Sight Fishing To Bone Fish by Mark Usyk

We started the summer off with a ton of rain. This creek was blown out, high and brown more often than not, and the few days that it was fishable were singles in between weeks of non-fishable conditions. Now it’s gone to the opposite extreme. The rains ceased a couple weeks ago or more and the Oriskany Creek is low and clear.

As I stand on dry cobblestone creek bed I scan the shallows, there is a deeper channel that runs about twelve feet out from me here and there, inconsistently. I believe in this deeper water is where I will find the fish, taking refuge in what little darkness they can find. The water is so clear that in most places I can see everything as if I were looking through the glass of a fish aquarium, even as the deeper channel darkens on the bottom, I can still make out rocks and fish shapes. After walking and silently surveying the creek I finally see the rolling of golden bronze along the bottom just downstream of a large rock on the bottom. I remove the small streamer from the hook keeper of the glass rod. The sink tip line shoots through the guides without effort and with only one false cast a mixture of tan rabbit fur and natural Mallard flank feathers touches down with a dull slap on the opposite side of the creek. I give it two twitches to get it into deeper water then strip it back to me. It takes four or five times, adjusting the strips first faster, then slower, longer, then shorter, then a dead drift with a slight twitch now and then. The last rewards me with the first fish of the day, a small bronze back around ten inches.

Farther downstream I find myself marveling at the crystal clear water flowing slowly before me, so low and so slow it hardly makes a sound. The sun light reflects in bright lines against the leaves above and a leaf floating along here and there are the only evidence of the waters movement. The only hues come from the green bordering and overhanging the water, the full branches giving a hint of green as the water gathers the light from all around it and absorbs the color from the dry world above it. I move slowly along, as if I were one of the fishermen I read about in the magazines in articles about sight fishing to Bone Fish on salt flats or huge browns in the spectacular crystal clear rivers of Patagonia. I spot fish and freeze. I send the sink tip line rocketing through the guides of the 5wt and I’m rewarded a couple times by quick battles with silver scales and bronze brawlers. Fall Fish and Smallmouths.

Downstream just a bit farther the water widens and gains depth for a short stretch, the sandy bottom absorbing all the light filtered through the green foliage and creating a pocket, a space of unknown. I wade to just over my waist and as I scan the bottom out further to where I only now can make out slight shapes in the depth before nothing at all I see fish swimming to within eight or nine feet of me. They ignore the streamer and circle back and forth in agitated patterns. My presence has given them lock jaw but not sent them for cover.

It’s a small streamer, no more than an inch and a half at most. I inspect the knot, I straighten rabbit fur, and I send it some thirty odd feet to the far bank and give it time to sink low as it slowly drifts downstream. This volume of dark, deep pool will bring the best of both Smallmouth and big minnow, the Fall Fish, to me today. Clear water. Beautiful conditions. Black vertical stripes and blotches against a greenish-bronze and silver scales compete for my memories of the day.

Just as the sight fishing of pure and clear Patagonia rivers and gorgeous turquoise salt flats of the Keys are thousands of miles away, so is work which is merely a ten minute ride from here. So is my house which is only several hundred yards away. And so is the road on the other side of the trees, maybe fifty yards or less. The silver scales of the Fall Fish. I am sight fishing to my Bone Fish. Everything is thousands of miles away.