Monday, October 26, 2009

a fly, a fish and a reflection

Fall fishing in western Pa. has to be one of the most scenic times to fish their waters.
Peaceful creeks meandering through the colorful forest of Autumn foliage. A rustling of scampering wildlife on the dried remains.
A figure of a man in fishing attire, alone, casting a dry fly with a bamboo rod, nice an easy like.

A picture worth taking but the image is sufficient in this instance.
A friend of mine puts it in perspective from the fisherman’s point of view, the one in the picture.

Spent a nice day on the LM creek today. The flow was outstanding. The rains brought it up nicely for a good fall outing. I took a 7.6 phillipson peerless (bamboo) for a walk with some tan caddis patterns in tow. The Steelers were up 3-0 when I lined the rod up and headed down over the bank. Steeler sundays make for empty creeks and great alone time. I managed to coax several browns and a couple brooks to hand before I packed it in. Dead drifting a few feet then a subtle twitch and skitter seemed to elicite some violent strikes. To fish bamboo with dry flies on a fall day such as this one is truly one of those pages in a lifetime that gets the corner turned down and book marked. The color plates on each fish seem a little brighter when the back drop is fall foliage with the sun beaming through the openings. One particular take came in a glassy yet breeze rippled tail out. The angle of the sun allowing a mirror effect on the water that made the caddis look like it was riding over tree tops,on past the maples, on past the oaks, bumping clouds as it began to defy the mend. Just as the wakes began to cheat the fly, an eruption blew a hole in the reflection. My wrist reacted before my brain, I KNEW this was going to happen, I wished it to happen, I willed it. The brookie came to hand. In my mind he must have been all white like a canvas, but after bursting through the color palate of reflected sky, and the colors of the leaves, he painted himself,every spot,every line...perfect.A masterpiece laid at the tips of my fingers as I unbuttoned the fly. I turned him toward the belly of the pool and he darted back into the painting.There are only so many times that our wishes come true, and to some ,a fly,a fish and a reflection are hardly a wish but to me it defines why I angle.There is such hope when water is flowing near by and occassionally that hope becomes the purist of reality. My thanks to the artist.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

'1 Fly' 2009

Columbus Day ‘1 Fly’ Event
This past Columbus day weekend I was involved in a ‘1 fly’ friendly competition. About 6 years ago a group of Erie steelhead fishermen got together and wanted to see how many fish they could catch with only using 1 fly in an allotted amount of time. Now in its 6th year it has evolved into an annual event with food, prizes and great comradery.
The rules are easy enough to understand. Starting at 9:00am and fishing until 1:00pm you have to only fish with the ‘1 fly’ you designated at the early registration. You accumulate points for each inch of steelhead you catch, double points for brown trout and ¼ point per inch any other fish. Restrictions are you must wade fish any of the Lake Erie tribs or lake shore. Once you tie your fly on you are not allowed to add leader or more tippet. If you lose your fly and are not able to retrieve it you are out of the competition but any points you accumulated to that point adds to your team score. You fish with a partner so he/she can still add points with their catch until time is up or they lose their fly. Rod usage is restricted to a noodle rod or fly rod. The ‘1 fly’ must be constructed of the usual material used in fly tying for fly fishing. Prizes are awarded to the top three teams as well as the biggest fish. This year two casting challenges were added.
This is a free event with limited entrees. This year we had about 45 teams. Donations are welcomed be it hand made or store bought. The grand prizes are custom made or restored bamboo rods and some times an old fiberglass rod gets put into the mix. Even door prizes may consist of custom made rods by participating fishermen.
My partner and I came in second place in team competition last year and I had the most inches of fish caught by a single member winning a restored 8wt. Fiberglass Wonderod. This year my partner and I didn’t fare so well, due to conditions, but during the 2 casting competitions I competed in and won the speed casting event. I had one minute to cast into 5 rings scoring points for each ring. I totaled 11 points for the win.
Here’s a short piece about the ’1 fly’ this year.

2009 ‘One Fly’ Bits & Pieces
I crawled out of my van and stood in the artificial light that lit up the area around the pavilion in Foley’s Campground. The October chill in the early morning air was tolerable with heavy under-clothe and a sweatshirt. The moisture from the overnight rain lingered with the smell of dampness. Looking up, the outline of the grayish clouds was barely visible in the morning darkness against the drab dark slate blue sky. A line of people were already starting to form outside the pavilion for the 7a.m. registration. Figures of fishermen in all sizes, in bulky waders, looked like a bunch of Halloween clowns in baggy costumes waiting for their turn at the trick-or-treat door. Outbursts of greetings and laughter were a sure sign of friendship within the commotion of the waiting and handshaking anglers. As I walked among the ‘1 Fly’ participants I greeted and was met by unknown faces to well known user names. The once thought silly name tags were worth their addition to the event.
Jack was greeting others also, while explaining the registration formalities. Debi was gathering food donations as Skip was answering questions and filling in as needed. Nymphus , dano and skeeter were doing their part to keep things moving along as schlemoc was handing out patches for a small fee. It almost looked like things were organized for the 80+ people in attendance.
My partner, rippinlip, pulled up in his pickup and I went over to greet him. I gave him the scoop of my Friday expedition and scouting report. I showed him the flies the fish were hitting and told him a few more places I heard where the steelhead were holding at. In short we selected our 1 fly and got in line to register. After receiving my patch from schlemoc, my last year’s partner, I wished him luck and stood around long enough to hear Jack’s morning speech.
Upon leaving to our destination 4 people showed up that I didn’t see earlier. Texcobb99 and dream catcher appeared walking up from our camping area. Another pair, Loomis and fishrmn, stood near the pavilions if they just awoke from a ‘good night’ of drinking. Evidently they hadn’t picked their one fly for the event yet. Gathering his thoughts, Loomis went down to the off color brown stained creek. Upon examining he decided, with experience, that big and ugly was the way to go.
Rumor has it he went back up to the pavilion and tied the flies on the spot and then entered them. I also heard by the time they got to their fishing spot they actually didn’t start fishing until about ten. Not sure this is true but only they can confirm this.
Rippinlips pulled his truck down the long road that led to the mouth of trout run. Lake waves crashed against the shoreline. The first choice of ‘1 fly’ fishing was not an option anymore. Texcobb99, dc and I did well fishing it Friday morning in small waves and calmer water but today the Lake Erie extreme weather warlock put an ‘enter if you dare’ condition upon the waters. With rippinlips 30+ years experience and my early scouting we headed for the vicinity of Uncle Johns Campground.
Walking along the slippery gray mud along the bank of Elk Creek in felt soles was like walking in fresh poured cement. With rippinlip leading the way I carefully followed trying not to slide in the slippery mud he left behind or get caught up in the overgrown jaggers he pointed out.
A line of fishermen were already casting and drifting ‘what-nots’ against the far bank. We slowly moved up creek looking for a couple of spaces for both of us to fish. Rippinlip pointed out good holds but they were already taken by anxious steelheaders. We finally came to a good hole that I fished the day before with enough room for both of us being able to fit in. just before 9:00a.m. We got our lines wet and at 9:00 game on!
The fish catching was undeterminable in the dark water. I only saw one guy, upstream, consistently hooking up under some hanging limbs against the bank.
Oldbrowntrout and his partner showed up a touch later and joined in. Being in a precarious position OldBT casted up creek with difficulty in the slight breeze. Time passed and my fly line finally tightened and moved downstream. In the muddy water I thought I had hooked into a submerged drifting tree limb. I held on, letting line out not wanting to break off. The end of my fly line finally rose and I called out fish on. Within 3 feet on the guy downstream from me the fish showed himself just below the surface. It didn’t take long for the slow pulling fish to dive deep and with a headshake my fly came loose. I felt it must have been a foul hook not expecting a fresh fish to fight so unconcerned. When my line went slack I mentioned it must have been a foul hook. The guy who seen the fish said it was a good hook up and that he seen my chartreuse egg sucking bugger in the side of the fish’s mouth. I concluded that I didn’t to set the hook good enough since I originally thought I had a drifting limb.
#1 missed!!
Meantime OldBT was having trouble casting into the slight breeze and finally got snagged up right in front of himself. Working as best he could to save his one fly he pulled up a piece of plastic garbage bag. He diligently untangled the mess as the bag slipped through his fingers, submerged, and drifted downstream. Relieved, from the snag, he brought in his leader only to find the fly did break off and disappeared with the bag never to be recovered. For him the event was over but……. He tied on a tandem and continued to pursue steelhead.
My second hook up came with a sudden take of my drifting bugger. I set the hook good and the fresh steelhead headed for the far bank. In midstream he showed himself with a leaping display of mean headshaking flight. Pounding back upon the water he submerged briefly only to exit the water again in frustration. This time, upon his pounding reentry, my fly line went limp. 2 hook-ups and nothing to show for it but the thought of what could have been points on the score card. Rippinlip continued to work his white bugger at different depths and movement trying to entice a steelhead as Old BT moved in between us with plenty of room to spare.
Oldbrowntrout proceeded to put on a clinic patiently drifting the tandem set up and hooking up to steelhead after steelhead in the next hour or so. Rippinlip moved upstream for more promising waters while I stayed put being that OldBT continued to convince me steelhead were right in front of me with his continuous hook-ups. The event ended with rippinlip losing his bugger to his only hook-up and I not being able to encourage any more fish to take my offering.
Back at Foley’s the food line was forming as we pulled in under the sunshine, brightening up the day’s event.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lost by a 'Goby' 2008

Lost By a ‘Goby’
With two steelhead already to our credit, the third was at the end of my 6.5 lb. tapered leader. Thoughts of maybe getting close to first place were already filling my brain. I played the fish anxiously but carefully to bring him at hand. Schlemoc looked on intently as the steelhead displayed both power and beauty as it went air-born. Then…..
With only a few years steelhead fishing and my partner, Schlemoc, not holding a fly rod for the past 4 years, I felt our odds weren’t very good to become winners of the ‘1 fly’ event. I didn’t get in this for the prizes or bragging rights anyhow. It was to fish against others to see how I fare. 1 fly for four hours without losing it was a challenge I couldn’t resist.
Dream Catcher and I went up Thursday evening in preparation for the ‘1 fly’ event on Saturday. My partner Schlemoc and I have been private messaging each other about which fly we were going to use. We decided one of us would use a woolly bugger while the other would use an egg or sucker spawn pattern. This way we’ll have both cases covered. My objective on Friday was to determine what colors to use. I had told Schlemoc that Dream Catcher and I would be scouting all day Friday.
Friday at 7 a.m. D.C. and I hit the mouth of trout run. 3-4 foot waves were breaking against the beach. Dream Catcher fishing for steelhead is like me fishing for trout. If there’s a body of water that holds either we got to try it no matter the conditions. D.C. was throwing sucker spawn into the waves on his noodle rod while I was casting buggers between the swells. After about 20 minutes we headed elsewhere.
At Walnut we found a large pod of steelhead holding in a clear wide pool. Above them D.C. and I continued to try to get them to bite. Occasionally a few other fishermen would stop by to cast minnows, jigs and flies into the pool without success. I could have easily dropped live bait or cured eggs to them but I was on a mission. A brown woolly bugger (of all things) got the attention of a few steelheads but they wouldn’t hit it. My favorite largemouth and smallmouth fly was now a good possibility for my go to fly for the ‘1 fly’ event.
I started dropping egg patterns and sucker spawn to the suspended fish. A few took an interest on an orange double sperm egg pattern. D.C. tied on a small orange jig and ended up catching one of the steelhead. Just before we left he tied on his oversized orange flat fish and caught another steelhead. That evening we went to the Elk access area and I met up with Rippinlip. He gave me the scoop of what guys were catching steelhead on earlier. I did end up catching 1 steely on my hand tied brown bugger so my choice was finale. We also thought that the Elk access area was our best bet for fishing the ‘1 fly’. With the starting time not being until 9:00am might be a problem finding a spot for two partners to fish together though.
Saturday morning D.C and I drove down to Girard park for the ‘1 fly’ event. It was like going to a Dragnet masquerade party without the masks. You sort of knew everyone but you just never got to meet him or her. Their names have been changed to protect their ‘innocence’! I met up with my partner Schlemoc and gave him my scouting report. We agreed I’d fish with my brown woolly bugger and he’ll fish with orangish/red color sucker spawn he had tied up.
We started our tournament across the rock wall at the Elk access area. The sucker spawn didn’t seem to be the right fly for the motionless water but my brown bugger wasn’t doing any good either. After about an hour we moved on down towards the mouth. We found a spot for both of us to fish side by side. Schlemoc hung in there adjusting his sucker spawn to different depth under his indicator. The sun finally got over the trees and I was able to see some steelheads about a foot below the water surface a good 2/3rds across the creek. I overhand casted to them and slowly stripped the bugger in. more than once a steelhead would follow the bugger. I finally got one to take the bugger and ‘FISH ON!’ The first fish of the day was a good one. People around me backed away and let me play the active fish on my 7wt. 9’ ½" rod. One gentleman asked if I wanted him to net my fish but I didn’t know the ruling and declined. After landing the fat steelhead at 25" (give or take 1/8") I explained to him and the others about the ‘1 fly’ event. They were intrigued no less and gave me room when I needed it. When I hooked into and landed my second steely on the brown bugger and measured him at 24" (give or take 1/8"), the game was on!
Jack had mentioned that 90-100 points should take first place through past experience. Schlemoc had more confidence than I that these two fish alone would be a big deal. I figured three would at least get us into 3rd place.
The fly-guy next to me tied on a black woolly bugger and in time started to hook up with steelhead also. He was fishing deep so now and then he’d snag up and break off, something I couldn’t afford to do just yet.
At a quarter to twelve I knew time was running out. We had to allow enough time to get back to the van and then get to the park by 1:00pm. I decided to fish deep despite the bottom snags. Schlemoc on the other hand was hanging in there like a real trooper even though he knew his fly wasn’t right for conditions but he didn’t give up! We watched as a few steelheads coasted in and lay suspended around and beneath his indicator. I remember watching a steelhead drop out of sight and the indicator twitched. Schlemoc reared back with his rod to set the hook. The line tightened and then snapped back fishless and flyless. Things happen, but now that put the pressure solely on me and it was about 12:00.
I decided ‘snags or not’ I’m fishing my bugger deep and slow. I casted out a few times. All at once I noticed my fly line tightening up on the drift and I had to make a split second decision. Was it a snag or a steelhead? I took my chance and lifted my rod to set the hook. The ‘snag’ started moving and ‘FISH ON!’ The other fishermen backed up and let me play fish #3, so I thought. Somewhere between the fish jumping out of the water and belly smacking the surface my line went limp. I quickly wristed the line towards me to see if my bugger was still on the end of the tippet. Miraculously it dangled from the tapered leader. Dream Catcher’s knot held true! Upset but not out I cast again into the deep depths.
With more time off the watch it was nerve racking to fish slow and patient. I felt the line again tighten up and set the hook hard! A fish pulled away with force and ‘FISH ON!’ Belly flopping and fighting the fresh steelhead gave it’s all. Surfacing I could tell it wasn’t a long fish but it was still points. The fly-guy next to me figured around 21". I fought the fish cleanly to the muddy bank. Schlemoc looked on as I measured the fish to exactly 21". We had 70 points so far and only about 15 minutes to fish.
Back out to the thigh high water I was getting ready to cast when the guy next to me hooked into one. Patiently I waited for him to get the steelhead under control. I resumed casting and searching for another but time ran out. Hurriedly we made it back to the van excited with our results of catching just 3 steelhead in the past few hours.
Back at the check in I parked the van. Many of the fishermen and women were already back standing around. We walked up to the pavilion and there stood Dream Catcher.
"How’d you guys do?" he asked
"I caught three" I commented " how’d you guys do?"
I noticed his eyes open a little brighter and he said they got "0".
I could tell by the expression on his face that he knew something I didn’t.
We checked in with 70 points. I noticed there were a lot of zeros, a few 20+ and a 46? At about 12:50 we were in the lead.
About 12:55 two guys I didn’t recall showed up at the check in board. After they signed in I went over to the board and seen 70 3/8"!!! 1:00pm tournament closed.
Worm Waster and fishing coyote had won!
Heck, I don’t even think my tape measure had 1/8" increments! We got beat by 3/8th". That’s .375, 9.525 millimeters. Worm Waster had caught a Goby that was 2 ½". A Goby?
I didn’t even know what one looked like. I heard of winning by a nose in horse races but to lose by a Goby???
___________________________ ~doubletaper

Thursday, October 1, 2009

'East of Elsewhere'

East of Elsewhere
After sitting in the Periodonist’s chair for over an hour getting my gums cut, stitched and packed around my #30 molar I wasn’t in too big of a hurry to drive an hour and a half back to Clarion. When I left the office I was still a bit dazed from the 2 Advil and the bunch of Novocain shots i got before they proceeded with the crown lengthening procedure.
I was also pretty sure some of the alcohol still lingered in my bloodstream, from the night before, were helping affect my brain cells also. I was hungry and thirsty being up since 5:45 am. to make the appointment by 8:00am. and the left side of my jaw was sore that the drugs didn’t reach.
After passing by Wal-mart twice looking for a pharmacy to fill a drug prescription, something finally clicked in my confused memory bank that Wal-Mart had a pharmacy. I got the prescription filled along with two soft doughnuts and a bottle of some brand of cold milky looking coffee. Sitting in the parking lot, eating soft doughnuts and trying to sip cold coffee thru numb lips I was trying to plan out the rest of my day.
I was in my youthful territory in which I grew up. I knew of a lot of trout waters around the area and had a van full of trout equipment. I called work and told them ‘I wasn’t feeling well,” which I wasn’t. I told them “I was going to take the rest of the day off and visit with my mom since I was in the area“, which I had all intensions of doing before finding a trout stream. I called mom but the answering machine came on which I concluded she wasn’t home. I immediately called Mikastorm and asked him if he wanted to go fishing since I was in the area. He said he was nursing an aching back from splitting logs the past couple of days and couldn’t even get out of bed. I always thought that when a guy retires he takes things easy and leisurely so he can fish more!!!
On my own now, I remembered Troutslammer told me where trout were gathered in a long pool in ‘east of elsewhere creek”. It is a small spring fed creek that I knew well. With a heavy canopy of hardwood trees and pines it kept the water cool all summer long. I got on the road again and headed north out of the Shenango Valley.
The sprinkle of rain stopped as I pulled into the small parking area along the fly fishing only project waters. The overcast gray sky was turning blue and rays of light seem to dart thru the soggy forest giving subtle reflections off the glossy wet leaves. I opened the van door and mosquito’s met me like a bunch of blood thirsty vampires at a Grateful Dead midnight jam fest. I couldn’t feel the bugs actually biting but the gathering of bugs told me that if I don’t do something quick I’ll be quite itchy after the pain medication wears off. I doused myself with anti-bug spray and walked down to the walk bridge.
Two fish scattered as my figure overshadowed the creek. The water ran with a tinch of color resembling as if looking thru a glass of iced tea. I was hoping that the tinted water would be enough to hide my tippet and leader in the slow pool of water I was going to fish in. At the van I took out the short 4wt and nail knotted a fresh piece of 5X tapered leader. I figured once I get to the pool I can decide to either fish underwater with this or add a piece of 6x for top water dries.
Walking down the trail I passed on fishing the slow shallow and narrow water. I knew there would be plenty of fish below the falls in which I was headed and didn’t want to waste time getting there.
Below the falls I stood on the bank and gazed into the water. When Troutslammer said there were lots of fish in the pool he was right. Some fish laid upon the bottom while other stayed suspended or swam around like a walk in the park. The sun was getting warm shining down upon me in my rain coat but the trees kept the sun rays off the water. I moved slowly as not to spook the fish beyond my vision. After taking off my raincoat I knotted some 6x tippet to the leader and tied on a red bodied black beetle. Casting was difficult due to the high bank and exposed roots behind me. I had sufficient room with a sidearm back handed cast but it would compromise my distance. It always seems I’m on the wrong side of the creek. I’ve thought about practice casting with my left hand but never found the time or gumption to do so.
After a few casts the fish didn’t want any part of the beetle so I switched to a green bodied beetle. I had a few lookers but no takers. I convinced myself that black wasn’t the shade they were interested in so I tied on a #16 gray barking spider. Seeing a few rises, under the shade tree, across the creek I tried my best to cast the spider underneath the branches and into the water just off the bank. My spider fell short but a fish rose and checked it out anyhow. I was ready but he slipped back down below my vision and the spider slowly drifted under the tree and down the creek further. Keeping an eye on the spider I saw a head rise in the distance and take the spider. I set the hook and the trout stirred the water up scurrying up and down. The only thing I had to watch out for was a submerged rooted tree stump to my right about a few yards away. I managed to bring the brown trout in without damage.
I continued to fish the waters with terrestrials and small midge dries. I wasn’t as successful as I wanted to but I did manage to catch a few more trout as time ticked by. The light breeze started to pick up now and then and in turn the leaves moved enough to brush against each other. Small dots started to appear on the water and this caused a feeding frenzy from below. I watched trout as they looked up to the water surface then rose and slurped something. Other fish darted upon the dotting of the water and sucked the unknown bugs from the surface. I couldn’t see what was falling so I slowly got out of the sun and walked along shore under the trees. I felt thin webs touching my hands but still couldn’t see what was attached. Taking off my sun glasses I looked more closely and small, I mean small, cream colored worms were falling or dangling from thin silk strands. When one of these worms fell upon the water it didn’t take anytime for a trout to pick it out and suck it in. I had nothing that tiny or cream colored. I went back and tied on the thinnest gray spider I had in my fly box. It just so happen by the time I got the thing tied on I could feel the wind pick up again. Trout started to rise and I flicked the spider just over the back of a nice size cruising trout. He turned quickly as my spider hit the water. He didn’t even take time to examine it, with the other trout on the prowl he mouthed the spider before any of his buddies got the chance. I whipped the line up tight with an evil grin as his head jerked slightly my way before he took off down creek. He fought as if embarrassed by being caught by the known guy fishing along the clear waters that all the other trout knew was there. He tried his best to shake loose but I played him out with patience. After releasing him he shot towards and under the falling waters like a kid finally being released from ’time out’ and still too mad to face his friends. After a few more catches my right jaw, tooth and gum area started to have feeling again and it wasn’t going to be pleasant if I didn’t get back to the van and take another two pills. .
I gathered my raincoat and took notice of the fine looking creek and surroundings that I haven’t been around for quite a few years now.
‘Great day to take off work’ I thought as I headed for home. A single cigar sat on the passenger’s seat as I remembered reading the rules for my oral surgery recovery!