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

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