Oak Orchard Brown Trout


  • Dan Neuland Special to the News-Post
  • Dec 14, 2008

IN THE FEW short years I have been writing an outdoor column for The Frederick News-Post, I have had the pleasure of meeting some outstanding individuals that contribute one way or another to the outdoor world we all enjoy.

Last summer, through e-mails, I began contacting artist Mark Susinno, of Harrisburg, Pa., with the idea of writing a future column about the artist and his incredibly naturalistic underwater gamefish paintings. In order to mix business with pleasure, I offered to arrange an excursion to one of my favorite fly-fishing destinations and share my fly-fishing expertise. This would provide the opportunity to get to know the artist/fisherman whose paintings I have admired for years.

Fortunately, both Susinno and his wife, Roxanne, are avid fly fishers and they accepted my invitation. We decided to try the fabled waters of Oak Orchard Creek in upstate New York for lake-run brown trout.

The Angler

Lodging reservations were made for the last weekend of October at the comfortable Cedar Valley Bed and Breakfast on the east bank of the "Oak" in Waterport, N.Y. The Oak flows through Orleans County on its way to Lake Ontario on the western New York shoreline. We planned to fish the fall run of brown trout as the big browns followed the salmon on their annual spawning runs up the Lake Ontario tributaries.

Roxanne once lived in upstate New York and was familiar with the steelhead and salmon fishery on the Salmon River, located on the eastern side of Lake Ontario. But neither had ever fished Oak Orchard Creek.

Water levels were low and clear, which made for very slow fishing conditions. Fishing success on any Great Lake tributary often depends on sufficient water levels that entice numbers of fish to enter and move upstream from the lake. The browns follow the salmon upstream and feed on the abundance of salmon eggs while they wait for their own spawning period, which takes place a bit later in the fall.

Mark and Roxanne were not dismayed by the slow conditions and they fished hard from dawn to dusk. At the end of our second day of fishing, Mark's persistence paid off as he succeeded in landing a beautiful male brown trout that weighed about 8 pounds. This nice specimen provided him with the reference material he sought for a future painting. Using an underwater digital camera, he photographed the fish as well as the river bottom with its characteristic gravel and plant life.

The artist

The trip was a wonderful way to learn more about Susinno and his artwork. He is a Maryland native who attended schools in Prince Georges County. Susinno credits his high school art teacher for her inspiration and guidance as a young artist. His artistic abilities in high school earned him a four-year, full-tuition, merit scholarship to attend the prestigious Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in 1979, Susinno worked on non-art-related jobs for a number of years in New York and eventually moved back to Maryland in 1984.


The return to Maryland provided the opportunity for him to learn fly fishing from his younger brother, Byron Susinno of Gaithersburg. Susinno acknowledges his brother's influence in developing his strong interest in fishing, particularly smallmouth fishing on the Potomac River. At about this same time, he decided to combine his artistic talents with his fishing interests. He entered and won the 1986 Maryland Trout Stamp contest with a painting of a brown trout, an impressive artistic accomplishment.

This success further inspired Susinno to concentrate on art professionally. Since then, he has specialized in painting underwater depictions of freshwater and saltwater gamefish and in scenes of fly fishermen pursuing their sport. Along the way, Susinno has added 20 more fishing stamps to his list of credits, including the 1991 First-of-State Pennsylvania Trout/Salmon Stamp and the 2005 First-of-State Texas Freshwater Stamp.

His artwork has been featured nationally on a variety of magazines, including Art of Angling Journal, Gray's Sporting Journal, Sporting Classics, Field & Stream, Sports Afield, Fishing World, Fly Fisherman, and many others. Susinno's artwork has also been published in the following books: Lefty Kreh's "Advanced Fly Fishing Techniques" and "Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing," Patrick Seslar's "Wildlife Painting Step-by-Step," Alan J. Robinson's "Ode to Bass and Trout," and many others.

Susinno's respect and appreciation of the sport of fishing is evident in his fine paintings. "I'm a fisherman and that fact affects how I approach making paintings of game fish," he writes on his website. "I enjoy suggesting the sense of light and space of the shallow-water aquatic environment, but I also feel the need to present the fish themselves such that they are recognizable to the average fisherman, who is most familiar with how a fish looks when it is out of water.

(Contact Dan Neuland at steeliedan@xecu.net.)