Saturday, October 15, 2011

Highland Creek Pocketwater

   Friday morning dawned hesitantly, a gradual lightening of the darkness until it reached it's peak at dark grey. The low, heavy cloud cover raced in from the south, reminiscent of time lapse film, threatening to unleash it's tropical load at any minute and add to the already sodden landscape. In every direction pools of standing water made the simple act of walking a straight line with dry feet a long forgotten memory from dryer days gone by.

   This was my introduction to the day as I loaded up the bike for another go at the salmon in the local tributaries. We'd had near steady drizzle for the previous two days and it's possible affect on the rivers had me second guessing my decision to go out. On the bright side the temperature was in the mid 60's, there was no wind and the rain seemed to be holding off for a while.

   I was sure the Rouge and lower Highland would be unfishable, muddy messes, so my destination for the morning would be the unexplored upper stretches of Highland Creek, just down stream from where I live. Access to the creek was from a trail in the Centennial College soccer field that wound it's way down into the valley. When faced with a fork in the trail, I resisted the normal urge to go down stream, being curious to see the creek's emergence from under Highway 401. As I approached the upper end of the trail the bird song was replaced with the roar of traffic and rushing water.

    I knew immediately the path had led me in the right direction when I broke through the underbrush screen and found a concrete lined pool swarming with swimmers. Once again it took longer to get geared up than it did to get the first fish on. Given enough depth, a salmon will put on an aerial display comparable to that of a  smallmouth bass or steelhead, and this pool had plenty of depth. As the salmon repeatedly broke the surface, I could see the other occupants frantically scrambling for cover that wasn't there. In a last ditch effort to escape, the fish leapt out of the pool and into the long dark tunnel under 20 lanes of high speed traffic, never to be seen again. In an attempt to put the breaks on and prevent an escape into the darkness, I'd pulled the hook out. This pool was now too agitated to achieve anything useful, so I turned my back on the concrete and traffic and set my sights on the "natural" wonder a few yards down flow.
    My favorite venue for stalking fall salmon is fast water, pitting the fish's swimming strength against my ability to stay upright and in control, but I'd never had the pleasure of fishing a stretch like this. Over 100 yards of white water, over and around jumbled boulders and broken concrete, a demonic watery escalator where one tiny misstep could send you to aquatic hell. Until that misstep...I was on a stairway to heaven! (If Jimmie Page was a fisherman he'd understand the reference).

    I inadvertently spooked twice as many fish as I'd seen, just as surprised as them as the water erupted at my precariously placed footing. Along the way were the scattered remains of those that completed their mission or failed the ascent and suffered the consequences.

    Picking away at the pockets, I had the opportunity to cast to a half dozen fish and managed two hook ups. In both cases the fish took me up several levels and eventually down. Of course all I could do was stand there like an idiot, watching my line play out with little chance to follow. This short stretch of white water took close to an hour work over, and as I stood at the bottom a curious thought about perspective came to mind. Unless suffering from vertigo, a stretch of water such as this seems far more imposing from below. The incline appears steeper, the boulders larger, the water rushing faster, and the path of least resistance not as evident.

   I encountered several other areas of white water as I continued down stream, although smaller and less imposing, they held a multitude of fish all the same. One fish I'd hooked into took me down a short, steep section of white water to play out the fight in a dark, placid pool and at one point I feared it would launch itself into the overhanging maple tree!
No zombie here, aggressive as hell and snapping at everything!
    Around noon Tackle Shop called to say he was going to be in the area and would drop by when he concluded his business. I had reached the end of this section of the creek by that time and the skies had finally opened up so for me the day was over, but I'd revisit the creek again later in the day with TS and another long lost friend, Raven...who squawks a lot, is easily distracted by shiny things and isn't opposed to putting on a show for comic relief.

   I guided TS to an area  easily accessed by car and suitable for pitching heavy metal. While he worked the pool I tried to work the pocket water down stream without waders. As I rock-hopped my way to the center of a set of rapids one of my stepping stones shifted, leaving me with no dry escape route. Wet wading is rarely a preferred option this time of year.

  There seemed to be few active fish in this area so we packed up and moved farther down stream to another easy access area where we met up with Raven. Again...we were having trouble finding fish, it seems they'd all made their way farther up, but it didn't bother any of us as this was the first time this year we'd had a chance to get out together.


  1. Man that fish looks healthy !! Glad to hear that u were able to get out there with your buddies! Nice looking Smallie too. That long dark tunnel is crazy! Thanks for sharing. Tight Lines.

  2. This has got to be one of your top write ups mate, I know how it feels to spook a fish close to you, Nearly jump out of your waders haha, The streem is very nice and i also know what you mean about keeping a good footing, Is that the end of the trail for the salmon or do they have further to travel,
    Top Blogging and fishing John,

  3. Nice post John.
    I to prefer to fish faster waters.

  4. John
    Fantastic looking fish on both accounts, fast waters is still giving me some problems, because I still have some trouble knowing when I am getting a hit with the indicator. Great Post

  5. I'm liking that fast water myself. Well done on the salmon.

  6. Are you sure that Highland Creek is open at this time of year for salmon upstream of Kingston Rd?

    I thought that salmon generally closes on Sept. 30 and that the all year section of Highland Creek is just from Lake Ontario to Kingston Rd. with no extended season to Dec. 31 in the upstream reaches (unlike Rouge which has Dec. 31 season upstream to 407).

  7. Great write up. I particularly liked your opening paragraph. Beautiful stream and a nice salmon.
    Tight lines