Sunday, February 4, 2018

Old Faithful

Old Faithful
 I remember when I first got into fly fishing in my 20's. I had bought an inexpensive rod and reel just to try the sport out before investing too much money. I remember my first expensive rod. I wanted a fly rod made in the USA and checked reviews to see what my choices were. Fly fishing in Pennsylvania I felt a 8' 6" rod length in a 5 weight would be the best all around choice for trout form small creeks to bigger streams. My first 'expensive rod' was back in 02 and was a 2 piece Scott SAS. It is a medium/fast action and from the time I got it, it transformed me into a better caster and made me enjoy the sport of fly fishing ever since. It cast Woolly Buggers as well as small #18 dries. It is a little stiff to today's standard quality rods but for some reason we worked well together.
 Now a days I have an assortment of specialty rods from medium to fast action. a couple of bamboo rods and quite a few Fiberglass rod. The SAS doesn't get used much any more but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Actually if someone comes along and doesn't have a rod I'll let them borrow it for a day. It is a fish catcher!! I don't think I ever got skunked with it and have had a few people catch their first trout on it. Other than that it is my rainy day, bad weather rod. With a natural non-glaring blank It doesn't show any abuse marks from nicks/scratches or dried rain/water spots on it. Sure, the cork grip shows wear but other than that it really doesn't show the wear for all those years and bad weather it's been used during.

 The morning was overcast and rain was in the forecast for later on in the evening. The late morning temperature crept above freezing. I suppose it was in the 40's something by the time I got to the project area of Neshannock Creek. I was already dressed pretty warm for the over hour drive down. I put on a pair of neoprene chest waders for more warmth and gathered my gear on the tailgate. My intentions were to take out a vintage fiberglass rod but when it started to sprinkle I decided not. I reached into the back seat and pulled out the two piece Scott SAS. I sort of chuckled to myself knowing that now a days it only sees bad weather fishing.
 Down at the creek the water was running on the faster side and a little high but I expected something like this with all the snow melt we had the previous few days. There was still a few snow piles in the parking lot and also a few areas of snow on the ground beneath the trees across the creek where the sun doesn't reach. Though the air was a bit warmer than the past few days, I'm sure the water wasn't going to change much in temperature. This is the kind of creek I never know what the catching is going to be like. Sometimes it may take a while to find what they want but other times it might just be I have to be lucky enough to get one to open it's mouth for a meal. With the cold temps I didn't expect they would be moving around much but I started with a Woolly Bugger anyhow. I scoured the area pretty thoroughly but couldn't get anything to strike any of the color buggers I offered. I resorted to nymph fishing.
 It took some time, patience and persistence but the first strike came with just a delicate stopping of my fly line that looked unnatural even for a snag. I wrist set the hook not too aggressively just in case it was a bottom snag. When I felt the movement on the other end I wrist the rod with a little more of a forcing tug to make sure of good hook penetration. The fish wasn't too aggressive but did put up a short energetic swim around before I got to net it.

 The next strike came during a cold showering rain. The take was more evident as the fly line took a sharp dip as my stoneflies were drifting slowly in a deep pool of water. I set the hook with confidence that it was a trout. Sure enough the trout retaliated with a sharp head tug before taking out line. I tightened my cold wet hand over the cork grip and held the fly line with my left hand controlling the tension. I watched as the fly line started to rise from the water depth and then I watched the trout take air. He came completely air born with it's tail flapping to and fro as if swatting pesky gnats. It reentered the water with a splash and dove deep. I noticed it was much bigger and fatter than the first trout. It put up a more exciting fight and I let it swim about without any over powering resistance on my part. Being the bite was real slow I didn't know if I'd get another hook up or not so I enjoyed the fish tugging on the line.

 I fished another hour trying my hardest for one last catch. I switched patterns often and even moved around a bit more. The only thing I caught was a small sucker and I suppose it just happen to yawn when the nymph I was using drifted in front of him.
 In the approximate 5 hours I was there, a few other fishermen tried their luck but didn't stick around very long. I imagine it was because of the cold rain and that the fish weren't really biting. I never seen anyone of them hook up to any trout. Old faithful came through again with at least a couple fish.
 By the time I exited the chilled water each foot felt like they were molded in a block of cement and I had ankle weights strapped on. I couldn't feel my toes but at least they weren't hurting. After changing clothes in the parking lot I grabbed a sandwich out of the cooler and sat in the truck till it warmed up a bit inside.
 Rolling north on I79 I lit up an Alec Bradley Sun Grown, turned on some rock and roll and traveled up the interstate towards home.



Monday, January 22, 2018

Ice Breaker

Ice Breaker
1/19, 1/20/2018


 As we looked over the creek the fishing part of it looked bleak. The creek was frozen over with only narrow passages in shallow water where water flowed between the ice edges. The deeper hole was frozen solid but Joe assured me that there was steelhead beneath. In the tail out the water was shallow and the only open water was between each bank side and ice. I didn’t drive all the way up here to just find a new place to fish, I came up here to fish’m.
 In the below freezing temperature it took us 3 hours of breaking the ice to open the water enough to fish. During that time we seen a few tails as we broke up and moved ice slabs from 2” to 3” thick. Seeing a few tails of steelhead kept us going.
 It wasn’t long after we broke up the ice my body temperature started to cool off. I noticed my feet were getting cold and I suspected from all the stomping around made my feet sweat and now the coldness of the water was taking over. Other than my feet and hands I was pretty much heavily clothed to fight off the freezing temperature. I greased up the fly line, leader and guides with lip balm to keep them from freezing up. It was suppose to reach 34 degrees around 2:00pm but until then we might have to fight frozen lines.
 With the ice jammed in the shallow tail out slowed the deeper water hole that there was hardly a flow on the surface. In fact trying to drift egg patterns were practically a non-drifting issue. With the wind, at times, would actually drift the indicator upstream instead of down. Finding this was such a slow process, besides boring, we decided streamer fishing might be a better choice to get the steelhead active.
 In the next couple of hours bugger fishing, as well as triple threat streamers, brought some hook-ups and fighting fish to the surface. I didn’t have my camera because I was afraid of maybe falling in the water while breaking up the ice. I did manage 3 nice big male steelhead with hooked jaws besides a few fat females. Joseph caught a few also. Before we took a break, and Joe went for some coffee in town, I figured I went 6 for 7. Wasn’t a bad reward so far after the 3 hour break up ordeal.
 While Joe was gone I went up to the truck to get my camera. The outside temperature was warming up a bit and I took the time to add some much needed leader and tippet to my line. Though it was still cold it was obvious, since we’ve been out here so long, the air temperature was above freezing. Continuing fishing the guides weren’t building up ice which was a good thing.
 The sun shined through the opening in the clouds and brightened the snow that lay along the banks. The surface water reflected the sun rays and the ice glistened with sparkling effects as the translucent clouds passed below the sun. Now and than a breeze would feather by and the smoke of my stogie would whisk away a little quicker. Shadows formed on the water with the sun behind us. If anyone walked behind us on the bank their moving shadows would spook the steelhead and they would be seen swimming around for a bit till things settled back down. It wasn’t sight fishing by any means but sometimes swirls in the surface water would give up an idea where a pod of fish might be. There seemed to be two groups of steelhead that stuck together in the big pool. One group seemed to like to hang out in the front of the pool where Joe was fishing and another group appeared to hang out in the rear of the pool where I mostly was fishing. We were surprised that it was only us fishing the water most of the day but I would imagine the cold temps and anyone that knows the creek figured it was frozen over and no fool would take the time and effort to break up enough of the ice to fish. Wrong!!

 By the time evening came upon up we managed a few more fighting steelhead before calling it quits. Joe didn’t live too far away but I had a 45 minute to hour drive to my daughter’s house where I was spending the night. We both agreed to meet back up early Saturday morning and give it another whirl. The weather temps were suppose to be in the upper 30’s so we were hoping a little more ice would break up and give us some more available water to fish.

 A couple of Fridays catch.

 Saturday 1/20

 I arrived Saturday morning before Joe. There were already 2 other fellows fishing the hole with spinning rods. They said they had caught a couple of fish but they seen a few fish hiding under the ice. There was a thin sheet of ice that formed on the surface water over night butting up to the thicker ice slabs in the tail out. In the front of the hole there was also another thin layer of ice. Why the two guys didn’t break up the thin ice was beyond me. It would have scattered the steelhead and make fishing to them a lot easier. Maybe they were afraid to get their waders wet? I sure wasn’t going to break it up for them. In about a half hour they got bored and left. I immediately walked in the shallows and broke up the thin layers of ice in smaller sections. I also took time to break up some of the bigger slabs of ice in the ice jam to clear a path for a better flow. I found the ice in the shallow water above the hole was still frozen to the bedrocks so it wasn’t possible for me to break it up. After that I went back to fishing. I hadn’t caught anything before Joe showed up but the sun was creeping above the tree line and I was hoping it would warm up things and get the fish active.
 We caught a few steelhead early before people started to show up to fish the hole Joe and I opened up. 

 One guy, using a spinning rod, cross creek was fishing from the bank. He caught quite a few while he was chumming for them with single eggs. Any time someone walked the opposite bank or waded in the water on the opposite side a school of steelhead would move and hold in the tail out down stream from where I stood. I kept pretty much still as to not to spook them away. They wouldn’t go after the triple threat that I let drift and than strip in front of their face but they didn’t appear to be spooked as long as I didn’t plop the thing on their heads. A new tactic was needed to get one to take.
 I took the split shot off so the triple threat wouldn’t make too much of a splash and cast beyond them to their left as they looked upstream. I was up creek to their right and I watched as the triple threat streamer drifted about 6 to 10 inches in front of the pod. Once it sat on the bottom I twitched it just enough to show a little movement. Within seconds a steelhead slowly moved to my offering and sucked it off the bottom. I jerked the rod up for the hook set and watched the steelhead give a hard head shake and then took off towards the deeper water. I held the cork grip tight and let the steelhead splash about tiring itself out. I was standing on the bank so I stepped into the water to get a closer angle to get the fish on the snowy bank.

 The steelhead had scattered because of the commotion but they soon returned when another fellow entered the creek on the other side. The slow drifting and letting the triple threat just lay on the bottom worked again and I had another fighting steelhead on a tight line.

 When they no longer wanted the triple threat I resorted to an olive bugger. It was harder to see in the water but I knew if it was close enough one should take notice. Watching the pod of steelhead I saw the white mouth of one opening. I waited a brief second and yanked the rod up for the hook set. The fish immediately churned up the water and the rest of the fish scattered like huge cockroaches when a light is turned on. This steelhead gave me more of a lasting fight and Joe helped out netting it for me.

By the end of the day we put up with the many other anglers around the small area of open ice. We caught our fair share at least I was satisfied. 

Some of Joe's catches.

  It was fun while it lasted. We left the pool to a few anglers still trying their luck. I finished my stogie while changing into riding clothes, bid Joe farewell, and headed south down the road.
 I'm going to have to remember to tie up some Olive Buggers and Ghost pattern Triple Threats for Joe and I for the next encounter. 


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Roughen it For an 8 Point

Roughen It For an 8 Point
11/26 thru 11/28/2017

 Not having a conversion van anymore I decided to rough it out for buck season out of my pickup. I bought one of those truck tents that fit over top of the truck bed. I bought the one without a floor. I figured in this way I would have plenty of air flow when I use my small propane heater to keep it warm inside. With an air mattress, heavy sleeping bag, a couple of blankets on top I was warm enough during the night in 27 degree weather. Of course I only lit the heater while I was awake but that was mostly because I had to get up a couple of times to relieve myself. 

 I set up camp along East Hickory Creek. Jeff stopped by Sunday and helped me out arranging stuff and after that we headed up over the hill to scout around. We marked out a trail with orange ribbons and both of us picked good spots to make a stand for the first day of buck. 

 Monday morning I woke up to that 27 degrees the weatherman called for. I Changed clothes in my sleeping quarters and went outside to make breakfast and a hot cup of coffee. Jeff was staying at his camp 25 minutes away and pulled into my camp about 5:40am. We started our journey to our hunting spots about 6:00am through the morning darkness with flashlights. I over shot my expected spot, I was suppose to find, a little higher on the mountainside than I intended. When I decided to pick a tree to rest beside I put on a sleeveless sweatshirt and bundled up in the morning chill. At first daylight I looked down the slope and seen the orange tape I had put around the tree the day before. It was about 100 yards away so I was at least in the general area and felt a little better about my choice.
 It was quiet in the morning with maybe a slight breeze now and then that rattled the beech leaves still on the saplings. Now and than I would hear a vehicle in the distance along the roadway in front of camp. Besides that I kept my eyes open looking for any sign of movement and my ears tuned to any crisp crunching on the dried leaf forest floor.
 About 10:30am the only thing I seen was a black squirrel foraging for food. I slowly moved down to my intended place to sit and sat there till 11:30am, still without seeing a thing. It was time to go find a deer.
 I spent the next few hours roaming the mountain side. I saw 2 young doe up on top of the mountain running and caught a glimpse of a deer moving at a good pace through the forest but couldn’t tell what it was. It had its nose to the ground and from about 100 or so yards away it passed by so quickly I didn’t have a chance to scope it out.
 I met up with Jeff around 2:30pm. He hadn’t seen hide nor hair of a deer yet. We decided to drop down to the flats about 4:00 and see if the deer were hanging lower. When we scouted Sunday there were a lot of sign of turkey scratching and maybe the deer would drop down to feed also because they sure weren’t running the ridges around us. I slowly made my way along the ridge towards where I sat in the morning which was a good piece off.   Being I didn’t see any deer there all morning I decided if I found a good spot to stand it out till 4, I’d sit there for awhile. I came to a tall pine that split two shallow ravines that ran up the mountainside. It was if the land came out to a peninsula between the ravines. From there I was able to see down hill a good piece besides to my left. To my right, facing down hill, there was a bunch of beech saplings so visibility wasn’t very far but I should hear anything sneaking thru.
 I sat against the tree with my 300 Savage cradled on my lap. I had taken the sweatshirt off while I was walking so I didn’t have the warmth it gave me in the morning. The evening air was still cold. The breeze had picket up considerably and brought with it that wind chill factor that made it feel a few degrees colder. I had my scarf wrapped up to my ear lobes and my collar up on my zipped up parka. 

  I heard the crunching of deer trotting down below before I got an eyeball on the deer. A doe crossed below me about 130 yards or so and than continued up hill to my left staying about the same distance. I easily was able to see it was a young doe but lifted the rifle anyway to be on the ready. I got a glimpse of another young deer following and when it stopped I quickly got it in my scope. It too was a baldy. When it turned its head to look behind it down hill I got a silly smirk on my face. I just had a feeling it wasn’t a person they were trotting away from. Holding the rifle up I took my eyes from the scope and looked down hill. There he was following the doe with his muzzle down to the ground and looking up now and then searching for the fleeing does. Its rack looked as white as the ivory tusks of a bull elephant in the forest background. There was no doubt the buck was legal. That second doe gave his position away!!
  Quickly my thoughts were on the situation at hand. I figured the buck would follow the doe up hill at the same distance and give me a broadside shot at some time. It may be a moving shot in between the trees but I felt good that I would get a shot off so I wasn’t too anxious to make a bad hurried unpredictable shot at the moment. Directly below me the buck turned towards me, about 130 yards or so. I grinned a little and knew this would be the time. I had the crosshairs on his nose with no interference from any branches whatsoever. As soon as he turned his head to his right, my crosshairs were on the base of his outstretched neck and, I pulled the trigger. The 300 Savage boomed breaking the peacefulness of the forest.
 Somewhere in heaven I imagined my Grandfather hearing that familiar sound of the 300. I suppose my father in heaven could almost taste that delicious venison shoulder roast he loved so much.
 The buck stumbled backwards in an instant. It turned away and I watched it stumble between the trees, trying to keep its balance, trying to escape his unfortunate circumstances. In about 30 yards I saw him fall for the last time. His white belly hair was easily seen from my point of view.
 I stood and clipped my hot seat and water bottle to my belt. I fastened my fanny pack around my waste and checked to see if I had chambered another round in the rifle. Sure enough there was a live round in the chamber. It’s like instinct any more. As soon as I shoot I work the lever action for another round without even thinking about it. After making sure the safe was on I slung the rifle sling over my shoulder and headed for my kill.
 Upon arriving to the buck I glanced at my watch and it was 3:15pm. The body of the deer looked pretty heavy for a mountain buck and I worried about the drag back to camp. He sported a nice symmetrical bone color rack with 8 points to its total. I leaned my rifle against a tree and put my orange parka over the barrel for all to see. It was time to go to work and gut the deer.
 Though the drag was mostly down hill I came to the conclusion I was out of shape. I also realized my body has caught up to my age though my brain hasn’t accepted how old I am. Once I got to the road I was pretty whipped with sweat running down my spine. I was only about 40 yard from camp but since Jeff had a deer hauler hitched to the back of his truck I decided to just wait till he came down from the mountain.
 After Jeff and I hung the buck from a tree branch we enjoyed a celebration beer. He took off to his camp soon after.

  After I got a fire going to warm up I changed into dry clothes for the evening. For dinner I cooked up some venison butterfly steaks and ate by the fire. For dessert I sipped on bourbon and another beer. 

   I fed wood to keep the fire hot and burning brightly. I sat in solitude thinking about the days events. Listened to an owl hoot at the three quarter moon high above the pines that surround me. The creek water flowed and tumbled nearby and on occasion a gentle wind whispered through the pines. It was a long day so I didn’t stay up very late. The 300 Savage came through again this year, one shot one kill.
 Tuesday morning I took my time breaking camp in the morning coldness. By 10am I had the buck in the bed of the truck and everything packed ready to go. I poured water from my 5 gallon jug over the fire pit and looked around to make sure I didn’t leave anything.
 Just before taking off I took out an Alec Bradley Sanctum and carefully nipped off a portion of the cap. I made sure the foot of the cigar was evenly lit and climbed in the driver seat for the drive home. The aroma filled the inside of the cab as gray smoke got whisked away through the partially open window.
 When I got to route 666 I turned left and headed toward Whig Hill taking the more scenic view way home!
Another successful buck season in the books.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Project Healing Waters Steelhead Slam 2017

2017 Steelhead Slam
Project Healing Waters
Nov. 4th, 2017

Project Healing Waters; Guiding Veterans for steelhead
Gathering Sight; Folly’s End Campground, Girard PA.
Waters fished; Elk Creek, Tributary of Lake Erie
Hosted by; Skip Hughes PHW Regional Coordinator with Co-hosts Debi Hughes.

 The morning was dark but was full of conversation and excitement. Here, some of the Veterans picking flies for the steelhead fishing.  Many of the flies were donated by the facebook group Fly Tiers Anonymous.

  Once daylight came Veterans and volunteering guides gathered together in groups and headed out to their steelhead fishing destination. Three private landowners opened their private waters on Elk Creek for the Veterans the day of the event.
  The water conditions were just about perfect. The rain the previous days raised the water level and there was no doubt fresh fish moved upstream.
 Among the participating veterans were three veterans from Oklahoma who drove to Erie Pennsylvania to participate in our Project Healing Water steelhead event. There were about 30 Veterans in all which a bunch of us experienced fishermen volunteered to guide these Vets to help them catch steelhead in the Erie Tributaries. One of those Oklahoma Veterans was assigned to me. It took quite a few hookups throughout the day and lost fish before he finally got one to the net. It felt good when he came up to me after dinner and thanked me and for teaching him a few pointers of fly fishing and fishing for steelhead. Really genuine!

Duane with his first steelhead.

 Here are some other pictures that were taken of Veterans, their guides and the fishing experience.

 We left no Veteran that wanted to wet a line behind!

 Afterward dinner was served at 2:00pm
 Thereafter awards were given and all Veterans received many donated gifts. New friendships were made and camaraderie was shared by all!

Skip Hughes Regional Coordinator and master of ceremony.

Donated by one of our master fly tiers. Tom Herr

 Randy receiving Volunteer of the Year from Skip Hughes.

 A special thanks to Jim, owner of Folly’s End Campground, for letting us have the event headquarters on the premises.
 Thanks to the private land owners for giving these Veterans an opportunity to fish for steelhead without interference from crowds of other fishermen.
 Thanks to those who donated gifts and food dishes.
 Special thanks for the volunteers who took time out of their day to guide these Veterans for an experience of a lifetime.
 Thanks to all the Veterans for serving our country!!
 And last but not least, thanks to Skip Hughes and his helpers who took the time and commitment to put this all together to make the Steelhead Slam 2017 a big success.