I was heading to one of my favorite casting locations for big brown trout and landlocked salmon, wondering if the autumn run had kicked in following a decent rainfall. Recalling my tumble in the mountains last week, I was ready to hit the upstate tributary with my OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwading staff, only to find that it wouldn’t be needed– the creek was lower than expected.

Getting to my destination by 9:30 a.m., I could tell that the fish were in. I counted more than a dozen anglers on the Finger Lake tributary, but it was easy to find a good location that was both productive and unpressured. It was pleasant to fish inside the limits of an upstate city and still enjoy some casting in the company of birds such as robins, herons, cardinals, Carolina wrens, and cedar waxwings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI thought about my history with fly fishing for landlocked salmon, a subject that’s reflected in my book, Beautiful Like a Mayfly (p. 152), and my present motivation for connecting with this powerful fresh water species…

“I was ready for a change of pace, and was hoping that to fish for landlocked salmon would allow me to keep in balance with the planet. As usual, there was a major crisis developing in the world, and my father, aged 87 and in the last year of his life, aptly grumbled that everything’s going to hell in a hand basket. The financial realms had struck an iceberg in the sea of money and were tipping like a new Titanic…”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI didn’t have a lot at stake in that particular crisis that began about seven years ago, but like everyone else I knew, I got a sense that the world was on a hell-bound train. I looked for a new angling pursuit as a form of therapy.

Landlocked salmon came to the rescue then. Finally. And on this visit to the salmon and brown trout water, I could still sense those train kept a-rollin’ vibrations from the prospects of doom, from crises such as man-made global warming, but could feel some hope through a smattering of other news…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For example, President Obama recently rejected the Keystone XL project that would have further damaged our planet and added to the woes of climate change. Thanks to civil protest of the corporate gas and oil interests currently dominating the economic status quo, we can breathe a little easier, for now, and hope that the long-delayed movement for sustainable energy sources can build a little steam. On a related note, a handful of U.S. senators have introduced a bill that would put a moratorium on gas and oil extraction from our public lands. It all might be too little too late, but thanks, I say, and let ‘er rip….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Like a powerful run of a landlocked salmon that has taken the downstream swing of a streamer across its “window of opportunity” and made me feel, again, the rush of energy that often yields an awesome display of furious two-foot jumps and body flips. These fish, the landlocked version of the premier ocean-running Atlantic salmon, are a joy to fish for and to bend a trusty six-weight rod.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Although the brown trout seemed few and far between, I did hook and lose a two-foot battler in the riffles, and spoke with an angler who had recently landed a nice 26-inch trout. On this outing, it was salmon all the way. Since landlockeds will seldom chase a blindly casted fly, you pretty much need to stalk them like a heron and then present an accurate cast that drifts in front of their noses without a body strike. It’s no fun to foul hook a beautiful fish and then have it freaked out and sulking for the rest of the day.DSCN7225

Today I probably could have counted my fair-hooked salmon on a wrinkled hand, but I can’t complain. The fish returned in good form to the spawning stream, and I thanked them for a therapeutic session.

P.S. I added a few non-fishing photos from my hilltop taken the same weekend. I may be landlocked but I can dream… Yeah, come join me for a throwback swim in pleasant summertime or, if that’s a little too bucolic for your tastes, climb aboard a rocknroll classic and that hellbound train that I referred to earlier. The “deadstop” at the end is guaranteed to set you free…DSCN7229DSCN7230






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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20 Responses to Landlocked(s)

  1. Brent says:

    Are those views of a pond taken just up a certain little road?

    I’ll say about the landlockeds, they aren’t as pretty as (most) trout, but I imagine hooking one of those brings a very different type of thrill. What does the heron think of the salmon?

    Also, related to gas and oil, it’s worth keeping an eye on what happens in Reading, in Schuyler County. The town council candidates who wanted to stop the gas storage facility were buried in the polls.

    • Yep, views of pond up a poofy little road round these parts! No, the landlockeds aren’t as colorful as most wild trout, and they’re difficult to get a decent picture of, but if the light is right and the fish is in good condition, they can be quite handsome. They are powerful on the line, like a steelhead, I’d say. The heron might like a landlocked salmon but I can’t imagine it having much luck with a 5-pound fighter at the beak. There’s just too much energy bundled in all that flesh.
      As for what’s going on in Reading, I don’t know but it doesn’t sound good to me. Will try to keep track of it but it might be the track of the hellbound train!

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Living with (alongside?) Big Oil here in Alberta, I feel and share your frustrations and concerns most acutely. I can’t pretend we don’t drive a car, or heat our home, and we take a flight every now and then. Yet I suspect that available solutions and viable alternatives to burning fossil fuels will only be deemed acceptable after we’ve extracted the last drop. The financial realms will then proclaim themselves ready to raise the Titanic and save us in our hour of energy need (for a price, of course, and draped in faux environmental concern…) You’ll have to forgive my somewhat bitter tone here – I recently attended an energy, sustainability and environment conference that was attempting to educate attendees (primarily educators) with the notion that current energy extraction practice is alright (because it is notionally cleaner than past practice), and everything will be fine in the long run. The conference was sponsored by an oil company. I was going to write a piece on OldPlaidCamper, but I need to get off my own Hellbound Train of pessimism and gloom (I tend to agree with your dad here!) before writing a more reasoned piece. Haha, as if.
    Anyway, that is quite enough of that little rant. More to the point, your latest post here is thought provoking – as ever – and the photographs are quite wonderful. The water will be very inviting in about eight months or so. Ok, deadstop.

    • Plaid,
      I’m here as a sounding board for you and anyone else who wants to comment on the issues of the great outside/inside whether it be a bitter complaint or a statement waxing toward the blissful or ecstatic. Your response here is a reasoned one and I hope that everybody stopping by will read it.
      Like you, I don’t pretend I don’t drive a car 35 miles to work and to the streams where I get the spiritual nourishment that helps to keep a healthy presence on the planet. We need to be aware of the uses that we have and try to limit our carbon impact. Being human, there’s no way to cut that impact down to zero anymore than it’s possible for a wild bison or a domestic pig to make no difference whatsoever. Where we can make a real difference, arguably, is in the bigger sphere of influence– in the economic and political realms, i.e, from outrageous waste in lumbering the Amazon to excessive oil extraction in the northern tar sands, and beyond… You get the picture.
      Which is to say, OldPlaidCamper, that we readers and consumers should appreciate the kind of thoughtfulness found in your response to the oil-sponsored environmental conferences and to the more humble web site postings here in the blogosphere.

  3. Doug says:

    I am finding out how much being landlocked sucks. My hiking days are done. Fishing days, done. Being homebound and waiting on the presence of my own great heron. also sucks. But my own writing and some photography on the side keep my inner being kickin, rollin’. The oil companies are going to do and say whatever they can to make it all sound, all-right. Big business, Trump-dwellers. I fear it’s too late to take back what is rightfully ours. Peace in the outdoors, the breathing in of a soulful, outstretched palm. I love your blogs brother. They give me a sense of security in the wrecklessness to destroy all that I’ve loved for the 6 plus decades of living that has been so much a part of my life. Not really sure where I’m going with this, but in any case, the to and fro of these insightful blogs just might be what the doctor ordered. Thanks for giving me back some of my lost sanity Walt. It gives me a little hope. Great photos, and it is enlightening to see the landlocked Deadstops of living pulled, if even just for these few moments.

    • Doug,
      Your comments here always give me a good reason to pause and think, not at a deadstop but rather to look at our places in life and to note the directions taken. I hear the push and pull, brother, and I’m both saddened and encouraged by your words. You may feel landlocked by certain limitations but you’ve got the strength of artfulness at your side, and that’s what counts, at least for now. And it’s a powerful strength, like a salmon’s at the first rush of water at a tributary in fall. Swim on! I hear you, and I think of one of my favorite Dylan songs, the one that says to me, “It’s not dark yet, but… it’s getting there.” Yeah, when we hit our 60s or when we think of what the greedy bastards of exploitation are doing to the planet, we see that something’s turning down the light around us but, thanks be to the gods of nature, we’ve got the fuel to carry on.

  4. Anonymous says:

    .Nice post Walt. Also, nice pond. Had some good swims there.

  5. loydtruss says:

    Salmon of any kind would be a treat for me to land with the fly rod. I hope someday I get the chance to go after one.
    I am with you on the climate change issue, unfortunately I live in a region where it is thought of as a myth. Thanks for sharing

    • Bill,
      Salmon on a fly rod are a fun pursuit, and if you’re ever up here around the Great Lakes region in fall, you might find them a worthwhile pursuit. As for climate change issues, I hope that those who still believe them to be a myth will finally open their eyes and ears for a change and pull themselves away from their nether parts and from A.M. talk show radio and Fox News. But let’s not hold our breaths for their sake.
      Thanks, as always, for your support and for commenting here.

  6. Gramps Mel says:

    Walt, as you have so nicely put forward here, fishing of any kind serves as an immediate therapeutic service for all who need it. I think we have lived through some dramatic changes in our life spans. Climate change is the real deal…….. I just pray that my grandchildren have an opportunity to enjoy what I have had the opportunity to do. If we don’t start re-building the America we all love, it just might be too late soon!

  7. Absolutely, Mel. I, too, worry for those to come who may feel the pull of beauty but who may have to settle for even less than what we have today. It’s all about the quality of life experience, and the work begins here, and there, and where we’ll be tomorrow. Thank you!

  8. Bob Stanton says:

    Walt, your description of the sensation of a big fish on a fly rod put me in mind of this (I don’t remember who said it and I’m paraphrasing): “What you are connected to is not merely a fish, but a whole river.” I think of this when I’m lucky enough to have a big trout on the line – which is not to say that I don’t feel connected when I’m catching wild brookies, but with a big brown bulldogging deep, you can feel the thrum and pulse of the entire ecosystem. Savoy Brown…another band you’ve turned me on to!

    • Hey Bob,
      Thanks for reflecting that paraphrased line. There’s truth in it, whether we’re pulling out some pretty brook trout or hooked to a reel-burner charging through the riffles. It’s the power of the river and the forest that contains it. Yeah, Savoy… actually the band, with one original member, is still kicking around, but as with so many older bands that still survive in name alone, they’re a pale shadow of their former glory. From my experience, the best S.B. albums are Raw Sienna and Looking In, ca. ’70/’71. Used to play them a lot.

  9. Les Kish says:

    Pretty waterfall, and a nice bright fish too. I caught my first, last, and only landlocked salmon in northern Maine in 1970. By the way Walt, the water in the pond looks like its around forty-two degrees. I like my bath drawn a little warmer thank you….

    • Thanks Les. Yeah, as we mentioned before, northern Maine is a darn good place to catch these fish. These here are wild fish in the sense that they have grown from fingerlings stocked in the Finger Lakes where they grow to good sizes.
      So, you think the ponds are cold now? This one is probably, as you say, 42 degrees and chillin’. Which is why I call for a throwback swim in summertime, you know, like dreamin’ back… But maybe if we’re riding a hellbound train, a jump into cold water isn’t such a bad thing!

  10. Caught in a dilemma Walt. As you’ve said, we’re all caught in a hellbound train it seems and the older you get the faster the train goes. Fishing, reading and writing help slow it down thankfully. By the way, I enjoy when you write a post about water I’m now familiar with from your books.

    • “Fishing, reading and writing help slow it down thankfully.” There we have it, Howard, there we have it. Our own contribution to free will as the train speeds on. Fatalistic? Maybe. Pessimistic? Nah. For in the end, nature always wins. Thanks, my friend.

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