October: The Perfect Fishing Outfit

Babes In Boyland, a Mad In Pursuit Diary


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Irondequoit Creek is a short walk from our condo...

In October, before the margarita party, before Maria and I set out to prove ourselves in the cold, Rochester enjoyed a stretch of golden days and I went fishing. Grabbed the ultralite, tied on a salmon hook, and stuck a vial of spawn sacks into my vest pocket. And for my Thermos, a robust Chardonnay. 

Irondequoit Creek is a short walk from our condo – through the parking lot, across Penfield Road, behind the strip mall, and bordering on some sort of minor industrial park that produces Lord knows what.

The walk felt good. I like it when the sensations in my legs reveal the shape of the terrain, which here in Rochester was created by a receding glacier, leaving in its wake a vast field of drumlins -- streamlined mounds of debris lined up along a northeast-southwest axis, like overturned spoons. In other words, it’s hilly.

But even closer to home the gentle rolling of drumlins goes all quirky. The wooded hill behind my condo shoots up at an angle that would terrify a good skier, hits a crest, then falls at a near-vertical pitch. These high narrow ridges snake around like ribbon candy between the roads and housing developments. I’ve tried to figure this out and still don’t have a good mental picture of the geological action, but apparently there used to be a river winding through here, draining into the ancient predecessor of Lake Ontario. The river was diverted by the ice, leaving a long narrow bay… and my creek.

If all you do is drive, you’ll never notice Irondequoit Creek. The bridges that cross it here and there are tiny anonymous things. The banks are lined with stubby trees and rotted logs and prickly clumps of bushes. Paths appear, then vanish. Dropping below strip-mall level, it has a wild, secret feel. In fact, as I hike along the secluded parts or scramble under bridges, I get a sudden spooky chill. At heart I’m a city girl, suspicious of what lurks in the leafy shadows.

But what I love is donning the persona. Baseball cap and jeans of course. A plaid flannel shirt over a fraying green tee-shirt and, totally cool, my fisherman’s vest with just the right tool in every pocket. My shoulders square up and my stride lengthens. If I can avoid looping my line over a tree limb, I can pass for one of the initiated, softly exchanging bits of information with other fishermen as our paths cross.

I didn’t catch any fish, but I fantasized about buying waders

I didn’t catch any fish, but I fantasized about buying waders – they’d get me out to the better pools and let me spend more time in the water instead of threading my way through the undergrowth.

I didn’t catch any fish, but I was thrilled to see them – giant salmon who put up a wild fight when hooked by the rare fisherman who explores these suburban backwaters. I was even more impressed when I saw one of the big guys leap up a three-foot waterfall. To tell the truth, he stalled out at the top and slipped back into the pool below, but still, what a sight. Where is the hoopla? Where are the media? This felt like my secret – the parallel universe behind Blockbuster’s and the Chinese take-out place.

I hiked along a narrow tributary – Allens Creek. The salmon here were sluggish, in no mood for bait, making their peace, preparing to die. I stood for a long time staring into the eye of a yard-long silver streak just under the surface. The breeze-swept water made it hard to tell if the beast was moving or not. No, I decided. It was dead. I got a spooky chill and walked quickly to the noisier rapids.

Time for a nip of something. I’ll get some waders, I thought, as I stretched out on a warm slab of rock and stared into the flame blue sky, the sound of rushing water in my ear. I sipped the Chardonnay. I’ll figure out how to hook one of those creatures and we’ll have a grand battle before we go our inevitable separate ways.


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