Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Little Mahoning Creek Revisited


The weather people were as unpredictable as could have been about predicting Saturday’s forecast. One channel claimed rain in the early morn. diminishing by noon and 70 degrees. Another claimed cloudy in the morning with rain and possible thundershowers in the evening. Another said something different than the first two.

I had my saddlebags packed and my fly fishing gear in my Loomis backpack ready to put on the bike if I felt it wasn’t going to rain. The thermometer read 52 degrees as I walked outside to get a taste for the weather at hand. The sky was on the gray side but there was no smell of precipitation in the air. The road was dry and the cloud cover was moving slow. Back in the house I put on warm riding clothes and grabbed the saddlebags and backpack and walked on out to my waiting American iron. I attached and bungee corded the gear to my bike and started the big ‘V’ twin. After pulling out of the garage I let the Harley rumble that familiar tone in the drive as I returned to close the garage door. Putting on my leather du-rag and fingerless gloves I rechecked mentally, in my mind, making sure I didn’t forget any fishing gear I might need for this morning fishing. Straddling the Softail seat I raised the kickstand and headed south on the road out of town.

Jumping onto the interstate and cracking the throttle to speed I could feel the cool air on my fingertips, face and creep up my sleeves under my jean jacket, sweatshirt, duo fold and lightweight polypropylene undershirt. I could feel the wind gracing my legs and knees just above my 10” high leather boots. The cold didn’t bother me though because in an hour or so I’d be trout fishing and return home, hopefully, under the bright sun and warm air.

Now easterly bound on the interstate I look up and the sky is picture perfect with hues and shades that remind me of an oil painting of a seaward sky in the early morning. The lower layer of the atmosphere has a slate gray cast and just above this, lighter shades of gray mixes in with semi-white clouds. In the foreground, between patches of the clear blue sky, white sprouting clouds reflect bright light that is given off by an unseen sun somewhere beneath the horizon of trees and hills. To add to this, streaks of pink and orange combine to add color to the mix of the overall semi-cloud cover.

The short jaunt into Brookville I fill up with fuel, put a chew in my mouth, and head south again down rte. 36 towards Punxy. Up and down the hills of open road I lean into bends as the Harley rolls forward. I occasionally check into my rear view mirror making sure my 5piece fly rod is still stuck fast in the Loomis side pocket. Soon I’m toe tapping to some Bocephus tune, in my head, making up words as the rumble of the ‘V’ twin plays bass.

After the long uneventful ride I slow the cycle down as the creek appears to my right. Trees that line the banks cast shadows upon the crystal clear water. Rocks and small boulders now protrude noticeably in the low water conditions than they did a month ago in the early spring flow. I pull off the road in a convenient parking area with enough room to change into my fishing clothes and gear without fear of getting run over. I peer into the water, below where I park, through my polarized goggles and see a pod of trout within two feet of a man made deflector. I’m excited and start to unpack my gear and change into fishing attire.

I put on my lightweight LLBean hip waders and Orvis packable wadding shoes. Put on a button down shirt over my short sleeve shirt and piece together my Kettle Creek 5wt. Rod and Clearwater reel. After strapping the fishing fanny pack around my waist I clean off my sunglasses and snug them over my eyes. With my Fly Shop cap on I’m ready for some action.

Slowly wading across the water, upstream from the pod of trout, I check out the surface water for any bugs or mayflies. Reaching the other side of the stream I position myself across from the unseen pod of trout that I marked off mentally in my mind from my parked cycle. While tying on a foam beetle imitation I hear a splash and I raise my head to see a circle of water just out from the deflector under the maple tree. ‘Alright’, I think. With a good knot in my 6X tippet I set myself up to cast to those morning breakfast waiting trout.

With a deliberate easy motion of my med-fast rod I false cast ‘way’ upstream from the pod of trout to get enough line out and than cast ‘just’ upstream of the pod of trout as my beetle plops into the shadowed water as if it fell naturally from the streamside Maple tree. Within a foot of a drift a mouth breaks water and I quickly set the hook on the unsuspected trout. I force him out of the pod to mid stream trying to cause the least amount of warning to the rest of the fish. He fights between the small peaks of exposed rocks as I guide him towards me. I release the 11” or so brown trout and reposition the foam beetle on the top of the hook shaft. My next few casts produce nothing as I’m sure the trout are a little wary of a fisherman’s presence.
I move to my left a couple of feet and sidearm cast, across stream, over the pod. I stop and back up my hand at the end of the forward cast to let the beetle follow through putting it downstream from the rest of my fly line. It takes a couple of different placements of the beetle to finally cause a rise to it. Having too much slack I miss the take. Purposely I straight cast just short of the missed strike in hopes of a quick response but my beetle just drifts downstream without a touch. Casting back up towards the head of the pool I get another strike and play this one towards me. I release a small brookie back into the creek water. Without any takers for awhile I notice a fly emerge out of the water that was possibly a march brown and soon after that, what I unmistakably felt, was a sulphur.
The sun was shining more brightly now and I only had about a half hour for the shade to disappear upon the water under the Maple tree. I tied on a piece of 7x tippet anyhow and to this I knotted on a sulphur parachute. Casting above the trout and letting the parachute drift accounted for a good fighting 12” brown. Continuing casting and fishing a car pulled up and parked behind my cycle. A young man got out and proceeded to adorn himself in fishing attire. I continued my fishing and again hooked into another trout on the parachute. After releasing the trout I called out the young fisherman and asked if he was the person who is to accompany me for some trout fly fishing. Sure enough it was Mark and I called out to him to get on down here. I pointed to the pod of trout with my rod and told him to look down into the water from the road. I could see and heard him exclaim in amazement about the amount of trout I showed him. It wasn’t long for him to join me on my side of the stream.

Upon quick greetings I gave him a few flies and tried to explain how I was drifting the dries over the pod of trout. I waded downstream a bit to let him take my spot. The sun was brighter now and with no visible hatches I knew things would be tough going. Sure we could have drifted a nymph of some sort into the group of trout but what fun would that be. There weren’t any huge trout in the bunch so catching trout below the surface just didn’t seem that exciting to me nor did it seem that exciting to Mark either as he also casted dry flies to the pod.

We eventually made our way downstream to a good size pool with visible shadows of nice size trout. Not getting any to rise to our dries we resorted to nymph fishing. White always seems to work for me, if not to catch trout but to at least attract attention to see if any trout are active. I tied on an Albino Stonefly and roll casted across stream to the far bank. Crouched down on the heels of my feet I mended line upstream so my fly would drift into the pool before my fly line. Mark stood watching, casting something also, into the back of the pool. While we were talking I seen my fly line dart forward but I missed the take. Again I drifted the nymph deep and Mark was able to see fish actively follow my stonefly. I finally ended up persuading one to take my nymph and I set the hook. It didn’t take long for him to somehow release himself but that’s fishing. I gave Mark an Albino Stone and he immediately tied it on his tippet. As we worked the pool Mark ended up catching and releasing a good size 14” trout. I had caught another but upon getting him close to shore he released himself also.

By noon it was time for me to go. I gave Mark another Albino Stone and I wished him luck as I started my way to my cycle. After changing into riding clothes and packing my gear I started my awaiting bike up. As the engine came to life, I thought 'I would have really liked to have stayed and fished more' but other plans were promised back home. As I traveled along the stream I looked through the trees and seen Mark still fishing in the deep pool.
Little did I know, until the next day, that he had a good fight with a ‘tiger’.

These were the pictures he sent me that I found in my inbox.
He said the tiger trout was about 18". i have no doubt he was right!!

read more about 'fighting the tiger' at under the title 'Big Success on the Little Mahoning'

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