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TROUT ANGLERS LET A SMILE BE THEIR UMBRELLA

If rain falls, they will come.

They did.

Both trout and trout anglers have moved up Lake Erie feeder streams with the arrival of rain and gradual runoffs that have lifted waters to passable and fishable levels from Buffalo to Barcelona.

"This rain is just what we needed," said Jim Markham, senior aquatic biologist at the Department of Environmental Conservation Lake Erie Unit.

Markham, specializing in cold-water species, noted that Cattaraugus Creek, with its depth and volume of flow, had been the only stream active early this fall trout season.

"Actually, a relatively cool summer with plenty of rain resulted in early trout catch reports for Cattaraugus Creek," Markham said. "Aug. 17 marked the first catches; usually first stragglers begin showing sometime during the last week in August."

This season, trout arrived early, including older, big rainbow/steelhead trout along with the young, energetic steelies. Rick Miller at Miller's Bait & Tackle in Irving began hearing customers' reports of bigger trout moving up Cattaraugus Creek in mid-September.

Markham had survey reports of trout all the way up to the Springville dam and Scoby Hill Road access in September.

"The (Seneca Nation of Indians) Reservation area was good, with fishing pressure higher than usual for early fall," he added.

Smaller feeders drew less water than Cattaraugus, but Markham said, "Canadaway Creek has a lot more fish than people think -- often in cover that can't be fished. Chautauqua Creek, like Silver Creek and Eighteen Mile Creek in Erie County, had trout holding off its mouth."

Anglers and interested onlookers throughout that period of rainless, low water have been giving colorful descriptions of a large school of trout that enters and just stages in a pool below the Old Lake Shore Bridge.

Now, rainbows can get upstream there and in many other smaller feeder streams.

Add to the rainbow/steelie stock a few bonus browns. "We should see a good run of brown trout this season," Markham said. It's the result of stocking begun in 2002.

"We put in about 35,000-40,000 8- to 9-inch yearlings for the past three seasons and had a good run last year," he said. Growth rates could put these browns at 8-10 pounds and heavier in 2004.

He got a report of a 12-pound brown on Cattaraugus Creek. Pennsylvania has regularly stocked about the same number of brown trout as New York before 2002, but browns didn't begin showing in good numbers in New York waters until after the 2002 stockings.

Buffalo anglers do not have to travel far to find streams to walk and wade. Buffalo Creek has seen a trout run in September, unusual for fall fishing.

"Normally, brown trout begins to show in December, with good water flow," said Chuck Godfrey, past president of Western New York Trout Unlimited and current president of Erie County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs.

Godfrey, a recently retired math teacher, has been dividing his time between coaching track at Williamsville South High School and adding to his catch -- and mainly release -- numbers of trout from area feeder streams.

"Trout had been pounded as soon as they entered Eighteen Mike Creek," Godfrey said.

Recent rainfall has pushed fish upstream and given fishermen access to trout on most streams up to their first impassable barrier.

Dyed eggs have worked well for Godfrey. He also pointed to successes trout anglers are having with the newer float rods and center-pin reels, specially designed long-reach rods with reels that easily spool off line to simulate bait that naturally floats downstream.

Bill Begier at Bill's Hooks in Dunkirk has been experimenting with these new rods and reels.

"They outfish hook-and-sinker spinning rigs," Begier said. "I've seen guys get hits on every other cast when float-drifting with these rigs."

High or low waters, warm or cold days, Lake Erie feeders offer an early start to winter rainbow/steelhead trout and added numbers of brown trout this season. With many anglers out on big-game archery and other hunts, stream pressure could be off for numbers of fellow anglers, but just fine for stream fishing.
e-mail: wille@pce.net