Friday, February 27, 2009

Dad's Presence

“Watch this dad”
I thought out loud
almost loud enough for my own ears to hear
“There dad
beneath that branch”
another subtle rise appear
I strip off line
estimate distance
for I didn’t want to come up short
I wanted to again
impress my dad
he never did share my sport
Sure he taught me
and coached me ball
i have trophies on the wall
We vacationed lots
cities and beaches
hotels we stayed in all
But the wilderness
is what I longed
hunting, fishing and camp
My dad didn’t
share this interest
i learned this from my gramp
Don’t get me wrong
for I loved him
yes, loved him all the same
Though he never saw my shot
kill a deer
i shared with him my game
My dad
was busy working
his time was shared by five
I, well i
was the different one
still I never felt deprived
Back in ‘03’
the grace of God
finally touched his feeble lip
Since that time
he’s shared my passion
for he’s now with me on every trip

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bats, Browns and Wulff's

"What was that you said?" I asked, Jeff stood there motionless.
"I’m afraid to move!" Jeff said.
"Why? Can the trout see you?"
" No,….

It all started with a simple romantic evening, back in august of 2004, as my girlfriend might have put it. I picked her up for a cycle ride and we were to enjoy the afternoon and evening down by the river at her special rock. I think all women have these special places somewhere, where they can sit and relax, maybe read a book or to just get away from the hectic life for awhile. Maybe they think about where their life is going, who knows? When I have any of these problems that irritate me, I go fishing to relax and get it out of my system.

Anyhow, we drove up through Cooks Forest State Park. Pass all the picnickers, walkers, bike riders and so on. Out of the State Forest we pass a few cottages. The river was still filled with canoeists and kayakers. Every once in awhile we would pass a vehicle now and then parked along the side of the road. Maybe a fishermen or women was out there casting worms or spinners to the smallmouth or whatever. We finally came to the pull off of the side of the road at her favorite rock. The rock jutted out a few feet into the river. The top of it was flat enough to sit and picnic upon and above the river enough not to get wet. Upriver from us and along the bank the river slowed into a large pool as the rest of the river flowed before us. We laid the blanket on the rock. I opened a bottle of wine while she took out the cheese and crackers. We sat there enjoying the sunshine, cool breeze, wine and crackers. A few canoeists would pass by now and then.
We chit chatted and as the afternoon turned into evening she did most of the chatting as I did most of the listening. Like I would hear a splash now and then of a fish feeding on dries. Finally I got a glimpse of a swirl up river, in the pool, from where we sat.
The bank was a small incline of ferns and overhanging trees. The middle of the river still flowed with good current. Many mountain streams feed the Clarion river but during the summer time it warms. I always figured it would be good smallmouth fishing but never took the time to go out and try it. Besides during the summer time you would have canoes, kayaks and tubers to contend with.
As we sat there finishing off the wine, as I was still listening and watching the water surface, I swear I seen a flash of a fish about 10 yards in front of us. I’m sure it wasn’t the wine playing tricks on me. As I watched, what had to be a nice size trout, come up to the surface, backtailed downstream inspecting something on the water and gulped it down. It was too long to be a smallmouth and the right shape to be a trout. I also thought I seen that unmistakable pinkish lateral line of a rainbow. Within a minute or so a little further out, in front of a rock, another fish broke the surface. Now that was a trout, what’s it doing down here? They don’t stock the Clarion River down this far. It’s many, many miles upstream. Also I would think any trout finding it’s way to the river from the stocked mountain streams and creeks would stick around them in the cooler waters. I do remember back quite a few years ago I fished the mouth of millstone where it emptied into the Clarion. That was in early spring and I caught browns chasing minnows in the morning and brookies in mid morning feeding on nymphs. Again that is many miles up river.
The evening was turning to dusk. We gathered everything up. Packed it on the bike and headed for home. Umm, trout and smallmouth in mid August, in the same river. No doubt where I’ll be next weekend.

When I got home I had to check the P.A. atlas and found that a creek flows into the Clarion just above OUR favorite rock. Bingo, the creek is stocked with both fish commission trout and a local fishing club.

The following week I got to OUR favorite rock with fishing rod in hand. I had tied Humpy’s and Wulff’s in a few different colors on size 12 hooks previously in the week. I needed a fly to float high on top of the water and big enough for the fish beneath to see it floating down the current. Plus with the white calf tail wing would help me distinguish the fly from the riffling water. I didn’t get any gear on to get into the water just yet. I had to test the waters, as they say, before committing myself to indulge any further. I was sure I was able to cast a tannish orange colored Humpy to the rainbow I had spotted last week. Even with not much clearance behind me, from the trees and brush, a quick pushing forward cast, with my med-fast action rod, should get the fly far enough in front of the rainbow. With a little luck, he might not see me on the rock or maybe just naive enough to take the fly, being he may have never come in contact with an artificial. The second cast proved me right. He took it without hesitation. The fight was short and I released a nice rainbow at least 16". I didn’t have enough room to cast to the trout further out and the smallmouth’s that were feeding in the slow water last week were harder to throw to. Besides it was the trout I was after.

The next day I float tubed the River from above where the creek came to OUR rock and caught smallmouth, mostly on olive wooly buggers, and trout if various sizes on Wulff’s and Humpy’s. The test now was complete. Now to invite my fishing buddy Jeff. After calling him and talking about the fishing it didn’t take him long to make a decision to drive up from Pittsburgh and give it a try.

Thursday I got off work early. Cruised down to the river in my van, geared up and met Jeff who was already fishing. We caught a few in the shallows where the creek first comes into the Clarion and then preceded to fish down stream. Again Humpy’s and Wulff’s did the trick. We caught a few trout and smallies. Towards evening we headed back up river. I was still fishing a pocket of slower water in between the riffles as Jeff was fishing above the riffles in the slower water with dry’s.
I heard him mumble something from upstream and turned my head to get a better ear for what he was saying and less current noise.

"What was that you said?" I asked. Jeff stood there motionless
"I’m afraid to move!"
"Why? Can the trout see you?"
"No" he said, "There’s bats flying around all over the place."

Looking into the evening sky bats were darting every which way. Any fishermen knows when the bats are flying above the water, bugs are a flying also! As I walked up river Jeff was still deciding to fish or what, I’m not sure. Just for safety, not saying I’m superstitious or not, I tucked my hair up under my hat and stood myself just below him. I tied on a Royal Wulff, size 12. I just started casting up river randomly and watched as my fly floated down. The bats were now skydiving and hitting the water surface. It was hard to tell what may have been fish feeding or bats picking up surface flies.
After a short bit, as the sunset lowered, I got a grasp on the frantic situation. This is one of those fishing moments you have to quickly get over the excitement, calm down and figure out what best needs to be done to catch rising trout, but do it quickly before dark. I soon recognized a swirl out about 20 or so yards. There was no mistaken a fish was holding in the same spot. It would come up far enough, breaking the surface water, to suck in a fly. My first cast was a few feet in front of him but before my Wulff could drift to the fish, he had already come up and grabbed a fly. Timing sometimes is everything. I took a breath and casted again, the pink fly line looped forward followed by the tapered leader and wulff pattern. The fly fell onto the water in front of him and this time the white calf tail wing disappeared!
A quick yank on my part, followed by a healthy splash on the fishes part, a tight line and a spinning reel told me I had him and he was a nice one. But what was it? The fish itself stayed down in the water. This told me it wasn’t a rainbow. The fish didn’t slash hardly at all, it just muscled its way to whichever way it wanted. I walked up river a bit to try to keep it from running too far downriver into the faster water. The sunlight that was left had now disappeared and only the full moonlight kept our vision alive. Jeff moved down river from me and waited patiently with his net. As I drew the fish closer I could see it looked to be a heavy trout. Jeff said the glare from the moon reflecting off the water left him without sight of the actual fish. I said I’d try to steer the fish to him and hopefully he can pick up on the water disturbance and net him. After a couple of close calls, Jeff finally netted the brute. A nice heavy brown about 20". Dark upper body with that dark burnt crusty color just above it’s off white belly.

We called it a day and headed back to the vehicles. The bats continued to swerve and dart into the moonlit night. A warm blanket of air blew upstream, a branch off in the woods cracked, in the distance a cycle whined down the road. Cheese I said!!!
__________________________________________~ doubletaper

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fly Fishing on the Brain

___________________________________March 27. 2006

First I don’t want you to think that this writing is about flyfishing some chalk stream in England. It’s not about a new, found, mountain lake out west or a secretive unexploited, uninhabited river somewhere in British Columbia that has native brook trout the size of watermelons. This has to do with the winter doldrums.
Fly Fishing on the Brain is more like a virus. I usually get this in March. This virus will last until the first day of trout season here in Pennsylvania, which is the first Saturday after April 11th. This year I got this virus real bad. The virus has infected me in February.
This is not to be confused with cabin fever. Cabin fever I can deal with by relieving the boredom by tying flies, going to a flyfishing shop or actually going fishing for a short time on a warmer weekend in the middle of winter. Watching a fly fishing program with a beer in hand and a plate of munchies can also calm down cabin fever. Fly fishing on the brain is completely different.
Let me explain.

Like I said before, Fly fishing on the Brain is more like a virus. It hangs with me constantly around March to trout season and like I said this year it all started in February. I constantly am thinking about flyfishing for trout during a hatch of some kind. I got most of my flies tied for the new season and can’t wait to try them out. Everything I do during this time, I am thinking about fishing, whether it’s at work or even going to the bathroom. I got to take a fishing magazine with me, a fly tying book or fly fishing catalog. I can’t get to sleep at night because I’m thinking about where I’ll fish the first day or wondering what the weather will be like so I can prepare to start at another creek than what I previous planned. For all you hunters of deer out there, this is like the way you feel the night before the first day of buck season or a trophy hunt somewhere. No matter how early you try to go to bed thoughts keep going through your mind about some big monster buck you hope to get a shot at. It just keeps going over and over in your mind until your brain gets exhausted enough to shut down and you finally fall asleep 2 hours later.
This virus doesn’t seam to go away. Sure I can go fishing for steelhead in the Lake Erie tributaries. Throwing gumball color egg patterns or some fluorescent shaded fly or streamer but what am I actually imitating? It’s just not the same thing as matching a blue wing olive hatch or a caddis hatch. Early nymph fishing with stoneflies eases the virus some, but doesn’t cure it any more than steelhead fishing. You might think, “Well tie flies!” no way, this is even worse while I got the virus. Every time I read a known Pennsylvania flyfishermen introducing a new or secrete pattern I got to tie some of them. This only adds delirium to the virus because this gives me one more thing to think about of where to use these new flies and will they work?? I don’t dare go into a sports store flyfishing department or fly shop during this time, at least not with my wallet or credit cards. Seeing new fly tying material, new fly tying pattern books or gripping a fine expensive, semi-weightless fly rod and I’ll start getting those virus symptoms.
First my hand will start to shake as I lift an expensive rod off the rack. I’ll start sweating at the palms as my hand feels the smooth cork grip. Glancing at the burled box elder wood insert will bring a cold shiver down my spine. Looking down the thin tapered shaft and at each wrap over the titanium guides along the beautiful coated finish. Feeling the lightness as I lift the rod. My brain will automatically sense the floor beneath my feet as if I’m in a stony brook stream. I might hallucinate, forget where I am and start to back cast. I’ll get dry mouth, as if in a desert, and picture in front of me an oasis with a pond big enough to hold trout and cast the rod somewhere down the aisle watching and feeling the flex at the tip of the rod. This is what I’m talking about, Fly Fishing on the Brain!
Just looking in a fly fishing catalog gets the virus symptoms to act up. I ordered a new 7’6” 4weight, 4piece fly rod this year. I haven’t got it yet but just looking in the catalog brings sweat to my brow, wondering if I ordered the right fly rod. Will I have to get used to the fly rod as to change my casting stroke? Will the cork handle have the right feel as my other rods do? Will I be able to quick cast side arm or a short overhead cast so I won’t get caught up during my back-cast on obstacles on the small creeks I’ll be using it for? Will it come apart while casting like my five-piece fly rod did and have to send it back to the manufacturer for a replacement? Looking in the catalog I’ll see maybe another rod I like or maybe should have bought instead, questioning my background check on the rod I ordered?

Every morning I awake to a brighter day outside. Through the window Spring is near, though the cold frigid morning air doesn’t want to give up the wintry feel. The robins are already chirping and scavenging around, just like the first week of trout season. It gets me tensed up sometimes knowing that the early trout season seems so close yet so much more time to wait for the first major May fly hatch.
Walking out in the morning on my way to work a cold wind slaps across my face like the early spring mornings of so many past spring fishing experiences. My van sits in the drive, warming up, begging me, “Let’s go fishing?” Once I’m out of the hustle and bustle of morning traffic I drop down the road, on my way to work, and as I cross the bridge overlooking the Clarion River the virus symptoms return. I recall last fall float tubing the river up in Cooksburg casting and catching trout and smallmouth on Humpy’s and Wulff patterns. My knees get weak as I daydream about float tubing until the guy behind me beeps his horn when my van slows because my foot is no longer on the gas pedal. A time lapse, it happens every time I see a body of water flowing between two forested banks.

A break in the weather last Sunday got me going to the closest flyfishing only stream for a couple of hours. Caught a bunch of trout with nymphs and a new cress bug pattern until I couldn’t feel my fingers any more and didn’t have enough strength or mobility in my fingers to tie yet another fly on the tippet. This calmed the virus down like a menthol throat lozenger soothes a sore throat for a short period of time. Long enough to have a beer at the local bar and smoke a stogie after a short successful day before going back home. Hanging my neoprene’s up to dry down in the basement and as I put my fishing gear bag on the table smelling the scent of fresh fish on my fishing net. Putting my rod case up against the wall next to my other rod’s in My Room. Seeing the in-season fish stocking copies on my bookshelf started the symptoms all over again. I wanted to pick them up and reread them like I have so many times since last Saturday. My fly tying desk begging me to sit down and tie flies to make sure I’m really ready for this season. Even looking at the date on my calendar gives me frantic goose bumps seeing the picture of a guy casting a rod in the middle of Kettle Creek.

I sit down and think of pleasant thoughts. Like the time my boys and I were up at Kettle Creek. It was a cool early morning in the second week of June. I dropped the boys off upstream so they can fish down to where they can catch up to me. I drove down the road and parked along side of the stream. I got my gear on and started down towards the stream when I saw something move up ahead to my left apiece. A lone deer was feeding in this early morn just beyond the skunk cabbage upon the forest floor. I noticed down along the stream fog was lifting slowly. I crept back to my van and got my 35mm camera. Put on the zoom lens and started back towards the stream. I got a few pictures of the deer pawing and eating. Then I decided to walk down to the creek. Setting the aperture and adjusting the focus I got a few good picture of the fog rising from the creek. Already I noticed dimples on the water and took some photos of trout sipping midges. I remember how content I was, relaxed, calm, no fly fishing on the Brain virus.
Daydreaming on my fly tying chair the last thing I remembered I was stooped on one knee casting a #16 blue quill tied to a 7x tapered leader to one of those quiet sipping trout…… Z-Z-Z-Z-z-z-z-z

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Hollow Stare

I select a fly of fur and quill
tie tippet to the hook
_strip line from my arbored reel

__across I take a look
A long legged blue against the shore
searching for its prey
_with its long bill, attempts to gore
but the fish, it swims away

I cast my fly, in mannered steps
before the tangled limbs
_the fly it sinks within the depth
__and drifts along its brim
A certain nudge, I take action
set the hook without despair
_my quarry, in its reaction
__leaps into the air
With butt in gut, as line i feed
I hold on tight for sure
_the fish it runs but soon recedes
__wrestling it in, first score!

The great blue fowl, watched me the while
now it stands to stare

_and me, I just smile
__he resumes as not to care
He then proceeds to his task
again he strikes in vain
_riffling water, need I say?
__his prey escapes again

I cast on out, and watch my drift
slow and steady as the norm
_again a nudge, again a lift
__again a fish air-born
Butt in gut I hold on tight
The beast its fight, a chore
_but I withstand its strength of might
__yet another score!

Now eye to eye I wink at him
and watch that great blue fowl
_his hollow stare, he opts the limb
__Me? I just smile
I cast my fly, below his eye
it sinks before him there
_my line drifts by, I set my fly
__another fish takes air

With outstretched neck and pointed bill
he spears my fish in spite
_I look on “is this for real?”
__with fish, the bird takes flight
In flight, the hook it gives way
as I stood there a stare’n
_and that’s the day I’m proud to say
__I outfished a Great Blue Heron


Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Mountain Goat Fishing"

_____________“Mountain Goat Fishing”___________________
I had just lost my job. My youngest son was graduating from high school while my oldest son was graduating from college and my #2 son just loves to fish. I thought why not take a few days off, get out of town and out of the state and go fishing with my boys!!

I called them up and asked them if they were interested in going somewhere in early June fly-fishing and they all said great. I checked ideas over that were within driving distance. I know Pennsylvania has tons of blue ribbon trout streams but I wanted out of the state. There’s something about getting away, far off, that seams more like a vacation and you can relax more. I chose to plan the fishing down in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. I checked web sights and got guides, a fully furnished cabin nearby to stay in and the ok from my boys. I called Jeff to see if he was interested. Two days later he said ok, he wanted to spend a little more time with his son-in-law, Chris, anyhow and this would be a good chance.

By luck one of the top stories in my fishing magazine was “the perfect 10 flies for fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains.” Everything seamed to be going right. I started tying some of the patterns.

The plan was for my youngest son, Jesse, and I to pick up my eldest son, Jeremy, from Pittsburgh on Thursday morning. Giddeon was leaving from the North Carolina coast early Thursday and will fish until we get there. (The owner of the cabin stated that there was a trout stream within walking distance). Jeff and his wife were meeting their daughter and son-in-law earlier in the week in Ashville. From there he and Chris will head down to the cabin and said he’ll have deer burgers on the grill by the time we get there. On the Thursday we left the plan seamed to be in full swing. I got an e-mail back of where we were meeting the guides on Friday morn.

As I followed the direction to the cabin and turned up a country road I spotted Jeff’s truck down the stream parked on the side of the road. So much for the deer burgers! As we continued up the road, looking down towards the creek, there sure seamed to be a lot of outcropping of rocks. They almost looked like big marble and granite looking rocks. The water was clear and I’m sure there were rainbows just waiting to be tamed a bit. Oh well, off to the cabin.
Giddeon’s car, son #2, was parked in the drive. The cabin was beautiful. It was Log siding and a big front porch. The inside had all the necessities and more. So far it looked like I did a good job with the planning. We just got our baggage in when Jeff pulled up. We said our hellos and he started the burgers. He mentioned he caught a few rainbows on nymphs but nothing was rising. We were enjoying our meal out on the porch discussing Friday morning. Jesse just started fly-fishing, so he and I would take the guide who also teaches fly-fishing. Giddeon and Jeremy will hook up with a guide and Jeff and Chris will take the other guide. It was just turning to dusk when a figure of a young man came walking up the drive. Fly rod in hand and a backpack slung over his shoulders. Giddeon finally showed up from fishing. He lives in the city now and doesn’t get to fly-fish much so when he gets the chance he takes full advantage of it. While we all sat there enjoying the time a dog come waddling over, walked up the steps, checked us all out and plopped himself on the porch floor. We just guessed he came with the place. Sort of gave the place more of a homey feeling.

We met the guides the next morning at the designated area. We introduced everyone and got into their vehicles for the ride up to the fishing creek. When we got there we all gathered around for the days plans. We’ll be fishing for native brookies and browns. The guide said we will be fishing dries. Showed us and explained about high sticking with our fly rods. We’ll be fishing in pools and pocket waters moving upstream as we go. At around noon we’ll meet back up, eat and then drive to the upper part of the stream and end the day there.
Jesse, our guide and I walked down stream a ways before we got into the water. He tied about a #12 yellow bodied stimulator on Jesse’s tippet. I showed the guide some of the flies I tied and he suggested an Adams variant. It’s a yellow-bodied fly with grizzly wings and grizzly hackle on both front and back of the fly. As they were fishing while I waited I checked out the scenery. There wasn’t a fly in sight. The weather was already warming up but the water in the stony creek was still cool. There would be no problem with casting, for the canopy over the water was quite high up unlike most small streams in Pennsylvania. The hardwood trees stood pretty straight with few lower branches. Hardly any brush or over hangs crowded the stream banks. In most parts the stream was only about 10 yards wide at max. We were fishing a flat area that didn’t decline very quickly so the water flowed gently, running around the boulders into pools and than shallows. Most of the pools were up against the banks. We were only casting about 4-5 yards upstream. Letting our line settle than mending in slowly just enough not to have too much of a drag while high sticking our rods. My son Jesse is left handed and casting mostly from the right hand side of the bank. The guide was patient and informative as Jesse followed his instructions.
The first rise came quick and surprising. Jesse was way late on setting the hook but he got excited. We fished awhile before I got a strike and I was late on the take also. Those natives strike quick and you got to be ready, that’s for sure. I had switched to a peacock bodied fly and started to get more trout interested. Jesse and I would take turns following each other up stream fishing. Jesse finally landed a nice 7” brookie. The colors were beautiful. I had caught a few also once I got the hang of keeping my line straighter and quicker on the draw. That morning I caught the longest out of all of us. The native brown was about 10”. It fought well. I never seen a stream bred native brown so that was pretty exciting in it self. The hallo spots and a very wide tail for such a small trout.
We got together for lunch and Jeremy and Jeff had landed a few trout also. Giddeon and Chris were still fishless but they did have rises but just missed them. From here we were driving up the stream for a “little mountain climbing.”

We pulled up to the end of the road. Jeff’s party headed down stream while the rest of us headed upstream along the path. Jeremy’s group split off a ways, while we continued up the trail. We finally arrived at the stream after a sort of steep decline. The scenery was beautiful. Water cascaded over rock shelves and huge boulders lined the stream here and there. In some spots the trees crowded the banks but the water was still able to be waded and running clear. The water ran a little swifter due to the greater drop in elevation. Rocks and stones still was the majority of the stream floor. There was still no fly to be had but fishing earlier proved that the native trout would still rise if you give them cause.
The guide tied about a size 14 Adams looking fly on my tippet with a light greenish body. Jesse stuck with the yellow-bodied stimulator but only a size smaller, about a #14. The guide took Jesse upstream while I started at the point of entry. Short casts, high sticking and quick reactions caused more fish to be landed than not. Back in Pennsylvania the higher and more upstream you go the thinner and shallower the water gets. Not here, the stream seamed just as wide and with good flow as down below. I kept an eye out for the guide in front so I can tell where they fished and were they skipped pools and left for me. It was so peaceful and quiet. The sounds of water trickling over rocks and every once in a while hearing Jesse calling down he caught another brookie made me feel great.

I got up to this nice piece of water the guide had left for me. As I studied the situation the guide was on his way down to see how I was doing. The water before me trickled down off a small rock shelf from the left bank spilling into a small pool of water. The main stream flowed directly around a big boulder and then the water fell down hard into a deeper poll. As this water fell from around the boulder, upon entry, some of the current flowed along a rock shelf towards the right bank. From there it slowed while it flowed under a rock ledge. About midway, in the shadow of the rock ledge, a limb from a tree had settled in and only a bend of the branch protruded above the surface water. From there the water eddied back and met with the main stream where I stood.
“Looks like a good spot for some fish to be” the guide said. He stood back to my left.
“Yep, I think I’ll start left and work my way to the right.” I was standing just to the right of mid-stream.
My first cast landed the fly right in the middle of the riffle to the left. The fly bobbed up and down with the riffle but no takers. I threw to the left and right a few times towards the left bank and still nothing.
“There should have been one in there!” the guide said
I was quiet concentrating on my casts. I false casted to dry my fly than placed it just left of the main waterfall. The fly stayed a float and flowed with the quick current. Still nothing. To the right of the water falls, watching the water just waiting for something to rise at any moment just a few yards in front of me, nothing. I flipped the fly up against the rock edge just right of the waterfalls in the slow current. I didn’t want the fly to go under the rock ledge yet, so I backed up the rod tip and let my fly flow along the shadow to bright reflection of the sun just on this side of the exposed branch, still nothing. I flipped the fly back to the rock edge and let the fly follow the same path.
The guide was still standing behind me and being pretty quiet.
“How am I doing?” I asked just to get a response from him.
“I’m just standing here enjoying watching you cast” he commented. “You’re pretty darn good!”

Now I never fished with any so called experts. Most of the time it’s just me. I do fish a lot and though I really didn’t know how professional I looked or casted I get the fly where I want it and that’s what counts. Just knowing that this guides comments were genuine almost had my hat fall off my head from swelling up. I thought this guide has guided many fishermen from Wisconsin to down here in North Carolina. I’m sure he’s seen all kinds of casters. To give me a compliment like that made me feel exceptionally great.

He knew on my next cast I would be going under the ledge so he suggested me moving to the left side of the stream for a better angle. I thought in silence 'you want to see finesse fishing, I’ll show you.'
I calmly said “that’s alright I’ll stay here.”
Fishing in PA. in small brushy streams I learned how to manipulate my fly rod to get the fly where I want it in tough situations.
I false casted, side arm, towards the left bank a couple of times. On my last stroke towards the left bank I brought my right casting arm to almost touch my left fore arm. With a quick backhand of my fast action rod, I shot the line out towards the rock ledge on my right and than came to an immediate stop. Let some line out of my left hand than pinched the line again and dropped my rod tip. My line backed up a bit at its full draw and came to rest softly against the far rock edge just beyond the rock ledge as far back as possible with enough slack for a nice drift. This let my fly line stay out of harms way of the exposed branch by letting the fly flow down first before my fly line. As my fly drifted under the ledge I must have been impressed with my cast. A mouth appeared to take my fly just behind the branch. I might have had too much slack and by the time I pulled up the fish escaped the hook.
“Man he looked like a nice one!!” the guide commented.
“Son-of-a-gun, I had him dead to rights too!” I commented back
I casted again and put the fly in the same spot. Even knowing there was not another chance in hell for that fish I just had to try. Before my fly line got hung up on the exposed branch I flipped it out of there. Without saying anything I quickly backhanded a sidearm cast just below the exposed branch. The cast was so fast you couldn’t see the fly until it landed on the water just beyond and down stream from the branch. Without hesitation a fish came up, a sharp jerk and I hooked into a 9” brookie. I landed him but both, the guide and I new this wasn’t THE ONE.
We fished till almost dark. We met up with the rest of the gang. Everyone caught a few and missed a few. We all enjoyed the scenery and time spent. We thanked the guides after they dropped us off and headed back to camp.

We entered camp and the aroma of deer roast and moose roast, in the crock-pots, enhanced our sense of smell and appetites. Jeff uncorked his homemade wine while the boys grabbed beers. We sat around the table eating like Robin Hoods merry men after a good hunt and wilderness adventure. After the boys cleaned up and put the dishes in the dishwasher we went out and sat on the porch. Two dogs now lay on the porch relaxing. I sat in the wooden rocker and Jeff handed me an imported cigar. This is the life!!

“So how’d you like that Mountain Goat fishing?” Jeff asked
“What do you mean Mountain Goat fishing?” someone else asked
“Climbing over those rocks and boulders all day long trying to hook up and land a few fish!!”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Palomino...... or Two

A Palomino…or Two

Jeff had called me up earlier in the week and said he had a few days off in May and was planning on coming up my way to do some fly-fishing. He was coming up on Thursday and I agreed to meet him after my work for an evening of fishing. He was going to fish Red Bank Creek just outside the town of Brookville. By the time I would get there, if he weren’t catching anything, we would head up to the fly-fishing only project, on the North Fork, on the other side of Brookville. I told him I could get off of work about 3:30pm and meet him at the stream. It only takes about a half-hour for me to get to the designated area from my home.
I packed my motorcycle with my fishing gear the night before. I had just gotten a new 5-piece 9ft Damon fly rod and was anxious to use it anyway. I had gotten off work at 3:30 as planned, stopped home to change cloth, jumped on my Harley and headed to Brookville. When I crossed over Red Bank Creek, on the bridge, I pulled in the clutch and revved up the engine to let Jeff know I had arrived. I crossed the bridge and turned into the church parking lot and pulled my scooter next to his truck. Got off my bike and overlooked the stream from the guardrail, down the steep bank, to the creek. A few spin fishermen were on my side of the bank and Jeff was fishing on the other side. I gave a holler and him and his dog started my way. I noticed two palominos in the creek around where he was fishing. One palomino was in a deep pool and the other, ahead of the pool, in the shallower riffles. By the time he got up to the parking lot I had my hip boots on and was finishing up stringing my 5wt. rod. He put the black lab in the bed of his truck and we headed back down to the creek.

“I see a couple of palomino’s in there” I told him
“There’s actually three I’ve seen so far” he replied
“Any of them take any of your flies?”
“No they’re just sitting tight as they usually do”

We got down to the other side of the bank, waded in and started fishing. We’d catch a few brown trout now and then on nymph patterns and woolly buggers but the palominos weren’t interested in anything. A few of the other fishermen using minnows on their spinning rods were catching a few trout also. As the evening went on a hatch of caddis started to come off when the wind would die down. I was fishing from upstream for the palomino in the shallow riffles. He’d look at every different pattern I’d throw in at least once but never take it. Every once in a great while I’d hook into a brown trout and play him in. Jeff was in the middle of the stream by now, in the riffles beyond me, casting downstream into the larger pool where the other palomino was. Trout started to come up after the caddis hatch. Jeff and I both caught a caddis and switched over to a dark tannish-bodied elk hair caddis, about a size 14. We’d hook a trout now and then but the palominos weren’t interested just yet. It took a while and I finally seen the palomino, in the deeper pool, come up and sip something off the top.
“Hey Jeff, that palomino just came to the top.”
“I can’t see him from here, there’s a glare on the water” he said.
I sort of directed him where to cast and Jeff drifted the caddis dry fly in the general area.
He was able to see his fly but not the palomino.
He finally got a good drift over top of the palomino and the fish came up and took his fly.
“I got him” he yelled!
Line stripped through the eyes of his rod and reel and the palomino headed down stream. Jeff kept good tension on him and I ducked as Jeff crossed behind me to get to the bank. All eyes were on Jeff as he proceeded down the bank towards the palomino.
“Hey, when you need help let me know” I said
We figured the palomino had to go at least 20”.
The trout held up a little further down stream still in deep water. Jeff continued to play the fish as it continued to fight and try to shake loose. I finally headed down stream to see if I could give him a hand. The fish fought well, heading upstream, crossing to the far bank and yanking his way around the deep pool.
“You want me to net him when you tire him out?” I asked
“Ya, he’s a big one. Grab my net.” He instructed
I grabbed his net and positioned myself downstream from him in about knee high water. Every once in a while the big old palomino would swim its way towards me, but seeing me he’d lurch his way back into the deeper water. Jeff hung on and played the big fish as best he could and not hurrying. When I seen the fish start to turn on its side now and then I let Jeff know the fish was getting played out. Jeff put a little more pressure on the rod by lifting it straighter in the air. The big palomino swam, with resistance, towards me. I missed him the first time but netted the fish the next time he came around. Jeff and I both gave a whooping holler and I got the big palomino on shore.

“Wow he’s a big one” Jeff said enthusiastically.
“Ya man, he’s bigger then what I thought”
“I got a tape measure in my vest” I said and got it out.
The fish measured about 21 ½.”
“I’m done and going up to the truck” he said
“Good job, I’m going to fish a while longer”
“Jerry, there’s another one in there, get him” he sort of commented
“Oh ya, sure. I’ll try”

The evening sky was coming up pretty quick. The fishermen across the creek started to head up to the parking lot. I’d hear them talking up there and every once in a while a flash of light would catch my vision from a camera flash.
continued casting nymphs and woolly buggers at the palomino in the riffles. Like before, every time I changed a pattern, the fish would swim over to it or follow it but wouldn’t take it. The light was getting scarce and I knew I would only be able to tie on one more pattern.

I remembered back on spring creek the year before I caught a palomino on a mealworm. You know one of those worms that look like the worm in the bottle of tequila. I had tied a few look-a-like patterns on a gold 2x #10 swimming hook. I figured why not try it, nothing else was working.

I hurriedly tied one on and let it drift within the palomino’s line of site. He swam up to it, my hands ready to set the hook anytime, and again refused it. I let it hang there in the riffles and he seamed to want to take it, swimming towards it now and then, but didn’t. Now this is when finesse comes into play. I put a little more weight on my tippet. My next cast I let a lot of line out, kept my rod tip up, and let the mealworm pattern flow fast with the current right past the palomino. The palomino wasn’t expecting the mealworm to pass him that quick, he darted after it and followed it down stream a bit. I let that fly just keep on moving down stream until he gave up on it and went back to his feeding zone. I brought the mealworm pattern to the top of the water and back casted. Let the pattern plop again in the fast water ahead of the palomino and again let it drift at fast current speed past the trout. He again went after it but it drifted by quickly. My plan was working. No doubt he wanted the mealworm. It was dark by now and I’m sure he had a hard time seeing me or at least thought I had left. I brought the pattern back to the top of the water and back casted again. I was mending my line in quickly on my back cast and it ended up tangling on my rod. I calmed down and as best I could, got the line untangle and shortened up my line. This time I drifted the mealworm slower through the riffles. The golden color trout darted towards the fly, I held it there a split second and he looked like he nabbed it. I tightened up the line, my rod tip bent, and I set the hook.
Before I yelled out “I got him” the palomino ripped off my slack line in the water. I kept tension on the fly line between my fingers until all the slack was gone, then I let the reel drag do it’s work as more line ripped off the reel as the palomino headed, full force, down stream. I kept my rod tip as high as possible so the least amount of line was in the water. I inched my way to shore so I could follow the fish downstream in the dim light.
“I got him!” I yelled out excitedly.
My voice echoed through the valley down stream. Dogs started barking, windows flew open! Well not exactly but I did holler pretty darn loud.
“Did you really get him?” Jeff hollered from the parking lot.
“He’s on my line heading down stream” I reported as I started walking down the bank.
“I already got all my stuff off, do you need anything?” Jeff’s voice rang out.
“Bring down your net” “And maybe a flashlight!”
“I’ll be right there” Jeff called back

The big palomino came to a stop in the deep water Jeff’s palomino held up in earlier. The moon was shining bright through the clear open sky. Slowly mending line in, as to not force the fish to react too quickly, I reentered the stream. Slowly, feeling the creek bed beneath my feet, I got to knee deep in the water when I felt a drop off. The moon was bright enough that I could see the orangish football size palomino in the water ¾ of the way across the creek. From here on in it would be a tug of war. I stood my ground and decided that here it would be the fish or I.
The palomino got tired of the standstill first and raced upstream. I lifted my rod and let it take some line out. It quickly turned as my rod began to bend a little bit more and the palomino headed back down stream closer to the far bank. I adjusted my drag a little tighter to put a little more pressure on the fish. I was only using a 5x Orvis tapered leader so I had to be careful when the trout would take a run. By me being able to see the trout I felt I was always one step ahead of him. The palomino held tight again, my rod bent and I stood and waited. I knew as long as the rod was in a bend the pressure would be forcing the fish towards me, therefor he was exerting energy even though he wasn’t moving. If some one would have seen me standing there with my rod bent and moving ever so lightly they would have assumed I had a snagged branch under the water.
I heard Jeff coming down the bank behind me and I slowly started to retreat towards the bank to retrieve his net. I stopped immediately as the palomino made another run up stream. This time he headed up but drew closer to my side of the bank, his energy was exhausting. He only stood motionless upstream for a moment then turned and swam back downstream with less speed. He again held tight so I continued towards Jeff.
“I got the net but I don’t got my boots on” Jeff informed me.
“I unhooked my hip boot strap and looped the net around it. Clipped my bootstrap back together and slowly went back out knee deep.
The pressure was too much for the fish as he slowly moved his way towards me. I reeled in some line, keeping my rod bent. I, in no way, wanted to get any mended line tangled up in the net. The palomino would stop now and then but I’d just back up my rod to force him in. He started to turn on his side but with a quick flip of his tail, uprighted himself, and got a little upstream from me. I had him where I wanted him. With my rod as high as I could get it, I waited till he got fairly close. I got my right hand on the net handle, in the water, and reached just out from my right boot. As he drew nearer I lowered my rod. His tail slowly entered the net and I slowly drew the net up towards his belly, then scooped him in. The tired palomino gave a few last slashes as I picked him up out of the water with the net. He was exhausted.

The palomino lay stretched out, half in the net and front half out, on the bank shore.
“All right!” Jeff exclaimed.
“Think he’s as big as yours?” I asked
“Looks like it” Jeff commented
“ I think our fish are brothers”
I carried the fish up the hill to the road in the net. I recapped my catch of the big palomino as Jeff and I crossed the bridge to the parking lot. We took a few pictures. I didn’t want the fish to fade too much in color before I got him home so I took off my T-shirt and Jeff went down to the creek and soaked it in water. I got my gear packed back on my bike. We talked a little longer about what were the odds that the two of us would catch two 21 ½” palomino trout in the same outing.
I wrapped the trout in my wet T-shirt and put him in my saddlebag and buckled the straps. I put my polypropylene shirt on and a sweatshirt on over top of that. I was still warm inside from all the excitement but I knew the ride home would be cold. Jeff and I congratulated each other again and I started the Harley. Jeff took off out of the parking lot and headed out. I put a bandanna around my neck and buttoned my jean jacket, pulled to the road, and turned northbound towards home.

A lone headlight lit up the road before me as I road westbound on route 322. My fingertips chilled on the grips of my bike in my fingerless gloves. My body was still warm from all the excitement. I replayed the catch over and over in my mind…with a grin on my face.