Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fishing in Paradise

Early Saturday I found a place to pull off the road along side of the Little ‘J. I haven’t fished this river for a few years and the place I pulled off I didn’t remember fishing at all. I knew I was upstream from Spruce Creek but didn’t exactly know how far up.

The morning was sunny but cold on the 11’th of April. I put on heavy attire, and being I was fishing the river, I decided to start off with my fast action 6wt. Winston rod. I was hoping to dry fly fish and I wanted to see how the Vapor rod would handle dry flies. With the sun shining and maybe warming things up, I was hoping for a hatch of some kind and some rising trout.

When I got down to the river it looked as if it was higher than normal. The water color was kind of tinted but should have had enough clarity to get some trout to the top if there is to be a hatch. I started off drifting different size nymphs mid stream. Adding weight I finally figured out the depth of the water before me. Without a hit I tried some wet flies but still nothing was interested. A few small duns of some kind were flying around now and then but nothing got close enough for me to grab and inspect.
The first rise came in a riffle of water ¾ ways across the stream. I knew BWO might be around this early so I tied a size 18 and cast upstream from the rise. It took a couple different flies and sizes but I eventually caught my first riser on a small gray body blue dun midge. A 9” brown took the imitation and fought respectively to my net. A couple other trout started to rise as more duns filled the air. The other risers weren’t much interested in my search for the right dry. After an hour or so I decided to start my way downstream.
In the faster shallower water I tied on a white bugger and seen one trout start after it but didn’t take. After the long stretch of fast water I wasn’t able to cross the river so I worked the bank without success. Heading upstream I decided to go to the van for a drink and set up my Scott 5wt. with wt. forward floating line.

Back down to the river, where I started, there were a few more trout rising. The duns flying were small and I tried the smallest flies I had without effect. The sun was shining above pretty bright by then so I thought maybe a darker color hackle, than what I was using for the BWO and dun imitations, would attract attention. I came across a #18 dark Cahill dry. With its gray body and brown hackling just might be the right fly! Besides possibly being more visible to the fish, it was more visible to me as I watched the brown hackle drift along the surface of the water. Well, sure enough it worked. Casting it out under the bright sunlight rewarded me with three more fighting browns. By 1:00pm I was ready to drive down to another section of the river.

I stopped at the Spruce Creek Shop and the owner was nice enough to give me directions to Barree.

When I crossed the little bridge, in Barree, it brought back some memories of when Jeff and I fished this section last. Before parking I got to talk to another fisherman and he informed me that the trout weren’t to cooperative. I switched to a double taper line on my Scott rod before heading down to the river because I new the banks would be a little more tree hazardous and the river wouldn’t be as wide.

Down at the river the water was running ‘fast’. I didn’t spot any activity in the air or on the water. I tied on a woolly bugger and swung it continuously as I waded and fished downstream. Getting to the bridge without a hit I went back to the van and decided to fish the upper part of the Little ‘J near Birmingham.

On the drive up I saw a few fishermen here and there but not many. I pulled off the side of the road in a big parking area. I seen the water at the river was moving slow in the wide section I’ve chosen to fish. At the bank I found the bottom to be soft from the silt. I found a harder part of the river bed a short way down and got myself away from the bank where I could cast my fly rod. With the slow water and the sun shining brightly I found the slimy green moss on the rocks were treacherous to wade across. Cautiously I made my way downstream, concentrating more on my wading ability than placement of my assortment of flies I was using. Reaching the end of the fast water I came across two gentlemen that weren’t having much luck either. Though the weather was nice and just being out fly fishing was relaxing, not catching any fish was somewhat disappointing. I gave up and headed to the van and figured on driving to Spring Creek and find a place to park for the night.

I arrived at a part of spring creek well before daylight. Vehicles were in the parking area when I pulled up but I only seen one fisherman out in the stream. I pulled in with my van facing the creek and I shut down the engine. I immediately noticed two fish rising at the end of the long stretch of fast water that led into the wide deep pool. Excitement started to rise in my disappointed brain. A smile came to my face as the two fish continued to rise under the evening sun. I hurriedly got out the Scott rod and vest and headed to the bank of the creek. I stripped line from the reel and false-cast enough line out until I got a good cast to get my BWO in front of a rising trout. It was hard seeing the fly when it started to drift on the wavy surface and I missed the first trout that came up after my fly. With a couple more tries I noticed, what looked like a caddis, flutter across the surface. I tied on a #14 caddis and drifted it out onto the wavy water. I noticed a splash and I twitched the rod back and set the hook. The fish fought shortly in the cold spring water before I netted him. I released a nice colorful brown trout that may have been about 12”.
Inconsistently fish would rise within the big pool of water. I tried a variety of mayflies and caddis dries without being able to hook any trout. Finally resorting back to my dark Cahill a fish leaped out of the water after it and I set the hook. Surprising to me I foul hooked the brown trout underneath near the tail fin. How that happened I’m not sure. After that the sun dropped behind the thick pined hill and shaded the area I was fishing. The coldness was felt immediately as the wind picked up some. With a few more fruitless casts I called it a day and went to the van.

After changing clothes I headed for a look over at Fisherman’s Paradise to see how many fishermen were out. I was also quite hungry and was going to look for somewhere to eat in Bellefonte. Arriving at the creek there were fishermen strewn out along the water. Quite a few cars in the two parking lots I passed told me the creek most likely got hit pretty hard today. I continued on into Bellefonte and found an Italian restaurant heading out of downtown. I enjoyed a draft beer while contemplating my meal. I settled for Eggplant Parmesan with a side order of spaghetti. After the enjoyable meal I headed down rte. 550 for a place to spend the night.

The early light, of Easter morning, finally found the gap between the dark curtains hanging against the big bay window of the van. It shined bright enough upon my eye lids to make my sleepy brain take notice. Rising to the coldness inside the van I peeped out the window to a bright morning.
’Maybe an early hatch?’ I thought.
I put the heating rod in my blue tin cup of water and started the engine. I quickly dressed in some warm under clothes and hopped into the drivers seat. I munched on a chocolate covered Krispie Kream doughnut, I had bought the day before, and headed for Fisherman's Paradise.

I was the first vehicle in the parking lot. I walked out to the creek bank and noticed the water running clear with enough water running across the stony bottom to make for a fine fishing day. I decided to rig up my 4wt. Powel rod with a weight forward line. I figured, with the clear water, long casts might be in order and with the slight breeze the weight forward line may throw enough weight to cut through the wind if it got stronger. I had intentions of dry fly fishing ASAP upon the first rise or at least within the first half hour.
I walked up the bank away from the road and parking lot. I took notice of the deeper holes and pocket waters as I walked upstream. I got to a point where the sunshine split the creek with the shade of the high pines upstream on the hillside. With the coldness in the air I figured that starting fishing in the sun might be the best way to start the day. With the sun penetrating the water may activate some lethargic trout into breakfast.
I started working a nymph in a good slow deep run. I noticed another fisherman enter the water downstream and began his morning luck. It wasn’t long, beneath the warming sun, a few Blue Winged Olive began to dot the air. My perceptive eyes caught a slight rise just out from an overhanging bare bush. I picked out a #20 BWO and knotted it on the #6x tippet. I graciously cast the fly just upstream from the rise. I arced my cast to make sure the fly landed downstream from the rest of my leader and fly line. I watched as the fly touched down softly. With the current the fly started to drift beneath the bare branch. The fly hesitated in a slower pool beneath the branch than continued beyond the overhang. Nothing on the first drift. Intently I tried my best to bring the fish up with an assortment of dry midges and duns but the fish wasn’t easily fooled. I worked the short stretch with nymphs and dries without a hit. Disappointed I continued changing flies and casting with faith.
Another fisherman made his way upstream towards me. We ended up having a nice chat about fly fishing before he moved on his way. I usually keep to myself on the stream but it must have been the Easter joy that got me loosened up enough not to shrug the guy off, even though I continued to fish for the almost half hour we talked!
Giving up on catching anything in the stretch I started working my way downstream. Knowing the creek probably got very busy the day before I tried to use a scientific approach with my fly selection and presentation but nothing seemed to be working.
About noon the wind kicked up a little harder and BWO’s and duns started to appear and drop to the water. In a fast riffle, below a row of rocks, to the slower backwater fish began to rise to the BWO’S and small duns.
I felt like I was in a bar on ladies night. It was ladies choice every time ’The Wind Band’ started to play. The ladies were enjoying themselves gallivanting around sipping and eating at random. I threw out every line of flies I had to try to get one to dance with me, but no takers. Now I know I’m not that handsome of a guy and I’m not a young buck either, but I would of thought at least one of those girls in the first hour or so would take advantage of one of my offerings. I tried small midges and duns. Winged and parachutes. Hackled and down-wings. Not a girl wanted to take a chance with me. They were rising at will and I was left doubtless.
Finally I noticed a rise under some of the tree branches overhanging the far bank. I knew it was April and cold but I was down on my luck and looked into my box of a temptation. A black foam beetle caught my eye. Why not, I thought. The wind’s blowing the tree branches and the girls are rising below. I tied on the black beauty and tossed it out under the branches. Walla, a fishy took the beetle and I ended up dancing with an 8” brookie. Maybe she picked me out of pity, but never the less she picked me and it put some confidence in me where as for the past hour or so diminished.

My left foot either fell asleep or was cold enough it lifted like a lead weight without much feeling. I backed out of the creek and headed for the van to get a drink and circulate my blood flow to get my stiff joints moving again. At the van I lit up a thin cigar and changed my spool to a doubletaper line. I put away my bugger fly box and collected some more midges and duns and filled my fly patch. I drank down the last of the Coke and started back up to the dance.

The wind started blowing harder when it did kick up. Along with the BWO’s and duns I noticed a few blue quills flying in the breeze. Not as many trout were rising but enough here and there to keep me guessing. After another hour I gave up. I could have fished my way downstream hoping for some dumber trout but I had enough trout in front of me I couldn’t fool that I felt it was useless elsewhere.

At the van I put away the fishing gear. I Hung up my vest and put away the rod. Before leaving I took one more look at ‘Paradise’ and concluded on this Easter Sunday the trout were too smart for me!!
On the interstate I unwrapped a sun grown Rocky Patel cigar. Usually, as I light one up, I think of it as a reward for my fish catching abilities of the outing. Today I lit the cigar for the honest effort I put out. What can I say, I tried.

Back home I carried my satchel of clothes to the house. I pulled the cooler out of the van and carried it in also. I went back for my wet hip waders and wading shoes and noticed a bug on my inside doors blue curtain. This was no ordinary bug but a fly. A mayfly! There clung to my curtain was a honest to goodness Blue Wing Olive about a size #22 I’d guess. It’s dark blue wings stood straight up as its dark brownish-olive body arched slightly. Its two long strands of a tail raised somewhat. Wanting to smash the living daylights out of the darn thing I restrained myself and got out my camera. It was getting dark so I had to adjust everything possible on the camera to get enough light for my macro zoom to get a half decent picture. The color shade didn’t come out correctly but the little rascal was plain enough to see.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dark Waters Of The Black Moshannan

“Being that I only had 2 white woolly buggers left I wanted to save those for Spring Creek on Sunday. Walking down to the creek I told myself that if the trout wanted buggers they are going to have to take my olive ones and that they did!!
Dark Waters
Of The Black Moshannan

The Black Moshannan is one of the most unique creeks I’ve ever fished. They say the water is ‘tea stained’ because of the bogs of sphagnum moss that the many inlet streams and springs flow through that make up the lake. This makes the water run dark throughout the year. I flat out call it ‘coffee black!’ Trying to sight fish is impossible even on a bright day. You might catch a flash if the sun is hitting the water just right but other than that you won’t see the fish until it’s about 4” from the surface.
The darker water makes it hard to figure out the depth when fishing deep. With a stony brook bottom, nymph fishing as well as streamer fishing is always questionable whether your fly is deep enough. Then there’s the low overhanging pines and laurel to contend with along the bank-side. Roll casting between the pine boughs sounds great but you better be accurate and know how to adjust for distance or you’ll be untangling more than fishing. Where there’s spots you ’think’ to be enough room to overhand cast, well sometimes you might have to think twice.
I found the fish mostly hide under the pine boughs not too far from the bank. The shaded water, beneath these boughs, look as if it's black ink and no telling what hazards lie submerged in its depth. If you want fish you’ll have to take your chances. Grant you, it’s not an easy creek to fish but the fish are there.
Being that the water is so dark I can only imagine predators are no visual threat to the trout. I always wondered, since I can’t see through the dark waters, if the fish can see me?

Let’s go fishing. (April 04, 05, 2009)

Off of rte. 504 I turn left into a parking area of the park. Through the parking area I enter a crushed limestone hard packed, one and a half vehicle width, lane they call a road. Slowly winding my way down the road I see the dark waters of the Black Moshannan that flows from below the dam. Low hanging pine boughs and scraggly laurel line the banks. The rest of the forest has the typical PA. spring time, early April appeal. A forest of bare oaks, maples and other hardwood trees along with a few pine trees scattered throughout. The pines are thickest along the creek banks. Then there is the PA. Laurel in groves among the rocky areas. These too are found crowding the banks of the creek.

I turn a bend and 4 turkeys cross the road in front. Maybe a sign, I stop along the road to see if there’s access to the water. Tom turkey if hesitant about flying across the stream but when I open the door he takes off to the other side. The hens wait a second or two longer and than follow.
Upon getting out of the van I feel the cold wind wipe across my face and penetrate through my sweatshirt. I walk down to the creek and it looks to be a good enough place to start. I return to the van and back into a space across the road.
I look up to the slate gray sky and it looks apparent that it isn’t going to let any sunshine penetrate its hold in the atmosphere today. Getting dressed I feel the cold chill of a breeze come down the mountain. Even when the wind isn’t felt I can hear the wind rustle and blow through the tree branches atop the mountain.

Knowing the stream well I select my 4wt. 7’6” Powell rod. It has enough grit to roll cast and swing bugger yet soft enough to delicately toss a nymph or dry if need be. I gather the rest of my gear and put on my shades. Though the glasses won’t be needed to fight off any glare or see through the dark water, they will help block the cold wind and keep my eyes from tearing up.
A lone pine overhangs the far bank. A smooth riffle flows beneath it and the water extends smoothly to the start of a rocky riffle. I tie on a nymph and roll cast upstream of the pine. Watching my dry fly line tip it continues on past the pine without a hesitation. I try a couple more nymphs with a few more passes and nothing excites me. I notice the wind isn’t as strong along the creek but the coldness isn’t shy.

I slowly fish my way downstream as I come to some fast water, spilling across rocks, towards the far bank under some pine boughs. Looking the situation over, I tie on a white woolly bugger and let it drift through. WHAM, mid-stream my line tightens faster than I can respond correctly. Instantly my line breaks. I sit on my haunches disgusted as I clip off the remaining 6x tippet left near the knot. I pull out a piece of 5x tippet and correctly tie this on to the tapered leader. To this I tie on a fast-snap and clip on a white bugger. Picking out a space between the low hanging boughs I roll cast the bugger towards the far bank. I watch the line as it swings under the pines, nothing. Again, with an accurate roll cast, the bugger plops just shy of the far bank. I let out more line to get the bugger to drop deeper and swing further down stream. I feel a bump and slightly twitch the rod tip to give the bugger more action. WHAM, I set the hook. Standing up, the fish fights briefly and I reel him in. I unhook the 9” brookie and my blood starts to perk up. Missing another trout I slowly wade, knee deep down stream. Casting the bugger under each overhang, while crossing the creek from time to time, has me able to work both sides of the creek.

Catching and missing is far and few as time passes by. By 11:30am I have only brought in 3 brook trout, missed about 6 or 7 and lost about 4 wooly buggers do to creek hazards. I am down to 2 white woolly buggers, out of cigars and my belly is hungry.

Back at the van I take out a peace of cold fried chicken and head to the park office to see about camping. At the office I’m told that the campground doesn’t open until the first day of trout season. Mm, I thought, my trout season started about four weeks ago.

Driving back down the gravel road I slowly check out the creek until I reach the bridge. I turn around and head up to a pull off I had passed along the way. This should be a good spot to start and fish towards the bridge.

Being that I only had 2 white woolly buggers left I wanted to save those for Spring Creek on Sunday. Walking down to the creek I told myself that if the trout wanted buggers they are going to have to take my olive ones and that they did!

I tie on an olive woolly bugger to the end of the tippet. The first cast, before the pines, my line tightens instantly. A quick hook set and the fish takes me under the pine boughs. I level the rod to put leverage to the side of the fish. He gives in and I catch and release apprx. an 11” brown trout. My second cast into the black ink stained water hooks me into a strong fighting fish. He moves up the water column as my 4 wt. flexes towards him. He holds in the far side of the stronger current as I let the rod pressure him to give up his side of the creek. He turns and heads downstream under the pines as I feel him swimming towards my side of the creek now. He fights with one more half heartily burst and I bring in and release the fat 12” brook trout.
Ya! Things are getting interesting and I’m gaining confidence and prepare myself to catch a fish with every cast. I slowly wade and fish downstream casting way out in front of me. Letting the bugger swing just aside a branchy laurel overhang I feel the first bump. I let the bugger drift but before it reaches mid stream I twitch it and let it fall back. My line tightens as if I have a snag. Pulling forward the line starts to take off towards the far bank and I tug on the line slightly to set the hook on the fleeing fish. #3 fights all the way towards my side of the bank. I release another brookie. Cautiously I start my stop and go ‘still fishing’. I begin to get a good feel of the water. By noticing different shades of the dark water I begin to know the depth, out in front of me, before I could see bottom. I’m one with the creek.
The sky starts to brighten some as I continue on.

Adding a little more weight I let the olive bugger drift mid-stream in some riffling fast water. I hold the rod out towards the middle and just let the bugger hang under the current a little before bringing it in. I feel a bump on my slow strip in. I cast out towards the open far bank and hold my rod even with the water. I let a little line out and watch my fly line skirt through the riffles. WHAM, a trout nearly clears water taking the bugger just below the surface. He rushes upstream than turns towards the far bank. I move the rod against his way of thinking and he turns towards me and moves with the current downstream. Another small burst and I bring in another brookie. Within 10 yards of my first caught fish I catch 3 more and lose one.
Slowly and consciously I work the stream. Back and forth I cast the bugger way out in front. This time I’m catching more and missing fewer, with all being brookies. I stop at the bridge and decide to call it a day.

Back at the van I drive up to where I started in the morn. It’s about 4:00pm. I walk back down to the stream and notice small duns flying around the water. I head up to the van to get a few small duns I have in another fly box. Returning I try some dry fly fishing without any results. With that, it is time to head into Philipsburg for some grub and a well deserved beer.
RJ’S Pub fulfills my needs with wings and draft beer. I catch the last period and overtime to see the Pen’s lose. Grrr.

Saturday morn I’m up bright and early heading towards Spring creek. Down the mountain you would have thought paper grew on trees. With bright yellow, faded yellow and sun bleached ‘posted’ signs stuck to every other road side tree. You know the ones. Posted, private property, no trespassing, no hunting, no fishing, don’t even look this ga da**ed way!!!!!
Spring Creek flow is high and on the gray cloudy side. I fish up and downstream for a good 3 hours without a hit. Other fishermen come and go. With the rise of the sun and warmer temperature, small duns start to appear and hover over the stream. Not a rise. Stripping streamers and drifting nymphs just keep coming up empty. The back of my mind keeps telling me ‘Black Moshannan.”

Back up over the mountain I return to the dark waters of the Black Moshannon, this time with warmer temps!!

Pulling off the side of the road I hesitate about taking my 3wt. Diamondglass rod. I already made up my mind to dry fly fish but the thought of the soft rod and knowing I haven’t mastered my casting ability, I felt would be more of a hazard with the close quarters. With the Powel rod I head down to the creek.
Duns are flying around but also light winged black stoneflies are fluttering across the surface. I look under the pine boughs as I sit on the heels of my feet. Downstream I catch a rise and my heart skips a beat. That’s all it takes! I tie on a parachute stonefly and cast it across stream to where I seen the rise. Nothing! A few more casts I then tie on another dry stone. Still nothing. Under the pines I catch a glimpse of a fish rise and take something on the surface. Stooping down I study the situation and see a brownish caddis flutter across the water. Caddis is a specialty for me. I swear I have every size, color hackle and body that flies in PA. in my two caddis dry fly boxes.
Up from the pine I tie on a dark shade dry caddis and drift it under its low hanging limb. It drifts by unnoticed. A couple of different shades and body colors produce nothing but now and again I catch a fish rise to the surface, I tie on a low profile parachute king river caddis and short cast it upstream behind the riffles. Holding the rod high, I watch the caddis drift before me. To my surprise a trout swims up and sucks it in. I’m quick on the draw and set the hook as I get to my feet. The trout stays deep and fights towards the far bank but my 4wt is too much rod and I easily bring in the 9” brown. With the caddis fly totally wet it doesn’t float well. There’s not enough room to false cast enough to dry out the fly so I tie on a regular king river caddis.
‘One more I think to myself and I’m going to get the 3wt.’
I side-arm a cast up under the pine boughs and keep the rod high. Sure enough a trout rises for it but I miss it. That’s it, time for the Diamondglass!

At the van I piece together the 7' rod and think 'why not?' I knot on a long strand of 7x tippet! I look and take out the finest looking king river caddis and tie this to the end of the tippet and return to the creek. Drifting the dry, mid-stream, under the pines a fish rises and sips in my fly. I set the hook as the rod bends deep towards the butt of the handle. The fish stays deep, crosses the creek than heads downstream. Standing, I try to hold leverage on the fully bent rod. The strong under current and fighting fish along with the soft fiberglass rod probably looked as if I had a whopper of a trout. The fish and I have our little tug of war with him losing out. I bring in a brownie that goes at least 16”. Its long slender body is dwarfed by it's large fins. Trying to dislodge the hook I find it is embedded in and around his lower jaw. Seeing I was getting nowhere I clip the line close to the mouth and put him back into the water. He takes a moment, than swims for freedom in haste. Two more brown trout and one more brookie on a dry caddis with a 7x tippet brings the glamour and fun I’ve been looking for in my 3wt. Diamondglass rod. After a while, with a long period of nothingness, I walk back to the van with a smile.
It is still daylight and I figure I’ll give myself one more try upstream from where I started Saturday morn. I drive up and park the van.

With my Diamondglass I head to the creek. Having to cast overhand to get to the far bank, where a few trout are feeding, I have to make some room by getting rid of a few annoying branches from behind me. Misguided, at times, getting the caddis out there with the unusual soft rod kept things interesting but frustrating. I do manage to catch three more brown trout before the whole ordeal gets more frustrating and I get more agitated with every new snag on the outreaching, fly grabbing, pine boughs and scraggly overbearing laurel branches.
Enough is enough. I had my fun and return to the van and change cloth.

With the sun setting just over the mountain top, I head on down the bumpy road and briefly stop at the parking area above the dam. A redhead duck swims alone, diving occasionally, for fresh fish. Duns still scour the air but I don’t notice any rises on the dark smooth water.

Turning west on route 504 I lite up an AyC Grenadier. The natural green candela wrapper is a refreshing choice from the dark tobacco I’ve been smoking for the past two days.
For a weekend that the rivers were running fast and muddy, streams were high and cloudy, I thought I did alright fishing the dark waters of the Black Moshannon!


Friday, April 3, 2009

I Owe it to My Grandfather

Fishing all started with my grandfather. He’d take me down to old Millers Farm and we’d fish under the bridge in the small creek there. There weren’t any trout just bluegill, suckers and chubs. I read one time if you’re going to get a kid started fishing and to like it, take him somewhere where he’ll catch fish. My grandfather started me out this way. Once I got used to catching fish and confident that there is fish in the water, it kept me going back for more. Eventually trout was the mainstay of all our fishing trips.

Though my grandfather didn’t directly get me started fly-fishing, he did however connect me to it. You see my grandfather always fished with a fly rod though I never known him to use flies. We’d just go fishing and he’d always used worms. He started me with the old Zebco and then I gradually stepped up to an open face reel. That same old fly rod was with him every time we would go fishing just like his L.C. Smith 16 gauge double barrel was in his hands whenever we went small game hunting. His fly rod was old. I’m not sure how old but my grandfather was born in 1901 and ever since I could remember he had used it. The rod’s a no name. There’s not a name, weight size or length anywhere to be found on it. It’s just an old brown fly rod with chips of paint off of it here and there. The cork handle is stained brown from wear and I’m sure each crevice in that cork handle holds many a fishing stories. I actually measured it and it is 8’ 4” long. The rod flexes pretty much all the way down to the first eye. I’m not sure if it’s from being worn out or intentional. I do know when I hold a magnet to it the magnet sticks to the shaft. From the cork to the first small eye of the rod it is stepped down like each short section was brazed to each other to taper it towards the rest of the rod. From the first eye to the tip-top the metal rod tapers gradually. From use, the top quarter of the rod has a slight permanent arch. When I finally inherited the rod, when my grandfather died, among the old thread wraps on the double foot snake guides, is an old piece of duct-tape wrapped around one of the foot guides. The rod now rests in its old faded brown cloth bag that also has a wooden dowel in one of the pockets to keep it from breaking. I take it out of the bag now and then, reminisce and shake my head. Boy rods came a long way since that one.

Anyhow, I remember one evening when I was about 16. Grandpa and I were standing on the bridge that crossed over the Little Shenango River. The so-called river is more like a small mountain stream, narrow, not very deep but with more of a hard mud base. We were done fishing for the day but my grandfather met another old-timer and they started BS’n about the good old days. Downstream from us were these 5 guys casting bait to about 5 rainbows in the middle of the stream. The guys surrounded the trout like a bunch of Indians surrounding circled wagons, as the trout lay in the center of the small deep pool. I had perfect vision up on the bridge as these guys continued to cast worms, salmon eggs and what not at these poor fish. Every once in a while, though, one of them there trout would swim up, slurp some bug off the top of the water and hurriedly swim back down to be with his buddies. This just infuriated the fishermen until 4 of them gave up and headed to shore. The last one swung a spinner towards the trout a few times, in which they darted out of the way. The last guy finally gave up and all five took off. While grandpa and the old-timer were still gabbing on the bridge I noticed the trout started to perk up and began feeding again on the surface. Now I have never fly fished before but I had watched fly fishermen in the past fishing. I was always intrigued with the way they handled the rod, casting and bringing in fish. In fact, because my grandfather taught me how to fish, I always did hold the line with my left hand while my right was on the handle, just like fly fishermen do. I had bought some store bought flies quite some time before that and always carried them with me. Just couldn’t figure out how to get them out there with my spinning rod and reel. I set my rod up against the side of the bridge and gently took the fly rod out of my grandfather’s hand. Went down to the sandy bank on the stream and tied on, what I remembered, looked like a black gnat. I roll casted the rod like I watched my grandpa do a thousand times. I ended up catching three of those 5 trout in less than a half hour. That was the first time I ever casted a fly rod. It would take about 12 more years to actually buy fly fishing gear and start into the sport.

It took so long I think because I was always conscience of money and didn’t want to spend it on something I might not use. This might have been because of my grandfather also. He grew up in the depression and lost a lot of money when the stock market crashed. Ever since then he kept me aware to make sure I spent my money wisely. For instance, on the way back from many bunny-hunting trips, he’d ask me how many times I shot the shotgun. He figured out what each shell would cost per box, multiply that by how many times we shot. He’d add in a little extra for the gas it took us to go hunting and back, divide that by how many rabbits we got and figured how much each rabbit cost us. He didn’t do this to discourage me but I believe this made me a better shot each time we went out!!

When I finally got the determination, I finally bought a fly rod and fly-fishing gear at a fishing expo. I didn’t know exactly what I needed for my kind of fishing but after explaining the situation to a custom rod maker he sold me a rod. I bought a fly line, backing, leader and tippet material. Bought a VCR tape on how to tie the knots needed and how to cast a fly rod. Amazing to me it came naturally. Casting really did, I don’t remember having any major trouble. I practiced a lot in the front yard and down on the lake. It was now time to figure out what fly to use and when.

I began buying those oversized hackle department store flies. I’d hear someone on the stream tell someone else what the fish were biting on and go buy them at the local sporting department. I’d get a local fly fishing paper magazine which told which fly on what creek should be coming off for the month and try to figure out where to get the flies. The guys at the nearest fly shop in those days kept their heads up too high and if you didn’t wear expensive fishing wear or talk their lingo they practically snubbed you off. That didn’t discourage me though, I’d go in, get what I wanted and be off. On the stream, I’d catch flies, check them out, tie on a look alike and catch fish. The only problem I had was when someone asked me what fly I was using I’d comment, a gray bodied fly with light gray wings, or maybe a small white fly. After those answers the guy wouldn’t ask me anymore about what flies I use. Heck, I started collecting flies and had so many by now in my fly box I couldn’t remember what the proper names were of most of the flies! This became a problem when word came down the creek that the fish are biting on lets say Hendrickson’s. I had no idea what a Hendrickson looked like, so it took me longer, if at all, to tie the right fly on my tippet. The flies were starting to get expensive and I was due for a new hobby anyhow, so I decided to tie my own flies. This in turn was the best thing I’ve done since starting to fly fish. After buying a VCR tape on how to tie flies, buying a vise and fly tying manual with actual colored pictures, I was on to my next phase of being totally committed. With the tying of patterns I learned and remembered what each fly was called. What size I was looking at along with what characteristics a so-called caddis fly had that differed from a mayfly to a stonefly when I held a real one in my hands.

My expense was low in buying material so this kept me happy. My best friend duck and goose hunted so I had lots of duck and goose feathers. The expensive wood duck feathers were no problem as long as they were in season. He also trapped muskrat and I hunted rabbits, squirrels and deer. I knew how to tan hides so I was in good shape with fur dubbing. A few pheasants, grouse and turkeys kept costs at a minimum. It took a while for me to break down to buy the expensive high quality hackle but once I got the first one and seen the difference in quality the money was well worth it.

After conquering the dry fly phase the nymph phase was next. I was able to tie nymphs but I needed to see just how trout took a nymph. About a half hour of where I lived was a fly-fishing only project area, a small clear creek with plenty of brook and brown trout. You’re only allowed to keep up to three trout from June 15th to Labor Day. Before or after these dates the creel limit is zero. The state stocks this usually early spring, late spring and for fall fishing. I had left my rod in the van and brought with me a cup of maggots. I found a small school of trout hugging the edge of a downed tree trunk. The water was slowly flowing and clear as glass. I tossed a few maggots up stream, they sunk, and I watched the current take them into the trout’s feeding lanes. I did this quite a few times and came up with these results. When the food drifted right to them they simply opened their mouths and stayed stationary. Many times they would spit the food out in front of them once or twice and finally munch them motionless. When they had to swim to the food they again would swim calmly to the food, suck it in and again spit it out one or two times in front of them, keeping it in and then swim back to their original lay. Very few times did the visible trout attack the food aggressively and dart away. On the other hand, every once in a while a trout would dart from under the log, or come up in a flash from down stream, suck in the food and dart quickly away. I was sure these aggressive trout would be well noticed taking a nymph on a fly rod. What about the calm unwary trout?
Not to spook the trout any farther I waited until two days later, again on a clear day, and this time brought my fishing rod and tied on a white latex caddis. The trout were relatively in the same area. I casted upstream and kept an eye on a trout taking my nymph and watching where my fly line and leader met. The second a trout took the nymph there was just a slight slow down on the drift of my line. No sharp jerk or pull, just a gentle slow down of the line. I waited until the fish finally let go of the nymph, which sometimes of course was longer than others were. I felt it only depended on when the trout felt the line in the crease of it’s mouth that it spit the nymph out, the current had already took the drag of the line beyond the fish and then took the nymph along with it. Very, very seldom did the trout follow the nymph after it had washed down stream from where the trout lay. It seamed the trout wanted it on his dinner table and wasn’t going to follow it once it rolled off. The hidden trout of course darted after the food, grabbed it and took it back to its hiding place. Every once in a while a trout would follow the nymph by back tailing, keeping the nymph in front of its nose until he would either take it and swim upstream or refuse it. This experiment taught me to closely watch my fly line where it actually started to sink in the water. The slightest hesitation in the drift in the line told me a trout had the nymph in its mouth. The line didn’t have to sink at all. Just a hesitation is all it took sometimes to disrupt the drift of my fly line that let me know a fish was mouthing the nymph.

My grandfather quit fishing a few years before he quit hunting. I think the cane was more of a problem trying to fish with then sitting and hunting. We were up camp the Sunday before the first day of antlerless deer season and decided to take a ride out to where we would be hunting the next morning. This was in December, the weather was chilly and only patches of snow were here or there on the forest floor. We drove down to a place called Ward’s Ranch. The huge house sits down a long lane behind a gaited fence. We had driven down from Vowinkle and parked just before the bridge that crosses over the small stream that leads into Ward’s Ranch Pond. A dam holds back the water to create the pond. Two small streams feed the pond and I’m sure by run off and maybe underground springs. The excess water from the pond simply flows over the dam wall. From below the dam the water creates Big Coon Creek in which it flows for some miles to the Golinza bridge. The pond is stocked with trout for the season and also stocked in the lower part of Coon. Below the dam native brook trout inhabit the water down to the mouth. Grandpa and I were standing on the bridge taking in the fantastic scenery and talking about hunting. It was mid afternoon, the sky was a hazy gray but with enough light that I could see minnows and a couple of chubs swimming below the bridge. I told grandpa to stay and I walked to my van and took out my old yellow spinning outfit, tied on a black Rooster tail and headed back to the bridge.

“You’re not going to catch anything in there” grandpa said
I casted the lure downstream into the middle of the creek from the bridge. I watched my spinner fall and methodically reeled in to keep the spinner just above the stony gravely bottom. My next cast was towards the left bank just beyond some dried brush and overhangs off the bank. I kept my rod facing straight down off the side of the bridge. With the water being only about ankle deep I retrieved the rooster tail fast enough to keep it from hitting bottom but slow enough for any lethargic trout. As the lure spun close to the brush a native trout darted out and grabbed the lure. I reeled him in, up the side of the bridge. Grandpa and I looked at the colorful native brookie and I let him go back into the creek.

Grandpa spat a wad of tobacco juice onto where the pavement met the bridge wall. Looked at me with that closed lip grin, with that little stain of tobacco in the crease of his mouth where his top and bottom lip met.
“You can catch a trout in a puddle in a parking lot!” he murmured with pride
“I owe it all to you grandpa!” I said
I put my hand on his shoulder and we walked back to the van.