Ridgerunner (Wiscoy Creek)

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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 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.

Forget about stocked fish. These are wild trout, mostly browns, some brook, and they are numerous, tending to stay on the smaller side of beauty.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI 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.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 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 Glimm book, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1983, is a treasure.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

DSCN5156An 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jim Nelson trout decoy

Jim Nelson trout decoy


About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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14 Responses to Ridgerunner (Wiscoy Creek)

  1. Bob Stanton says:

    A timely post, as I was reading about the Wiscoy in “River’s Edge” not too long ago. I assume that’s the creek in the picture – my first reaction is “Damn!” It looks like it belongs in the Adirondacks more than western NY. Do you have Grimm’s “Snakebite”? If not, it’s full of the same amusing folksy anecdotes. The stories definitely hearken to a different era.

    • Bob, that photo is from the Wiscoy, where it tumbles down past the old mills about a mile before it enters the Genny. It’s not exactly typical of the stream, and I can’t think of any other falls on the stream above this picturesque site. I do have “Snakebite,” a Glimm sequel of sorts to Flatlanders, and it too is fun to read. Yeah the tales are mostly from another era, although I was still hearing similar stories now and then while visiting the mountain bars as “recently” as 25 years ago.

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    Oops, I meant Glimm!

  3. Brent says:

    You’d get there just north of Fillmore, right? Looks like it was a pretty hazy day!

  4. Yes, just north of Fillmore, turn west at Wiscoy, then take the paved road upstream toward Pike and Bliss (through the haze!).

  5. LQN says:

    very cool rod and reel, beautiful trout as well. Looks like a beautiful place to fish. Thanks Walt.

    • Thanks Long! I’ve been enjoying that rod for some 15 years now, and the reel almost as long; they work well on a small stream like the Wiscoy which, I agree, is a pretty nice place to fish.

  6. Wild trout is a notch ahead of the stock trout, that waterfall is awesome!!! Thanks for sharing

  7. It’s a pretty site, for sure, Bill, with all wild trout above the falls. Thanks for reading!

  8. Alan says:

    I attended a fly fishing show in Boston maybe 15 years ago, and there was a vendor there from Tenn. and he had quite a few fish decoys. Folk art I guess.
    Interesting title to that book.

    • Thanks Alan. I haven’t actually seen these decoys other than in pictures, but they seem interesting as a concept. I don’t know how practical they are. And yes, the book reflects an interesting and sometimes humorous interchange of conflicting cultural values.

  9. I am trying to find out about Wiscoy fishing rods.
    I have a #602 in found in an estate I wa’s cleaning out.

    • Dear Wisconsin picker: Wish I could help you here but I’ve never heard of Wiscoy rods although the village of Bliss once had a tackle shop or two and may have a link to the rods in their history.

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