Trout Power!

It looks like there’s going to be a little trout fishing tournament on West Canada Creek, the big trout river smack dab in the middle of New York State,

Kim Ernst of Holland Patent, N.Y. fishes West Canada Creek. Photo by Jordan Ross.

in June.

Most events like this are pretty laid back; the participants may fish to the best of their abilities, and may engage in some good-natured chops-busting with their compet­itors, but the twin goals are almost always to have a few laughs and support a good cause.

The cause in this case is something my friend Jordan Ross has taken to calling Trout Power. Ross, who lives in Whitesboro, near Utica, is the owner of JP Ross Fly Rods and president of the Fly Fishers Anglers Association, so you can guess that his personal interest in the West Canada is its trout fishing.

But he sees Trout Power as a way to boost the whole West Canada Valley — and not simply as a fishing destination. It is, as I can say from pleasant experience, a lovely area that would appeal to a wide variety of people, with plenty of nice local businesses — shops, restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts — that would happily support visitors who want to bike, hike, bird-watch, leaf-peep or just relax.

“Success to me looks like this,” Ross said. “Somebody drives through Middleville, Newport, Poland, and says to their spouse, ‘I want to Google this area. It looks like a great place to stay.’”

Of course, there are considerations. The fishing on the West Canada is subject to the whims of Brookfield Renewable Power, which operates a hydroelectric plant on the creek. The company has for years frustrated anglers by “pulsing” its flow — pushing higher amounts of water through its turbines at those times of day when the electricity produced is most valuable on the open market.

Through most of October and November of this year, which are normally good months on the West Canada, an angler on the creek in early afternoon would be fishing in about 1,000 cubic feet of water per second, only to be sent scrambling for the shore when another 1,000 cfs came surging through the turbines and down the valley. That’s no way to fish, and no way to treat a trout stream.

So Trout Power’s ability to contribute to the local economy will depend at least partly on the way Brookfield Renewable Power operates its power plant. Ross has had a chat with the local congressman, Richard Hanna, about this.

Then there’s the asphalt plant proposed near the West Canada — and even nearer its tributaries — in the town of Russia. West Canada Riverkeeper has been bird-dogging this project, and Ross hopes that if it moves forward, it will include the strongest possible safeguards for nearby waterways. (Of course, he added, the proposed plant’s immediate neighbors will likely have further concerns, such as truck traffic, noise, smell and impact on property values.)

Trout Power doesn’t rely on banning hydro power or manufacturing from the valley, Ross said, but it does require that they don’t harm the West Canada. It’s been the region’s top attraction for a century, back to the time when Trenton Falls rivaled Niagara as a tourist destination.

Ross is working to enlist the support of other local businesses in Trout Power. Meanwhile, plans for the fishing tournament are firming up. The likely time frame is the second week of June, which will coincide nicely with the town of Russia’s annual chicken barbecue and with the Green Drake hatch. If the weather’s good and Brookfield Renewable Power shows some respect for the natural resource that’s responsible for its profits, it should be a great time and a compelling demonstration of the power of trout.

Check out www.troutpower.blogspot.com for updates.

Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at morganlyle@gmail.com.

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