Brought by the Rain

Hopefully the three to four-inches of rain over the past weekend signifies the end of a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlong drought in rivertop country, but only time will tell if that’s the case or not. The streams and rivers had risen quickly into flood stage, and the old beaver dam near our house, the one I’ve often photographed, the one the animals had been building day by day for several years, was blown-out by the pressure of an unrelenting flow…

I drove, once more, to the Lake Ontario watershed where the tribs had collected less overall rainfall than my local waters, but where the flow had become substantial, nonetheless. The runs of king salmon and brown trout from Ontario had begun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe numbers of fish were minimal this past weekend, but they were certainly growing. My fishing strategy for the flatlands is contrary to my general “upstream and across” technique on inland waters. I walk downstream toward the lake, studying the creek for signs of moving fish, then swing a long, stout leader and a fly across the current.

If I detect the glimmer of a trout or salmon that I want to target, I let the fly drift across its window of vision, aiming to avoid snagging the fish, which isn’t always easy because the fish are frequently in motion and my aim isn’t always the best.

For king salmon on a spawning run, their days of predatory hunting are through. They no longer eat but will attack a fly or other lure that’s deemed a nuisance to their final days of life. That’s where the allure of fishing for a king or coho enters into play, at least for me. It’s a challenge to get a big green fish that’s fresh from the lake or ocean to strike at a fly, to do it legally without the “snag,” and then to finally land it…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I talked to one fly-fisher casting futilely to brown trout that had slipped into a deep pool to feed on salmon eggs behind the larger fish. These brown trout weren’t little, maybe two feet long, but they looked small behind the salmon, and they weren’t having much to do with the nymphs and streamers drifting by.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Salmon kind of bore me,” said the angler. Oh, really, I wondered. Were the browns being more cooperative today, and that’s why salmon are boring? I knew I was in the minority of fly-fishing opinion when it comes to chinook, or king, salmon. I like to warm up and to keep in physical shape by wrestling with a fresh-run salmon or two in a mid-October outing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lots of guys thumb their noses at these fish– the salmon are easier to snag and to lose tackle on than to deal with in a legal way. The browns are more aggressive with the take, and they’re certainly more beautiful. If they survive their spawning run, the trout are capable of returning to the lake once more– unlike the salmon, that are no less regal but are destined to be compost at completion of the spawning ritual.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Okay, so Pacific salmon bore a lot of fly-fishing guys for some inexplicable reason, maybe in the same way that nymph and streamer casting “bores” a strictly dry fly fisherman. In my opinion, there’s no casting equal to the wonders of small stream fishing for native trout with a fly, but for sheer excitement and a physical work-out, there isn’t much to compare with a wild green salmon or a steelhead with a fly in its toothy jaw. That fish will bend an 8-weight rod to the max while a fighting butt threatens to disembowel you…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Meanwhile king salmon, or chinook, chugs its way toward the lake for several hundred yards like a tow truck pulling you down a mountain road filled with boulders.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By the way, the browns were really starting to pulsate on their upstream run. I managed to catch a couple of pretty males that measured 22 and 25 inches. Overall, not bad for a day of catch-and-release fishing where I, too, felt brought out by the rain.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

hap-py halloweenn... i hope the feesh are BII-TING!

hap-py halloweenn… i hope the feesh are BII-TING!

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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18 Responses to Brought by the Rain

  1. Brent says:

    The rivertop rambler’s classic fall pasttime returns! Glad to see your Sunday was productive and enjoyable. While you were up north, I drove home through your southern haunts, along the Sinnemahoning. Lovely drive with the color.

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Loved reading about the salmon run and the fun you found last week – doesn’t seem remotely boring to me…
    Seems as though the rising water levels have raised you out of that autumnal ennui, and the glorious photographs are additional evidence as to why that might be. Hope conditions remain favourable for you!

  3. JZ says:

    Nice to tangle with some really big fish Walt. I am glad to see that you did well and that your annual trip was successful. The golden yellow colors of the brown in the picture just seem to radiate, as do the spots. Your jaw had to drop once you got him to the net, I’m sure! Those moments are priceless in any anglers life. Thank-you for sharing, it made my crazy morning…

    • Glad I could do it for you, JZ; we’ve got some crazy mornings here, as well. Yeah the big fish now and then make for a nice change of pace. Most of the year I’m pursuing pretty little fishes in a pristine environment, so it’s good to remind myself of another world out there… Autumn yellow browns are special colors, aren’t they. I hope that you’re enjoying the outdoor season, as well.

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    Nice salmonids, Walt. The art of swinging a fly is underappreciated methinks. It takes a practiced hand to mend to match the speed of the flow, but when you get it right it’s satisfying. More so when you get a fish on that can take you down to your backing.

    • You’re right on about swinging the fly effectively, Bob. It takes a practiced hand, and I think that’s one reason that a lot of guys get frustrated with salmon. Their hook gets caught, intentionally or not, on some part of the body other than the mouth. And then they’re dealing with potential poaching problems or the loss of tackle and time. So yeah, mending the line and matching it to the speed of the flow and the movements of the target– not so easy, but satisfying when you do it right.

  5. That last pictures is stellar. Nice job!

    It’s interesting to see the difference in attitudes between fly anglers in the different parts of the continent with regards to the fish they target. Out west, not everyone targets salmon (and sometimes you can’t), but there are some very passionate fly anglers out there who go after the various runs of salmon as they come in.

    • Thanks Douglas. Yes, these salmon, for example, are native to your section of the country and there’s an element of tradition and mystique involved in angling there, which might account for some of the difference with regard to these fish. The differences in attitude are interesting to me, as well, as is determining the reasons for them, when it’s possible to come up with some theories…

      • That shift from region to region is just incredible. Fish that people consider coarse fish out here are the preferred fish to target where I’m from originally (Ontario). It’s always interesting to hear what people think the best fish to catch on the fly are. The answer varies so much from coast-to-coast.

  6. Consider the common carp. And the cliched views held by certain classes in society. One might consider the fish to be worthy of slinging only doughballs, corn and entrails. Another might view it as as excellent target for an artificial fly (and make sure you’ve got some backing on your reel).

  7. I can only dream Walt…thanks.

  8. rommel says:

    As a non-fisherman, who is now enjoying fishing stories by the way, I actually find it so amusing to find that fishermen do have different fish that bore them or not. I thought any type of catch is an excitement. At least, that’s what it would be like for me if I do fish. When we went fishing in Mississippi before, we were catching catfish easily. I got so thrilled and enthusiastic every time we get a snatch.
    Here I was posting about fall colors on my blog being so overly elated by it, and here you are coming up with incredibly beautiful fall colors as well. Just wonderful!

    • Fisherman or not, you’ve got it, Rommel. It’s probably different for everyone, but for me, to fish in a beautiful area is to mingle one-on-one with the elements of nature, to immersed in the bigger picture of life. There’s other ways to get there, of course, but fly-fishing gets me there fast, particularly with trout/salmon, but even with carp/catfish/tarpon. Being there helps us notice other important elements like the autumn leaf, the color of a bird or flower. Thanks for understanding it, and showing it through your blog, as well.

  9. Les Kish says:

    How did I miss this post? That big brown in the water is really something. I agree, nothing like hooking a big king for a workout. My arms are still sore from the last one that I caught, eight years ago……

    • Glad you caught it, Les. Yes, I don’t push kings like I used to (when fair-hooking up to a dozen of these behemoths in a day was practically suicidal) but they give a work-out like no other!

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