Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Oak Orchard pilgrimage

How good is the fall fishing on Oak Orchard Creek? Well, consider this: Paula and I spent a couple days there earlier this month as the Chinook salmon, brown trout and steelhead run picked up its pace and we never landed a fish. And had a great time. And Paula is ready to go back at the drop of a fishing hat.

It's that good.

I actually discovered this Orleans County (west of Rochester) gem years ago, long before New York Outdoor News sprang to life. Myself and a few buddies would make the three-hour jaunt from the Southern Tier in late October or even early November, forsaking a day in the treestand for a chance to battle a bruising king salmon or spectacularly colored brown trout. 

The Oak never let us down.

I still remember my first trip there some 30 years ago, catching a 24-inch brown within minutes of my arrival and thinking I'd caught the fish of a lifetime. A half hour later, I landed one that topped 28 inches. Then a couple 15-plus pound kings.

I was hooked.

For some reason, despite my glowing reviews over the years, Paula had never made the trip with me. That had to change, and in mid-October we loaded up and headed to The Oak for Paula's inaugural outing on the river, a trip that coincided with our anniversary. 

We made the usual stop at Orleans Outdoor, where owner Ron Bierstine gave Paula some tips on the fishing as well as productive fly patterns and updated us on what was happening of late on The Oak.

I was most concerned that Paula had a great first experience on the river than I was with tying into fish of my own, especially when Paula saw the kind of angler numbers she's not used to dealing with. But it didn't take long for her to relax and see we were all in this together, the mood was fairly light at the Archer's Club of St.

Mary's property and everyone was pretty respectful, especially when you were fighting a fish.

Things were fairly slow on the first day, until I jumped and played a big Chinook for about 10 minutes, knowing it would probably end badly. It did. Paula's highlight was a gorgeous brown of about 5-6 pounds that hit an egg-sucking leech pattern on her 8-weight fly rod, giving her a nice battle until breaking off just short of being landed.

Between battles, Paula chatted with fellow anglers, we ate breakfast and lunch at the club and watched some fine fish being landed for weigh-in at the club's annual catch-and-release tournament.

I could tell Paula wanted to land a fish. Just one. Snap a couple hero shots and return it to the river.

It almost happened on Day Two, which was much more productive. My day was lowlighted by a big king salmon I ultimately determined was foul hooked and immediately broke it off. Paula, however, ignored a slow leak in her waders and occasional showers and managed some great drifts with a variety of patterns, hooking several fish. She nearly landed a king of about 12 pounds before it made one last run – they always make one last run – and snapped her fluorocarbon leader. Another brown did the same after she played it beautifully. And a big – either side of 20 big – Chinook made several impressive jumps before deciding the game was over.

As we headed home, Paula talked about a return trip. Maybe later this fall, Maybe during the winter for steelhead, after the crowds have waned. Certainly next year for our anniversary.

Anglers are drawn to Oak Orchard much in the same way as the salmon and trout each year. We have to go there.

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