usually note when pulling up. Those cars meant two things: there would be more fishing pressure near the bridge (though miles of open water might be found beyond it), and… the big trout must be coming through.
Once I got past the “Pittsburgh 8,” a group of fly-fishing friends from Pennsylvania, I found my open water. The pools and riffles were deep and lively. At first the fish weren’t easy to distinguish in the darkened water, but then their massive size and movements gave them away.
Around noon the rain began in earnest, lightly at first and then more steadily. Protected by a rain jacket, I felt comfortable. The big surprise for me was that the chinook and the coho runs were still in progress. In fact, late arrivals, green and full of locomotive heat, were still streaming in from the lake. At their redds, the salmon were more aggressive toward an artificial fly than they were on my previous visit, and my hook-ups were frequent. One fair-hooked salmon fought like a deranged boxer till I finally slid it to the bank and taped its length at 41 inches, close to my personal record for the species.
With only an hour or two left before I needed to depart, I still hadn’t landed a brown, although I knew they were checking in. A few other guys were hauling out the trout, and it seemed as though more fish were arriving as they afternoon wore on. I’d been trying out several different fly patterns, but decided to continue with the salmon favorite of the day, a Woolly Bugger with a chartreuse head.
In deep riffles near the bank, I saw what looked to be another resting chinook. Standing upstream of the fish, I passed the streamer out in front and felt the take. A large brown was on the line, a full-bodied female, that I quickly photographed and guided back into the flow. She measured 26 inches. Satisfied, I prepared to leave, but several pools later I came to another pause.
The fish I made the cast to wasn’t the one that struck. A male came out of nowhere, from the murky depths behind or off to the side. I saw a flash of color like Halloween orange, and felt a weight and a thrashing struggle uncommon while fishing for browns.
The fish, a record brown for me, was a 30-inch male with massive kype. Its photos, taken in the rain, do not serve justice. If I were kin to a taxidermist, this animal might have gone to the wall, but instead I worked it to the safety of a pool.
It was time to go. I had come in search of brown trout and, by route of a surprising salmon run, had finally found them. No doubt the browns, in addition to spawning, were feeding heavily on salmon eggs.