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Fall fishing brings many opportunities, locally and within a day’s drive. I have a particular fondness for fishing behind the office in Narrowsburg and in the many lakes and ponds of northern Wayne County. Sometimes though, I get the itch to latch onto something a little bigger—something that six-pound test isn’t going to hold up to.
When I get that feeling, I head north. Depending on the time of year, there are two options: a boat on Lake Ontario, or neoprene chest waders in the Salmon River.
In late September, I took a trip to Lake Ontario and met up with Captain Andy Krall. I boarded the boat and met his wife, Donna.
I spent the weekend on a 30-foot boat in the middle of Lake Ontario above Rochester. Well, maybe not the middle of the lake, but my phone did chime in with “Welcome to Canada!” at one point. I was surprised it didn’t say “Welcome to Canada, eh.”
Well. Pitter patter, let’s get ‘atter.
The boat left the docks of Shumway Marina and headed northeast, out of Rochester harbor. Most captains prefer a slow troll out to fish. Not Captain Andy. His goal was to get where he had marked fish earlier that morning, hit the area hard and then troll back in at the end.
My first catch for Saturday was a steelhead, then a king followed by plenty of rainbow trout. Now, when I say rainbow trout, I don’t mean the pretty little six- to 12-inch fish that are plentiful here. These trout are a bit bigger. My smallest catch for Saturday was well past my elbow when I held it by the gill cover. I never did measure it, but I would guess it clocked in between 18- and 20- inches long.
It seems large until you consider the body of water in which we were casting our lines. The depth of the lake where we concentrated our fishing efforts was around 500-feet deep. It was right around the Canadian border on the water—and the fishing was good, eh.
As the day wore on, we traded hunting and fishing stories, and I quickly became good friends with Donna. We got along so well that Andy threatened to change her phone number the day after we left so she and I couldn’t conspire against him. (Those are tales not fit for writing down. Next time you see me, ask me for the funny bits.)
Andy told me about the copper line he had rigged in the center of the boat and warned me, “When it goes off, no one wants to grab it. It’s a hell of a fight. Three hundred feet of copper line, plus a leader and some line on after the copper, too.”
Easily picturing 400 feet of line, I raised an eyebrow when Andy said, “If that goes off, I won’t even talk to you for the first hour. You’ll be too busy fighting the fish.”
I eyed the pole and shrugged, “How bad could it really be?”
Well, a few short hours later, I found out. Just as the sun was beginning to set, the rod tugged hard against the holder. I went for the movement before I realized just which pole had moved. Andy laughed at me and said, “Just be glad it’s not the 500 footer. That line snapped yesterday.”
The captain set a timer, sat me down in the deck chair with the pole and continued to fish the others as I battled. After the first 20 minutes, I felt like I was gaining on it pretty well. I at least had the copper back to the reel. Though he said he wouldn’t talk, Andy continued to ask about my progress, ribbing me the whole time.
My arms did manage to get tired pulling this fish in. So I would rest with the tip of the pole in the air and stretch my arms one at a time. I looked to my left in stretching and was captivated by the sunset. The bright idea popped into my head to take a selfie while fighting the fish and to then snap a few of the sun as it set. Since I wasn’t gaining in the fight with the fish, it didn’t much matter how I spent the time with the line drawn tight.
After the short lull and a few selfies, I began to make moves in the slow battle. As the fish came closer to the boat, he fought back harder. At times, within a split second, the little gain I got would be torn from the real. Other times, it seemed the fish rushed the boat and I had trouble keeping the line as tight as I would have liked.
Finally down to the last 50 feet of line, I dug in hard. Though my arms were slightly sore, I managed to reel the fish in pretty fast once I stood back up.
The fighting monster was none other than the smallest fish of the day.
“That’s the thing with that line,” Donna remarked. “I caught one smaller than that and it fought just as bad. Imagine if it was bigger.”
We checked the time from my grab to when the fish was landed: 56 minutes.
Andy was impressed, “Under an hour is a hell of an accomplishment. I guess next year when you’re back, we’ll get you on the 500 footer and see how you do.”
I smiled and snapped another photo of the sun as it sank beneath the waves. “Sure thing. Five hundred sounds like a piece of cake.”
To fish with Captain Andy from April ‘til October, contact him on Facebook at Big Riggin Sport Fishing, email Andytcr@gmail.com or call 585/944-0874. They run half- and full-day charters on Seneca Lake and Lake Ontario for up to six people each trip.
The Salmon River
A mere three weeks later, I found myself headed north again, straight up 81 to a town called Pulaski. Exit 36, to Route 13. It was 3:30 a.m. and the bait shop was hopping. I wandered into Fat Nancy’s and grabbed a new pack of hooks and some black sponge. This fishing was a completely different ballgame compared to the sunny, 75-degree day in September.
The air was crisp and the frost was heavy on the ground. The full moon lit it up like it was a fresh coating of snow as we drove up State Route 13 to Country Route 48. It was later in the season, and the fishing was better in the small streams that fed the river. A drive down Sheepskin Road, a few turns and intersections later found us parked in a farmer’s field.
Since the moon and the frost were still lighting the way, the walk through the field and down the hill to Orwell Creek was easy. Standing for two hours in 34-degree weather wasn’t.
To get the best fishing spot, you have to get there early. The salmon tend to stick in the deeper holes and they’re few and far between in the small creeks and tributaries that feed the river. These little holes are popular and tend to fill up quickly with fishermen.
For the first hour on the creek, no one else arrived. We could see head lamps and phone lights in the distance, people finding their way to other holes along the bank. At the beginning of the second hour of freezing and watching the moon set below the horizon, a group of eight came across the field and joined us. I had found myself the choice point in the water and wasn’t giving it up. I even went as far as telling the guy next to me that, “It’s my birthday… I’m catching fish.” He laughed and backed off a bit. And at first light, they told me I had the honor of first cast. (To be fair, it was indeed my birthday that day and those guys seemed impressed by the fact that I chose to stand there instead of anything else.)
So, I dropped that 12-pound test line into the hole I had coveted since first arriving. We knew the fish were there from two hours of listening to the splashing. With two small round weights about three feet from the hook, and a casting technique that was half fly fishing, half plop and drop, I kept at the small area of water. Within 10 minutes, I had a fish on. Utilizing a few techniques I perfected with the more lively fish on the big lake, I had the fish in the net in just a few minutes. (I could actually hear Captain Andy in my brain saying “Tip up, now down—reel, reel, reel.”)
Casting with that many people around is a bit like dancing. You have to watch lines, listen for yells and try not to step on any toes. And by stepping on toes, I mean tangling lines by casting out of turn, or over top of each other. The creek was at most 15 feet across, and with people on both sides of it, the line dance was a big deal. Some of the guys there spent more time apologizing for hooking someone else’s line than they did fishing. Others spent time snagging the rocky bottom and retying their rigs. I spent my time casting and catching.
By 7:30 that morning, I had caught my limit and stepped out of the hole. I ran net for a few guys fishing the banks and made sure none of their catches got away.
Hearing someone yell “fish on” and watching as everyone reacts, pulling their lines out of the way or grabbing nets to help is what makes salmon fishing so great. Whether in the lake, on the big river, or in one of the small tributaries along the way, spending time with like-minded people on a shore, boat deck, or chest deep in water is what makes the whole experience.