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.

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