“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!!
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!