Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lower Niagara River Sturgeon on the Fly

I spent the morning and most of the afternoon in the Lower Niagara River gorge. Fish migration seems to be in full swing. Just after first light I approached the rivers edge, greeted by a fisherman playing a king. The noble fish was landed after several minutes of fight. Appearing to in the #15 range he was hooked on a noodle rod, float and golf ball sized piece of skein. I moved along down stream and while scanning the river observed several kings leaping across the surface as they made their way up stream. One King had a lamprey flopping wildly as he bounded up stream seeming trying to free himself of the annoying parasite. Salmon showing themselves out of the water seemed to decrease as the day went on.

The Niagara River rises more then 15ft in early morning due to power generation at night. The water rise is without warning and most occurs over a 45min period. Extreme caution is needed when walking the banks and fishing from exposed rock because you and the route you took to get there may have been dry 10 mins ago but now 5 feet of boiling, rushing water is blocking your escape route and threatening to engulf you. The pink line is the high water line. (Picture 1) (Picture 2)

I fished most of the early morning with not so much as a strike until I stumbled onto this gentleman while fighting a hefty Lake Trout. (Picture 3) Picture 4) I stopped to watch him land it and he was kind enough to offer up a spot on the rock next to him. I accepted, and wow, there is nothing chattier then a guy who has been catching fish. Once I got up on the ledge with him I peered down in to the crystal clear water and to my amazement before me was a pod of about 30 Lake Trout.

According to my new friend, as the water rises, the rapids (just to our right) in this section of the river becomes so intense that it more or less blocks fish from continuing up stream, creating an artificial and impassible boundry. Causing the fish to stack up until the water is dropped again at night. This slack water pool that we were fishing was not only full of Lake Trout but also held a few Steelhead.

I flopped my sinking head and Orange glo-egg into the water (Picture 5) and within secs I had a Laker on, but within secs he was off. The fish were bolting right underneath us, as we were standing on a rock shelf and the fish were persistent in taking cover on its opposite side. The gentlemen I was fishing next to was able to land his fish with the help of #25 test. My #15 floro was snapping the second it touched the rock ledge. So after 4 or 5 lost fish I decided that this was not going to work out. I thanked my new friend and headed off in search of some more water.

About two hrs later I found another cove similar to the one I had tangoed with the Lakers in. This time the water had a bit more movement so I could effectively swing a fly without any added weight. I call this my comfort technique. Five or ten mins of diligently covering water elapse and then BAM . I have a nice head shaking strike right along a seam. You have to really pressure these fish right off the bat so they don’t make a b-line for the ultra swift current. Those of you who complain about trying to land fish in the high Salmon River flows got nothing on this :P I still have not gotten a look at what’s violently shaking at the end of my line but I suspect it’s a steelhead because it lacked the dead weight of a salmon. I was able to strong arm the fish just enough to keep it from drifting into the rapids and after a two, maybe three min fight I successfully beach my prize on a flat rock.

I was amazed at what I had. Until today I had never seen a Sturgeon in real life, let alone catch one while swinging a purple egg sucking leech! My heart was pounding and I had a grin from ear to ear! He came in at just over #9 on the Cabella’s grips, a few pics and he was off to his honey hole in about 45 secs.

I fished for another hr without a strike at which point my tummy told me it was time to find some fast food.

What a great day! I tangoed with some Lake Trout on the fly, but none landed :-[ And the days crowning jewel was my first Sturgeon! ;D