I grew up fishing the Otego, Charlotte, Schenevus and Cherry Valley creeks. It was absolutely wonderful. They were all filled with trout, and there wasn’t a posted sign.
It’s different today. Floods have changed the courses of these creeks. Fertilizers and chemicals have killed some of the insect life and smaller fish, while access to the streams has been drastically limited. When I return to some of my old favorite spots, it’s not the same. But realistically, what is today?
The other day, I got an email from a reader. He attached a picture of a 26-inch brown trout he had taken from one of the creeks I just mentioned. After catching it and getting a picture, he returned it to the stream so it could live and spawn and be caught another day.
I remember catching a fish like that one day on the Charlotte Creek. A friend of mine and I went over beyond Davenport and parked near Fergusonville. As we walked down across a small meadow, I saw a fish roll and take a fly in the pool ahead. He went downstream a bit, and I approached the deep water with caution.
Using a Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear, I cast upstream and let the current take the fly over the feeding trout. Instantly, the water erupted as the large trout hit. As I set the hook, the leader snapped, and the monster returned to the depths of the pool.
I tied on a new fly, but I knew she wouldn’t hit again that afternoon. It took me two more trips out there before I hooked that fish a second time. That time, the line got wrapped around a submerged branch. A week later, I landed that fish. She was about two feet long and weighed better than three or four pounds. I released her back into the stream and although I didn’t have a camera, she’ll remain in my mind forever.
One fall, I was trapping mink and muskrats on the Otego Creek. I checked my traps and made a few new sets along the stream just a ways above Laurens. I crawled out on a downed log to place a trap one morning. The old tree was partially submerged at the tail end of a deep pool.
I placed the trap and looked down into the quiet shadows of the stream. Below me were two trout that looked as long as my arm. In the spring, I caught one of them as I drifted a large night crawler in under that tree. Back then I was much younger, and we ate that 20-incher for dinner.
There are lots of fish like that in these streams. They are smart but always hungry. I used to fish a small creek that flowed into the Otego Creek above Mount Vision. In a spot that was too shallow to hardly hold a fish, an old willow tree stood along the creek. A deep pool was undercut beneath that tree. I always could depend on a trout or two among its roots.
One morning, I dropped a salted minnow into the water just upstream of the pool. The water took it down deep and swirled it back in under the bank. I felt him hit instantly. I set the hook and fought that fish, keeping it from tangling on the submerged roots. A stream not eight feet wide held an 18-inch fish. Today, that old willow, the pool and the fish are gone.
Many trout in that trophy class are found in these streams. There isn’t the fishing pressure any more. Most guys just fish from the bridges and never get more than 100 yards up and down the stream. If you want big fish, put forth a little effort and hunt them down. You’ll be surprised what you might find.
Note: It’s not too late to sign up for Trout Unlimited’s Introduction to Fly Fishing Course. Call Marge at 607-263-5767 or Dave at 607-563-1978.
Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.