Fallfish watching my every move
A search of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s website showed me there was a stretch with public fishing rights (see Getting There below). However, there wasn’t any public access off the shoulder. So I went north on Cty. Rte. 17 to Parker Road and walked downstream from the bridge.
The west side was posted but not the east. It was a challenging hike because the banks were high, the creek floor muddy and deep. Biting flies ranging from deer flies to mosquitoes serenaded me along the way.
Partial to rapids and pocket water, the deep, slow moving creek wasn’t exactly my cup o' tea. But I’m a sporting man and my curiosity got hooked deeper and deeper as I struggled along. You see, the creek was covered in a fabulous nave bumped out of a deep, old forest; its banks were lined with a variety of beautiful vegetation, including pockets of the most spectacular ferns I’d ever seen.
At a hair-pin bend, I dropped a wooly bugger over a sunken windfall. A fish, obviously thinking it was a caterpillar, shot out from under the gnarled branches and grabbed the fly in flight. Feeling the hook, it took the fight to the bottom, conducting a respectable tug-of-war, just like a brown trout would.
But it was a fallfish, one of the lowliest beasts in a stream.
Sitting on a stump nestled in a garden of ferns, I looked down at it, through water stained the color of strong tea by tannic acid. I gently raised it to the surface.
In my hands, it trembled; its frightened eyes following my fingers.
This display of emotion caused me to hesitate. Instead of simply pulling it out of the water and unhooking it, I lead it to a weedy shallow spot in a notch in the bank.. Removing the streamer while the fish was still submerged, I slowly backed off.
It watched me without moving for what seemed like a long time. Then it flopped, setting its head into the open flow. One powerful flap of its tiny tail, and it was gone.
Fallfish don’t grow big. I’ve seen them up to 18 inches but those are rare. Normally they go anywhere from 4 to 12 inches. And they fight like you’d expect a beast whose life is hardened through constant struggle against current and subsisting mainly on tiny insects, with an occasional worm thrown in.
Dark-backed, silver-sided and white-bellied, fallfish belong to the same group that carp do, the minnow family. Typically found in our northern rivers and lakes, most anglers simply call 'em chubs. They're thrive in just about every stream north of Oneida Lake; the Salmon River is loaded with 'em.
At another time I might have been angry at catching only a “rough fish”; maybe even blamed it for ruining my trip.
But Scriba Creek is an enchanting place, gracing me with the knowledge that even though I didn’t catch a trout, I still got a wonderful wilderness fishing experience; most importantly, I didn’t get skunked.
And after all, isn’t that what fishing’s all about?
Getting There: The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website offers a map of public fishing rights sections it owns on Scriba Creek. Go to www.dec.ny.gov., click on Outdoor Recreation, then Fishing. Type Scriba Creek in the search box, scroll down to Oswego County, click on Scriba Creek and Spring Brook pdf.
For more information go to www.visitoswegocounty.com or call 800-248-4386 and request an Oswego County Hunting & Fishing guide.