I have fished many rivers in New York State but I have only fished West Canada a few times. The prospect of going back to West Canada for the Trout Power Tournament was appealing but I was not quite sure what to expect. I had only fished the trophy section and the upper reaches of West Canada and had never fished the lower sections of the river where the tournament was being held.
When JP (the tournament organizer) told us there would be over 60 anglers fishing in this event I was a bit concerned with the amount of room to fish and what kind of effect this type of pressure would have on the inhabitants of Poland and Newport NY. Well I should have left my worries behind. When I received my detailed map in my Trout Power packet, I was amazed at how much public access there was on this river. Since NY State trespassing laws specifically favor the land-owner when wading in a river, having lots of public access was essential. I believe most of the land we used to access the river were NY State PFRs (Public Fishing Rights). For those of you who don’t know, PFRs are permanent easements that have been purchased by NY State from landowners. In order for these easements to be successful you need the cooperation from land owners since the state does not actually own the land.
After we got our packets and were ready to start fishing we were told about access to some private property. The land owner had opened his land to the tourney participants. Unfortunately we drove our car on the wrong part of the property to access the river. If this were any other river in the United States we would have been scolded and kicked off the property. Instead the very friendly land owner asked us how our fishing was, gave us some pointers, then very nicely requested that we park at the head of the trail instead of driving down it. On another occasion I thought I was fishing on some public land. While I was fishing I was noticing a man on the other side of the river watching me fish. I was concerned I was in the wrong place and I was about to get reprimanded so I left. As I walked past his house he came about and yelled “Hay!!!”. My heart sank and I thought here we go. I did something wrong. Then to my surprise he said “You want to come fishing on my property?” What really? I love this place. We should all take a lesson from the inhabitants of West Canada Creek. They know they have a good thing, they are proud of it, and they want to share it.
After fishing for the weekend, I caught a lot of fish and a couple of some size, but the real catch was the sense of community I felt fishing West Canada. A community of people who care about their river and have an incredible amount of hospitality for the guests that invaded their beautiful towns for two days. My only hope is that something can be worked out with the power company (Brookfield Asset Management) that controls the flow of the river and the future of its success as a blue ribbon trout fishery.