Rod, Gun & Game: Time for tributary trout encounters
Thursday October 23, 2014
By: Forrest Fisher
Steelhead fishing guide and internationally renowned wildlife artist, Alberto Rey, shares his colorful fly selection and fishing philosophy. Photo by Forrest Fisher.
For the last several weeks, steelhead anglers around Western New York and northern Pennsylvania have been anxiously waiting the first chill of fall weather followed by that first good cold rainstorm. That is what is required to entice our Lake Erie population of steelhead to enter the streams and head upstream.
Last weekend, the hardy steelheaders got their wish, except it was more of a Friday overnight monsoon precipitation period, that made for a greater fishing challenge.
Fishing with fellow outdoor writer associates Tim Murray, a New York Outdoor News reporter from Corning, Victor Attardo from eastern Pennsylvania and book author fame, and Craig Robbins from Jamestown — who is a video journalist, outdoor columnist and envoy of the Chautauqua County tourism group, we were guided to some of Western New York’s finest steelhead waters on Saturday and Sunday
Our local guides were Drew Nisbet from Clarence and Alberto Rey from Fredonia. Nisbet is a precision-thinking fly rod specialist that shared several styles of fly rod and fly choice logic with us for varying water flow conditions to be found fishing any of the fine Chautauqua County tributary stream steelhead choices.
Alberto Rey is an internationally famous wildlife artist and nationally recognized steelhead fishing guide that provided leadership for stream choices, organized our start time, provided a myriad of fishing options and invited us to a very fine shore lunch.
Our trio of anglers met each other courtesy of Ms. Pamela Forge, proprietor of a spacious bed and breakfast lodging located at Sunset Bay, where Craig Robbins provided directions to nearby outdoor shops and details for fishing the steelhead waterways of Chautauqua County.
We met our guides over a tasty dinner at the Sunset Bay Sportsman’s Restaurant on Allegheny Road near the recently repaved NYSDEC Cattaraugus Creek boat launch. As we filled our tummies with scrumptious roast beef and fish fry choices, the weather outside resembled the South Pacific rainy season. The southern tier area was receiving more than an inch of rain per hour, accompanied by high winds. Not the best fishing conditions.
The rain did not affect the confidence of Alberto Rey at all, who is formally educated as a biologist, but is a world class artist and art professor at Fredonia College. Rey smiled and with a tone of high assurance said, “Chautauqua County is great because the streams here allow us several choices and usually, no matter what the weather and rainfall, we can find fish, but of course, remember, fishing is not always just about catching.” Above the sound of the rain, he made all of us chuckle.
Our beach residence received the accompanying sound of the heavy surf and waves when Lake Erie is subject to high winds. Actually, it was exciting. It was spooky, too, in the darkness of night. Our alarms went off at 4:45 a.m. and the black coffee was necessary to get most of us moving, though Robbins used his stage voice to threaten Murray with a bucket of rainwater if he didn’t come down soon at 4:55. Got us all laughing early.
Rey and Nisbet explained that the Catt was unfishable due to the heavy rain, so we explored Little Canadaway Creek, Scott Creek, Beaver Creek, Walnut Creek, Canadaway Creek and finally settled on fishing Silver Creek. It was running slightly turbid, but the 8-inch water clarity was not bad compared to the muddy flow of the other waterways.
Rey tied us up with two-egg fly pattern rigs about 10 inches apart, made with size 14 and 16 Orvis scud hooks, touting a tungsten bead head for weight on a 3-foot-long 7-pound test fluorocarbon tippet tied to a very tiny size 10 saltwater swivel, where an indicator float was also placed. We fished for two hours and our guides felt we should have been able to see fish swimming up through the waterfall areas, but there were none, so we moved on.
After exploring three additional spots, it was lunchtime. Rey welcomed us to his home and introduced us to his family, where his wife, Janiele, provided a five-course, sit-down lunch. Her pumpkin soup recipe was beyond description. Baked potatoes, salad, select cold cuts, hot baked sausage and a delicious dessert of homemade chocolate chip cookies with a shot-glass of classic tawny port wine, simply made the fishless morning easy to forget. We laughed, joked and shared conversation, and I think we all became friends for life in those 45 minutes. Steelhead fishing with friends can bring out the best in everyone.
As guests, we toured Alberto Rey’s art studio and were in awe by the depth of color and 3D-like detail of his work, mostly large, wall-size paintings of fish — trout and steelhead, first captured by photographs on the stream when an angler fooled the fish and released his catch to live and return to spawn yet another time. Rey helped us to recognize that perhaps that is the greatest gesture, in-kind, that an angler can bestow on his captured prey.
We moved on in the afternoon to fish Chautauqua Creek, where more accessible fish were found. While a large assortment of fishing tackle options are open to steelhead anglers, Rey and Nisbet both prefer fly rod tackle and Orvis supported hardware because it is durable and top quality. My all-day use of a 2 3/4-ounce, 9-foot Orvis Access 6-weight fly rod and matching single-action reel is proof of that.
Nisbet says he has also watched 5-by-5-footschools of 10- to 20-pound king salmon heading upstream near his 400-acre family farm on the Catt. Who would have guessed that?
Our WNY salmonid and steelhead fishery is world class, so are our local guides. To experience some of the same simple stream fun, consider contacting these top fishing guides in nearby Chautauqua County. Contact Alberto Rey at 716-410-7003 or visit http://www.albertorey.com. Check your calendar and make some time to discover our unique WNY steelhead resource while the weather is still “colorful.”