A friend recently shared an interesting observation about Oak Orchard. He commented that several years ago if he arrived on a weekend morning within half an hour of sunrise, then he would be one of the first cars in the parking lot. That early timing would allow him to choose wherever he wanted to fish on the river. This season, if he arrives within half an hour of first light at Oak Orchard, there are dozens of cars and anglers already camped out on popular holes. Some out of state groups are staking a claim on a stretch as early as 4 am. The one time I fished Oak Orchard this season, I personally counted 6 different vehicles with Ohio license plates. It’s no secret that Oak Orchard boasts tremendous numbers of browns in the Fall and is therefore, a destination fishery. I tend to avoid Oak Orchard early in the Fall. Later fishing isn’t as stellar, but crowds thin out after the start of deer season and there’s more angling solitude.
Another friend counted 19 cars parked along a popular bridge of Sandy Creek. He was looking for a place late Sunday afternoon, hoping that traveling anglers would be heading home or perhaps watching NFL games. During my lone trip to the Salmon River, I arrived at sunrise and there were already a dozen anglers hunkered around a well known pool. Another friend refused to fish the Lower Fly Zone on the Salmon River because of the heavy crowds.
Recently, I made a week day trip to the Genny. We arrived before 8 am and there was only one parking space available on the Seth Green side. Just imagine how many cars were there over the weekend. This has been a low water season. Less water means less fishing options. Small creeks are pitifully low. Fish haven’t stayed as long in the small tribs. Those fish that made it up small tribs are compressed, stressed and even more skittish with low water. Readers of this blog know that I have an affinity for small creeks. I just haven’t had the heart to target them this season with our lack of rain!
Larger systems have fished consistently and accordingly, have experienced the lion’s share of angling traffic. Angling pressure has been greatest this Fall season on the Cattaraugus, Oak Orchard, Genesee and Salmon Rivers. Big water has been the name of the game this season. The fact is that we’re sharing a finite aquatic resource. The new reality means more angling pressure/crowds on our beloved tributaries. It’s common sense that we all need to get along. Nobody goes fishing looking for a conflict with a fellow angler. In the spirit of promoting angler harmony, there are a couple of basic guidelines to keep in mind when fishing around other anglers. These include:
- Observe the fishing scene before entering the water. Determine where people are fishing, how far a drift might extend, what water they are working, moving towards, etc.
- If in doubt about accessing water or crowding another angler, initiate a friendly conversation. It doesn’t hurt to ask a fellow water if they mind sharing water, or if it’s ok to fish a specific spot.
- Try to allow fly fisherman swinging flies plenty of room. Often, two handed or spey anglers will work together to rotate through a piece of water. They share the same water, slowly, steadily working downstream.
- Pick up any trash left around our fisheries. It’s easy to carry a plastic shopping bag for spare trash left stream side.
- When in doubt, COMMUNICATE. That’s the simplest, best piece of advice that I can offer for fishing in crowded waters.
By the way, that last trip to the Genny was memorable. There was heavy angling pressure and I thought all the good spots would be taken. We managed to locate an non occupied seam line where a couple of cooperative fish were holding. Nobody else was fishing there. I eagerly directed my friend to concentrate his drift on the seam line. Within the first half an hour, he’d landed two fish. We took turns fishing that slot/seam and before too long, I was hooked up. I promptly lost a strong fish that sliced my line on a rock. Losing that promising fish still haunts me. Later, I was redeemed as I landed one pretty steelhead. Ironically, it was one of those rare periods when we out fished center-pinners. There were a bunch of center pin fisherman on both sides of the river and only a few of them were hooking up. It’s unique when we hook more fish than those fisherman ensuring a lengthy drift with egg sacks. Some were successful, but most weren’t hooking fish. After another hour plus of indicator fishing that seam line, we couldn’t convince any more strikes. That promising seam line went dead on us. Two center pin friends fished the same stretch after us and struck out. You know that it’s time to move on when the scent of naturally drifted eggs aren’t working. Later, we moved downstream and spent plenty of time swinging flies. My batting average swinging flies is pitifully low. I cringe at the hours spent swinging flies and the lack of hookups. However, my friend managed a chrome fresh, acrobatic fish. It’s always nice to see that rewarding grin on a friend’s face when an aggressive steelhead intercepts the moving fly! Between swinging and strike indicator fishing, he landed 4 nice steeelhead. Not bad for a crowded day on the Genny!
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