Wiscoy Creek, in Wyoming County, western New York, is one of my favorite trout streams in the state, even though it’s well north of my favored hill country. There’s a lot of public water to be fished on this 20-mile stream before it enters the Genesee River, and I used to fish it regularly, but somehow I got distracted.
It was good to get back on a recent morning. I had known about the wind turbines set up near the stream at Bliss, New York, but they weren’t in operation the last time I visited, which was more than several years ago.
I felt apologetic for my lack of attention… I’m a ridgerunner, I suppose, preferring to fish the mountainous terrain of northern Pennsylvania over the flatlands of western New York… not that the Wiscoy is a slow-moving stream of level country.
In fact, the name Wiscoy is derived from a Native American term that means “five waterfalls,” a reference to this stream’s descent to the Genesee River valley. Nonetheless, the lay-out of the Wiscoy country, compared to the topography south and east of my home, is relatively tame and uniform.
The Wiscoy is a wild gem flowing through farm terrain. The Department of Environmental Conservation has four or five parking lots established for anglers along the stream, and footpaths to the more remote stretches are often indicated by signs posted at the road. Perhaps the finest feature of this water is the trout.
So the ridgerunner parked his car, glanced at the turbines and the roadside ragweed (ugh!), and assembled his gear… an old 7-foot Phillipson, an even older Hardy winch (Uniqua), a 4-weight line, a tapered leader, and a number 20 Trico spinner… Perfect for the tight aquatic alley leading through the tunnel of alders at the stream.
I thought of myself as a ridgerunner, but I needed an element of authenticity. No, I couldn’t be the guy who wandered off to Hank and Hettie Mae in the hollow asking for a quart of ‘shine, a little something to share with whomever I met on the stream practicing good fly-fishing habits.
I thought of James Glimm and his book Flatlanders and Ridgerunners, a collection of folktales from the mountains of northern Pennsylvania close to home. I thought of two short tales the author collected about the trout of Pine Creek. With a little imagination, those trout could be like the fish in Wiscoy Creek…
Two friends walked along the creek and one guy said to the other: “Yesterday I caught a trout that measured three feet long.” His friend replied, “Yeah, well, yesterday I saw a lantern at the bottom of a pool, and it was lit.” The first guy said, “You expect me to believe that shit?” His friend hesitated a moment and then continued, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll blow out that lantern if you’ll take a couple feet off that trout.”
The second tale concerns a fisherman who sat on the creek bank and observed two large brown trout swimming around in the hole. The fish were angry as hell, biting each other in the anal parts until they separated to opposite ends of the pool. Each of the big 20-inchers turned and faced the other. Their mouths opened wide. They charged ferociously… The fisherman looked on in disbelief… The trout had swallowed each other and completely disappeared!
The Wiscoy’s catch-and-release section, near the headwaters at Bliss, has always struck me as unusual for a special regs water. This recovering farmland, with its narrow stream of pools and riffles, has a jungle-like appearance in the lush days of summer. Wading it for trout can be a challenge.
I stumbled through the alders, paused at each new pool and watched for rises, and noted a transition in the feeding pattern when Tricos faded and Ants became the entree of the morning.
An attractive brook trout and a smattering of browns came to hand before the heat of day began to quiet the cold, clean water. With autumn making its approach, the fishing would begin to pick up soon, but for now I had the satisfaction of visiting (again) a special trout stream in New York.