Friday, January 28, 2011

Snowy Scenes Around Oneida Lake

Aging cannon/POW-MIA Memorial along the north shore of Oneida Lake

Fishing and hunting in Oswego County lead to countless hours of memorable moments. And while pulling in a walleye, aiming at a big tom, or leading a mallard are thrilling, not every second spent outside is steeped in heart pounding excitement. There’s a lot of quiet time, too, when the natural beauty of the woods and waters, combined with man’s artistic contributions, soak into your soul and wash away the skid marks left there by the rat race.

Cousin Staash (rhymes with gosh) calls outdoor recreation a “total experience.”

He explains: “You enjoy it when you’re getting ready, while you’re doing it and when you dream about it afterwards.”

“Then there’s the in-between time,” he continues. “A lot of people forget that when you’re heading out and coming home, for instance, you’re forced to take a drive in the country. And how about between hits, when everywhere you look, your senses get pleasantly whacked by the wonder going on around you.”

“Man,” Staash elaborates, an expression of disbelief climbing his face, “I’ve known ice-fishermen who were so overwhelmed by how beautiful winter is in this neck of the woods, they become distracted to the point they miss their turn and instead of turning around, end up circlin’ the lake, like they’re hypnotized by its arctic beauty, or somethin’.”

Right now is the best time (literally) to see what Staash means. And you don’t even have to step out of the car.

For an example of the natural and man-made wonders in store along Oneida Lake’s north shore, check out the photo essay below. The shots were all taken on January 23, on or just off NY 49, between the villages of Cleveland and Brewerton.

The Beast from the East

Yellow Submarine

Apps Landing. Cleveland.

Bronze Horse


Iron Monster

Multiple Use

River Castle

Signs at the crossroad


Waiting for Sunset

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spey Casting Magician

Every body of water has its living fishing legends. One of the Salmon River’s most famous is Pat Miura.

With good reason: Pat’s specialty is fly-fishing. And while this world famous coldwater fishery is loaded with guides who are experts at beating the wind with long rods, and bringing home trophies for their clients, most switch techniques—center-pinning beads, for instance, or back trolling plugs--in an attempt to optimize their client’s chances at catching vast quantities of game.

Pat changes techniques, too, when it’s called for, but he stays true to fly-fishing, switching from glow bugs to nymphs, for instance, traditional streamers to Spey flies. And he’s mastered them all.

What’s more, he doesn’t make glowing promises of numerous hook ups to fill his schedule. Indeed, he doesn’t make any fishy promises at all. His only guarantee is to take you on a quality fly-fishing adventure; and he’s so good at providing dream trips that his name is a legend on the river; the retired US Army master sergeant stays as busy as he wants.

I’ve known Pat for several years and enjoy watching him whenever I get the chance. His style is flawless, and he’s always catching fish. I had to find out how he does it and asked if I could tag along when he gets a break in his schedule.

Next thing you know we’re on the Salmon River and he’s trying to teach me to Spey cast. Developed in the Spey River region of Scotland, this highly stylized technique uses rods anywhere from 12-something to over 13 feet long and heavy lines to cast large flies great distances, using three simple moves. In fact, a good caster can easily whip a fly 50 feet with trees, bushes, cliffs, fjords, you name it, right behind ‘em.

It took about an hour to show me the ropes. I learned how to establish an anchor (at the end of the drift, hold the rod in both hands and cross your arms, forcing the line high into the air upstream while keeping the fly in the water downstream, a rod’s distance from you), the importance of the D loop (swinging the rod in front of you, then behind you, it forms a D loop off to your side), and the forward motion (keeping the rod tip high, you whip it forward, launching the fly to its target). Done properly, the fly slices through the air upstream, back into the loop next to you, and forward, never coming close to what’s behind you.

It takes a little practice to get everything flowing in a rhythmic motion. In fact, I’ve been out twice, about three hours each time, and still haven’t mastered it. But I can cast greater distances under the tightest conditions than I ever imagined possible. What’s more, I can do it with the line staying straight, (mostly, anyway) instead of tangling mid-air into a rooster nest and dropping like a coiled, stone serpent.

After theory, Pat showed me how it works. Waving his Spey rod fluidly and rhythmically, he went through the motions like a conductor leading a symphony. The line responded flawlessly, flowing silently through air and water, landing in front of him, about 40 feet away, with hardly a ripple.

Watching him perform his magic, I ended up forgetting my lessons. Things got ugly quick. I snagged bottom a few times; wrapped the line around the rod tip twice, hooked some submerged branches downstream, ended up under a huge boulder…

Just then something tells me to look up. I watch Pat effortlessly make another perfect cast. Holding the rod in his right hand, parallel to the water, he pinched the line between his index finger and thumb. Suddenly, the line stretches, ripping through the water, a steelhead on the surface at the other end.

Pat doesn’t set the hook; his fingers hold the line tight, allowing the fish to hook itself. Afterwards he releases the tension, raises the rod and the fight is on.

A few minutes later, he lands a nice eight-pound steelie.

“Spider,” he says, eyes beaming, “the drug is in the tug,” and laughs confidently like a master after demonstrating his stuff, and knowing he performed well.

I was so excited I forgot my manners and ran right to where he hooked it.

Ten minutes later, still no hits, I get snagged and lose the fly.

He offers to tie on another for me but it was getting late, and I was getting cold, and I already had my story.

Besides, I knew I was hooked to Spey casting and would get back out there soon to craft more memories.

Pat can be contacted at 315-788-9571, 315-777-3570, or

Pat working his Spey casting magic on a snowy riverscape.

Miura holding a stylized wooly bugger pattern he uses very successfully in snowtime.

Getting to the river in Pineville can be very challenging this time of year; but often well worth it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Jacks in the Ice

Eric Arbogast with some nice Oneida Lake walleyes.

Climate change is a funny thing. The experts claim the world is warming. Oneida Lake formed safe ice a week before Christmas – two weeks earlier than normal – indicating things are cooling down. It’s enough to make you question the weather forecasting business.

One thing’s for certain, however. Today, January 5, Oneida Lake is crowned in an ice cap that’s six inches thick.

Ice fishermen and snowmobilers are all over the place. Some spots are so crowded with ice shelters they look like ice-fishing villages. And the fish are cooperating.

Also known around these parts as jack perch, they’re huge; averaging a solid 10 inches.
A lot are even bigger, up to 13 inches. They’re hanging out in about 20 feet of water and they’re taking Swedish pimples tipped with buckeyes.

Rick Sorenson of Apps Landing Bait Shop claims guys are coming back regularly with 20 to 30 perch. And he should know, located right at the entrance to the DEC’s popular Cleveland Dock fishing access site (parking for 15 cars and close proximity to the magical 20-foot depths), and offering a complete selection of ice-fishing bait and tackle, he’s got anglers coming and going constantly, giving him play-by-play reports on all the action.

On the hard water, anglers are proving how accurate Sorenson is. One pair of guys on the ice out in front of the shop had so many; from a distance it looked like they were sitting on ice carpeted in perch.

Bob Twichell of Fayetteville had about 15 on the ice, five of ‘em 13-inchers. He was using an old technique: drawing fish to his bait with a decoy. He’d bait a line with a perch eye, let it down to the bottom, crank it up a couple of inches and rest the rod on the edge of the ice. Then he’d call fish in by violently jigging a Sonar in a hole a couple feet away.

Bob Twitchell landing another perch.

His buddy Kyle Storie, scored much better using contemporary tactics. He had a fish finder in his hole, and jigged a dot tipped with a buckeye.

Kyle Storie and his carpet of jack perch.
Twichell says, “Walleyes come through all the time. But they don’t hit well until 4 or 5 p.m., when it starts getting dark.”

An old wives’ tale says early ice is the best for ice-fishing; probably because the fish haven’t had their senses overwhelmed with motorized augers, snowmobiles, cleats, you name it.

So get out there, walk quietly and pack a lot of bait. The fish you catch will make your shivering worthwhile.

Andrew Allerton with a nice catch he took on a Swedish Pimple tipped with a buckeye.