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.