Monday, November 28

Combat fishing: Drainage ditches run in funny places.

Allentown's urban streams require speciality equipment.
And not neccessarily "ha ha" funny, either.

One might surmise I had to augment the usual equipment for this (extended!) weekend's jaunts, and you're right. I took in two new places I'd been thinking about in the past, and since one was in a not-so-good area (or so I'm told), I figured I'd have to add something with a little more punch than the usual 5wt.

With all the rain and my distinct distaste of high water, when I got my chance to go out this weekend I decided to take in a new place I"d driven over many times, but never bothered to look at. A friend told me a new park had opened in Catasauqua, and I figured since I tried something new on the first chance I got, I'd try something different on the second chance: A look at Trout Creek in the middle of Allentown's most upscale neighbourhood.

I'd driven over Catasauqua Creek in its namesake town so many times, and every time I cross over the bridge on Race Street (or whatever it is, who cares its fuckin' Catty, for fuck's sake), I always wondered if the channelized drainage ditch harboured anything alive, or if it was basically an open sewer enroute to the largest open sewer of all the Valley, the Mighty Lehigh River. A friend of mine recently asked on a forum if anyone had ever fished Catty Creek due to a new park that opened up, and it seem extremely fishy looking.

When art meets life.
A quick check of the map put this in my footprint, so I decided I'd run out and take a look at what was going on. I was advised that it was "great 3wt water, maybe lighter" so I promptly packed my drainage ditch rod, the 5'9" 3wt CGR and drove off to the new park.

First thing I noted, it literally is a drainage ditch. That was unexpected, I mean, sure I call them that, but it hardly seems I'd ever find something labeled as such, but sure enough, the shiny new signs in the shiny new park proclaimed it to be the Stormwater Recharge Area. The next thing I noted is that one man's drainage ditch is another man's Awesomely Sized Creek. Guess what, it ain't my idea drainage ditch, and I felt woefully undergunned with that little tiny 3wt rod. However, after cleaning everything out of my car after the break in, its all I had, so you make due.

Am I supposed to wade there?
Turns out, Catty Creek was swollen with some serious water. It was surprisingly deeper than I expected, and moving quickly. It was also that nicely greenish colour you want, cold (to feel) and pristine looking. This wasn't at all what I expected based on my idea of the lower end of the drainage, and was pretty excited to fish, expecting lotsa life.

Well, OK... tell you what, it looked fantastic. There were plenty of faster sections, some deeper stuff and some riffly areas. It rain through a "wetland" area, and I'm entirely not sure if I was supposed to fish it or not. The banks weren't clearcut at all (until you got down to the posted area by the ranch), lots of over hanging branches but mostly devoid of decent instream structure where I was at. There was also no, none, nada, sign of piscine life. I witnessed some smaller mayflies and a midge hatch, but nothing came up and nothing took what I had to offer (which wasn't deep due to the little rod).

Catasauqua Creek, cont'd.
All in all, I've been told there's life in the lower reaches, and up at the head waters. This section looks like it could be teeming with fish, and would probably benefit from some instream structure. The park is brand new, there wasn't much sign of instream trash, and as there's a high school only a couple hundred yards away at one point, I wonder if it wouldn't be possible to motivate the students to do stream improvement? I can't wait to go back with rod capable of tossing some weight and trying to get down a little bit, or to go back when hatches will have fish looking up.

The top of Trout Creek Park.
Having been moderately pleased with my first foray into something new, I decided that I'd try something else new on a different day. I'd been planning on visiting Trout Creek in Alientown a long time now, but had always shied away due to what people say about the area. I prepared by adding some new gear to my repertoire, removing anything of value from my car (yep), and carrying only what I felt I'd need for my sojourn. Having been somewhat surprised by the largeness of Catty Creek, I figured I'd upsize (and go cheap) and carried only the 7' Eagle Claw rod that cost me nothing and that I love to fish.
Is no one is immune to car
jacking and joyriding, eh?

Guess who made the wrong choice. Turns out, Trout Creek is what I'd consider drainage ditch sized, and would've been a dream to fish with that little 3wt rod. Also, despite everything I've heard about the area, the immediate surroundings to Trout Creek Park and Mack Park (next to each other, and Trout Creek flows through both) didn't look nearly as bad as I was lead to believe. Don't get me wrong, go a couple blocks in the wrong direction and it gets sort of shady looking, but the immediate area seemed entirely OK.

Then again, its the end of November. Maybe the homeless bums (hey, there's a difference!) were at the Rescue Mission taking advantage of the Thanksgiving stuff. Yes, I know, you're thinking this sounds callous (you have read this fuckin blog before now, no?) however people assure me in the summer you'll find people bathing in the creek. That's a damned shame, too because Trout Creek left me really impressed.

Its a project, not The Projects.
I mean, first off, its obviously a serious project water right now, based on the amount of instream improvements, bank stabilization, planting, and everything I saw. Turns out, Trout Creek is under major assault by the City of Allentown and a group of like minded conservationists. So much so that I don't feel bad about openly saying there was a crapload of fish in this stream, real fish, too, not just suckers.

Now, for the casual reader who's looking for dinner: Don't bother. 99% of the fish I saw were small, but the thing is, there's numbers here that impress the shit out of me. Its a goddamned shame that I felt the need to carry serious hardware with me to go fish this stream, because its really that nice. There's a myriad of springs feeding the water, its clear and inside the park was amazingly trash free. A major amount of work has been done planting riparian buffers (which look like they got nailed in the recent floods) and bank stablization (grass laid over new rock embankments). There's more work to be done, but its not nearly as silty and nasty as, for instance, the Little Lehigh is.
Yes, that's a tire in the mid-
dle of this weedy spring.

Like many other places in the lesser Lehigh Valley, it amazes me sometimes to see how a tiny little ditch can flow through the center of an urban sprawl. If you look outside the thin tree line, or up an embankment you'll see sprawl and parking garages, but right down in the thick of it, you can be standing knee deep in a cold spring, with the realization that you're less than 10 miles from your doorstep.

Bottom of Trout Creek Park.
The saddest thing isn't the garbage, the wonder if you're going to find your car window smashed, or the fact that the two fish who took your fly didn't get the hookset.. Its the fact that this tiny little stream has been overlooked so hard, and probably will continue to be so. For all of the previous reasons, for apathy, and because local anglers will seek out the big names and ignore this tiny little subclass of stream. All of the hardwork being put into this stream (and the others that deserve better, like Nancy Run or Catty Creek) will end up being ignored because who'd think there'd be something this wonderful in the heart of Allentown's shitty districts?

Both streams are on my return list, Catty because its close by, well sized, and I'm sure must contain fish. Trout Creek worries me, its just really an unreputable part of town, but after seeing what it is now, and where it could be I want nothing more to really enjoy this.

Hopefully without resorting to extra equipment, or filing a police report.


  1. I scouted Trout Creek up near the Kmart plaza in Mountainville once. Walked it for quite a distance and saw absolutely no signs of life so this post surprised me.

  2. One time as we sat together, sharing in conversation, my husband mentioned how much he'd love to show me this special fishing place in Canada and how pretty it is. Joseph Fabiano