Irondequoit Creek Foray: Gearing Up

Babes In Boyland, a Mad In Pursuit Diary


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Sunday, July 16, 2000

After our success in Canada, Maria and I decided to press on with our ambition to become fisherwomen… and to define for ourselves a women's (or maybe a grrrlz) version of the sport. We went out Friday and bought fishin' poles (nothing annoys the guys more than referring to rods as poles) and got our licenses. (I think our emerging philosophy might be "act like grrlz but haul in the big ones." Our Canadian picture of Maria lifting her 18" largemouth bass out of the water set our reputation on a good track around the office.)

We set out yesterday morning at 6. Gearhead that I am, I brought along a padded reel case full of extra hooks, pliers (for extracting hooks), clippers (for cutting lines), bandaids and betadine (in case hooks needed extracting from our very persons), mosquito repellant with sunscreen, and toilet paper (what do women worry about most in the woods?). And of course we had to have coffee.

Our destination was Irondequoit Creek, which runs within a quarter-mile of my town house. It's a feeder stream into Lake Ontario and plays host to steelhead trout and salmon. And it's a beautiful setting: rapids and quiet pools lined with trees — a hidden oasis from all the suburban strip malls and highways just yards away.

We only caught one fish (the tiniest sunfish either of us had ever seen) but we picked up a lot of lessons.

#1. Scrambling over slippery slabs of rock with fishin' pole, shoulder bag, Thermos bottle, and mug isn't wise, even with the best lug-soled Tevas. Today I'm aching all over, with a giant bruise on my butt, where landed when my feet flew out from under me. Action plan: buy one of those cool fishing vests.

#2. Line… ugh! For a while we thought we'd spend the whole morning untangling our reels and our French spinners from line that seemed satanically independent. By the end of the morning we at least had a working relationship with the line. The line around the reels was behaving and tangles elsewhere were swiftly and surgically dealt with — tasks, not disasters.

#3. Casting. My only knowledge comes from looking at diagrams in books. I can summarize my history of fishing on one hand:

  • Deep-sea fishing off the coast of Maine, maybe 1985. Essentially just dropped the line off the side of the boat. Nobody showed me anything except how to bait the hook. Caught a dogfish and another undesirable that the "guide" summarily yanked off my hook and threw back.
  • Same trip, Jim gave me lessons in surf-casting, but we caught nothing and it all remained a mystery to me.
  • Trolling off the shore in Grand Cayman. Developed my skill at threading a shrimp onto a hook but didn't really cast and didn't catch a damn thing.
  • Piranha fishing off a dock in the Amazon jungle. Used a stick with a line wrapped around it; raw beef on the hook. No casting required. Had a lot of meat snatched off and one lucky fish "that got away" because I couldn't manage to set the hook.
  • Canada: success at last. And I managed (usually) to cast, but without method or art.

So, yesterday I practiced: distance and placement. I improved although it was still a mystery to me why sometimes my overhand cast was perfect and other times the line dropped behind me… Speed? Confidence? Inner tranquility? Action plan: get a teacher, before my bad habits are irreversible.

#4 Find out where the fish are… and when. In March, Irondequoit Creek is lined with fishermen. Yesterday it was only us two, plus a lone guy practicing his fly-casting.

We had asked our male friends, but maybe not exactly the right question. "What do we need to catch fish in Irondequoit Creek?" We's been advised on such-and-such a brand and size of French spinner. "Okay, is this the right set-up for Irondequoit Creek?" we had asked the guy at the tackle shop. "Su-u-u-re."

We aren't yet wise enough to catch the patronizing little smirks. Sure, honey. Action plan: Find a guide, preferably female — our own private tutor, not just for the how, but for the when and the where.

When I got home yesterday I consulted the Yellow Pages. No guides listed but hmmmm a County Fishing Hotline. I called. The recorded message gave very specific info: where the fish were biting, what kind, how far from shore, at what depth, and what they were apparently attracted by. Cool. The Truth is Out There.


Irondequoit Creek: DEC Public Fishing Information

Channing H Philbrick Park Trail (formerly known as Linear Park), along the Irondequoit Creek in Penfield NY

The Falls Trail -- historically important place for goggling at salmon as they head upstream

SGOH-SA-IS-THAH ("smashing water against rock") Falls at Philbrick Park.