Sunday, October 2, 2011

Inner City Salmon

  I had planned to make a return trip to the river Thursday morning after my final shift of the week but circumstances had made different plans for me. The last night at the factory was chaotic and my stupid sense of responsibility required me to stay back an extra hour and make things right for the day shift. Of course I didn't have any time constraints that morning and a slightly later start would be no problem but the ominous black horizon and stiff headwind were all the motivation I needed to make a swift retreat to my home, grab a quick bite and catch up on some much needed rest... there's always tomorrow...right?

   Friday morning started out cool and sunny with light winds, a perfect Autumn day for a casual bike ride and wading the river. Once again circumstances had their way with my plans, the Rouge River was blown out again resembling a ferocious flow of chocolate milk.
   It was now time to quickly formulate a plan "B". I would leave the Rouge, ride several miles to the southwest and check out Highland Creek. The previous year I'd found that when all the major rivers in the greater Toronto area were blown out, Highland Creek ran steady and ultra clear, mainly because it's watershed lies entirely within the city limits and the surrounding neighborhoods have been established for decades with little or no streamside construction going on to muddy the waters... or so I thought.

   I accessed the river from Morningside Park, my first time in the park and this far up stream. The creek was high and muddy which suggested that something had changed in the system since my last visit, but the salmon were immediately visible at a small dam. Using the photo of the park map as a reference, I navigated my way through uncharted waters (for me) and headed up stream stopping every so often to check out a pool, run or rapids. Eventually the bike path I was on veered away from the creek and when I saw it again it was noticeably smaller and definitely clearer. A quick glance downstream showed a confluence a hundred yards down and the majority of the mud was coming from the other branch. Right at my feet were several good sized fish milling about, waiting to run a small waterfall. This is where I'd start my fishing day, 3 hours after leaving the house.
Holding a ton of fish but too fast
First fishing location
   It took no time at all to hook into the first fish and as it came to the surface I realized it was tail hooked. I tried to pull the hook free but there was no way it was coming out until the fish was landed. A quick flip of the hemostats and the fish at my feet was away, back into the current to continue it's final mission. A few more minutes at this pool and I decided the fish here were not takers and it was time to move on.

  Several hundred yards upstream I found another school of fish holding in the tail out of a long quiet stretch of water. Here again I had several foul hook ups but managed to pull the fly free without having to play the fish out. Obviously these fish were not actively taking but the thing that kept me there were the challenging conditions, getting the heavy fly under the overhanging hemlocks towards the far bank, avoiding the deadfall and achieving a good drift through the fast water. Just playing in the water like a big kid, really.
   I'd miscalculated the timing on this creek, the majority of the fish there had been in the creek for at least a week, had or were spawning, and would be dead in less than another week. It would still be possible to get a bite through sheer aggression, but my time would be better spent closer to the lake looking for fresher fish, or on the Rouge where the run is just beginning.

   I was ready to pack it in for the day and decided to take a different route home through the other branch's valley and maybe discover the source of all the mud in the creek. It turns out that the city's parks department had modified the creek bed and added thousands of truckloads of limestone boulders. I'd never seen the original creek but other than the lack of greenery close to the water, they'd created a beautiful fishing area with long stretches of white water with large sediment trapping pools that already contained a few carp and a couple salmon! I look forward to fishing this section of Highland Creek next year when it's had a chance to grow in a bit  and the ground cover prevents the runoff mud.
   So... no trophy shots for this post as I'm  unhappy with the method of catching the fish...but guaranteed there'll be plenty in the coming weeks. I love exploring new areas ...especially when they're so close to home.

Once backyard is awesome!   


  1. Serious water flows, and that awful color. Tough fishing.

  2. John
    Some of those waters are the kind I love to fish, off the beaten path where there is little fishing pressure. Those places are getting harder to find especially near a city. Thanks for sharing

  3. i can tell by the tail that fish is already on the way to becoming a zombie salmon. good chance he wouldnt have bitten anyway. with that many fish stacked up your bound to foul a few. ive perfect the unsnag... throw a loop down the fly line and pop it when the line is on the other side of the fish. you can get some off that way ;)

  4. The best way I know of to find new water is to just drive down a dirt road. You'll be amazed what you find.


  5. Thats a cracking picture John, I think i would have had to dive on it with my net, But i know they are as fast as lightning,

  6. Chocolate milk = no fun...

    glad you found some water to fish...looking forward to some glory shots soon.

  7. you do have some fantastic fishing spots where you are. I really do enjoy reading your blogs. Thanks for some great reading.