Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Last Skirmish of the Season

Last Skirmish of the Season

The day was long and steel weren't as plenty
Donny and Hans hooked up each
but i hadn't any
We walked downstream looking for mine
Han's spotted a darky
and i casted a line

The spawn drifted, the steelhead let it drift by
the guys walked downstream
giving up on my try
I circled behind, that dark where he lay
tied on a depth ray stone
to make my last play
In a foot or so of water, no less
from behind, i casted a loop
and drifted my best
The dark moved easy, my line drew tight
i lifted my set
and that started our fight
With anger he fought, knowing he'd been fooled
we tested each others skill
as if in combat we dueled

I called " i got'm" to my friends below
they looked up and returned
as we put on a show
I brought in the dark, right to my feet
the last skirmish was over
the season complete


Friday, March 26, 2010

5 O'Clock High

March 20, 2010

5 O’clock High

We met up Saturday morn and headed north to do some steelhead fishing. The snow melt was mostly gone and the rain ceased earlier in the week. We got some inside info on where to start fishing and a couple of patterns that the fish have been taking. I’ve fished in March before and usually the fish are sluggish. Most have been in the freezing water for awhile with some on redds. There won’t be as many steelies as there were in the fall and winter months though we heard some were making a spring run.
We parked along Elk creek and geared up. I was surprised there weren’t as many fishermen in the location we decided to fish, being the weather for the day was supposed to be sunny, later on, and warm up. I knew the breeze off the lake would blow upstream and dressing warm was still a good idea,

The morning was slow going. The water was pretty tinted and the fish weren’t visible at all. We tried all the different sucker spawn colors and nymphs. I saw less than 5 steelhead caught throughout the morning and none being very big. I never got a bump and Jim said the same. Just before breaking for lunch Kevin hooked into one and landed him. This put him on the board with one catch.

 After lunch we met up with Hans and Rookie. They live up in Erie and know the streams well. They took us to a stretch on middle Elk. The water was clearer and some fish were visible but none cooperated with our fly selections. Of course Hans did pick up one, but heck, he lives up there, we expected that!

 Around 4:30 I hopped in the truck with Hans and Rookie and he drove us to a section they had fished earlier in the morn. Kevin and Jim were to meet us there in a bit. Jim was determined to catch a steelhead in the previous spot and was slower getting to the vehicles than the rest of us.

 By 5:00, Hans, Rookie and I were walking upstream away from the crowd of fishing drifters. We finally came upon some visible dark shadows in a deep pool and shades of gray atop the shallower slate bottom. Rookie started drifting something on her noodle rod as I stood back adding tippet to my short tapered leader. Hans watched on as Rookie fished. I tied on a piece of 5X fluorocarbon and picked out a Depth Ray Stonefly and knotted this to the tippet. Being able to practically see the bottom I figured out the depth and took off the indicator I was fishing with earlier and stuffed it in my pocket. From the bank I casted out and mended line upstream from the dark shadowed steelhead in the deeper section beneath the current flow. On that very first drift through, my fly line tip sank and I lifted the rod and set the hook hard on the unsuspected steelie. My forearm muscles tightened and my hands, on the cork handle, gripped tighter as the rod flexed downward and pulled with the silver steel. The reel spun and clicked like a baseball card against spokes on the banana seat stingray bike I rode when I was younger. Line zipped through the rod eyes and I palmed the reel to slow the fish down. My body came alive with excitement, again, after the long lay-off of fighting these steelhead since last December. With the palming pressure the steelhead surfaced, splashing and throwing itself back into the shallower water. I thought I was doing well but the fish surfaced again, shook, turned and the hook and line fell to the water surface.
“Quick release” I said to the two watching.
 I really wanted to land the fish but feeling the first fight of the day was rewarding enough and became just a taste and sample of things to come.

 Kevin and Jim showed up and Hans took them upstream in search of another pod of steel. Rookie and I worked the pool and I connected with another. It darted upstream with my fly line in tow. Again I felt my muscles come to attention with the sudden jerks and pulls of the fighting steelhead. We battled a bit and I got the fish turned around and coming downstream. It surfaced and with a deep surge my 5x tippet snapped under the pressure.
“It’s a shame loosing that fish after that fight” Rookie commented
 I looked at my lame leader and noticed that the tippet must have broken where I had the lead weight strip twisted on. I backed up from the creek and took out my 6lb Gamma spool of flouro. After tying on a section I twisted a lead strip on the tapered leader instead of my 6X tippet. I decided on sucker spawn on a #14 curved hook and knotted this on to my tippet. Rookie ventured upstream to catch up with the others so I had the area of steelhead to myself.
 I got myself positioned straight across from the deep holding steel and overhand casted upstream dropping the sucker spawn upstream enough not to disturb the water in the deeper pool. As the spawn drifted into the front of the pool I lifted my rod to take up some slack. My fly line started to drift upstream and I quickly set the hook. I watched the long big hen propel itself upstream with my fly line in tow. My forearm muscles tightened again and the reel screamed that familiar “fish on” sound. I let the fish take line upstream with the reel drag and rod flex applying most of the pressure. She stayed below the surface and with a head shake twisted her body towards mid-stream. I kept the rod high and reeled in line on my mid-arbor waiting any moment for her to try to out fox me with a quick surge. When she was mid-stream across from me she turned into the current wanting to rest, even with the rod flexed the side pressure didn’t seam to affect her ability to hold fast in the current. I took in more line and clicked the drag one notch tighter. Pulling back on the flexed rod must have caused enough pressure that the steelhead couldn’t resist to take action unless she was giving in so early in the fight. No chance, she spun downstream and again my reel peeled off line through the eyes. I palmed the reel and visually watched the long hen skirt the top of the shallower slate bottom, Steelhead moved aside as she fought through them. I walked downstream with her, keeping side pressure as much as possible. She then turned looking upstream as the pressure of the rod tip faced her front-side. I backed up on shore as the rod flexed to the middle and with my palm on the reel, the line tightened, pulling on the fishes hooked mouth. The pressure was too much and she unwillingly turned toward me. Reeling in line I lifted the rod occasionally keeping an uncertainty amount of pressure on the subdued fished. I stepped into the water and positioned her between me and the shoreline. Laying the fish on the bank I got a quick picture, unattached the sucker spawn from its bottom jaw and released her back into the even flow of water.
 I walked back up the shore to the area of waiting steelhead. Dropping my sucker spawn mid-stream and up from the steelhead upon the shallow slate bottom, I watched as the spawn drifted into the gray mass. I watched a steelhead drift back from the gathered few and then noticed my fly line tip jerk slightly. I tried to set the hook as the fish took off away from me but I was too late. I should have been watching my line and not the gray pod of fish being that I couldn‘t see my fly!!
 I drifted the sucker spawn through the deep pool a few times without success. I moved up the bank, from the deep pool, and my next attempt I let the sucker spawn drift into the pool with me being upstream. I kept an eye on the dry fly line tip as it approached the middle of the pool. The tip began to slow and sink. I pulled back on the rod and you would have thought I set off a submerged depth charge. A head of a fish came out of the pool thrashing and whipping its head trying to throw my good hook set. I quickly pulled loose line in, with my left hand, until I felt the tightness of the line. The fish continued its thrashing as if I hit a nerve. He submerged and took line towards mid-stream. My rod flexed quickly and bowed towards the bull running steelhead as I kept a tight grip, trying to achieve the right pressure on the spinning fly reel to not put undue pressure to snap the line. The big girthed male, head surfaced again, mid-stream, and began another head thrashing tantrum. “THIS FISH wanted no part of coming to shore. With an uneasy twitching of the rod tip, the steelhead settled in about 2 feet of water possibly contemplating his next move. He was big and I knew I didn’t want to let him rest too long but I couldn’t budge him and all I could do was to keep him under good pressure. I knew the longer he was in the water, thrashing, the better of the chance the hook would create a bigger hole in his lip and possibly slip out. “I wanted him landed as much as he didn’t want to be beached!”
 With the rod bowed and the fish suspended in the current I moved the rod tip left to right trying to get him to exert more energy. The steelhead had enough of my shenanigans and decided to try his luck once more. He turned towards me and dropped into the deep pool in which this whole ordeal started. I had the rod up as high as I could to keep the line taught when he motored towards the shallower slate bottom mid-stream. He used the swifter current to his advantage as he kept his body sideways across the current with his head facing the far bank. I kept the pressure on but couldn’t upright or turn the fish. I had to let the reel turn beneath my palm, giving him line, as he was being pushed by the current. I walked the line downstream keeping an eye on the possum playing steelhead. “Been there, done that” I thought to myself.
 I was ready when he righted himself up and tried to outsmart me by suddenly taking off away from me. I had already loosened up the drag some and was depending on my experience of controlling the drag pressure with my left palm. With the rod butt in my gut I was able to steady the rod with one hand. Across stream he tried his head thrashing but the rod pressure, towards me, was more than what he could stand. I felt every ounce of his weight as I cautiously reeled him towards me, through the water, across the current. I started to have the successful feeling that one gets when he’s overconfident about landing a fish but I kept my composure on the task at hand.
 Nearer he got to shore the better I felt. The closer he got to shore the more he seemed unwilling of submission. I started to close in when he turned his big wide body and propelled himself away with his big tail fin. The rod began to bow beyond what I thought was safe so I let line out and the rod flexed to a safer arc. The steelhead thwarted a few more times without releasing himself and I was hoping he finally came to the realization that he wasn’t going to get away until I decided!!
 Nearer to the shore again I laid the rod down on the stones and quickly lifted and laid him beside the rod. A quick picture was enough to prove my accomplishment without roping and showing him off. The sucker spawn had already unhooked itself somehow. I felt eyes upon me and glanced up to see Rookie watching my ordeal. I really wanted to get a hero shot with me and the fish but I didn’t want to leave the fish out of the water any longer. I lifted the fish and brought him back to the water. Laying him beneath the water surface he sucked in water and practically leaped out of my hands to freedom. Ya!!
 I felt like a first time gambler with a bunch of free tokens on the hottest slot machine in the casino.
 Another ½ hour or so I hooked up a few more times only losing one. Jim and Kevin showed up and stated that they had a few hook-ups upstream. They started to head downstream and soon I seen Jim with a bent rod. I don’t think he ever landed the fish but he looked to be having fun trying.
 Without any more hook ups for awhile I started to journey downstream to catch up with the rest of the group. The evening sky was upon us and darkness wasn’t too far behind.
At the vehicles we took our fishing gear off and got comfortable for the drive home. We bid Rookie and Hans good-bye and thanked him for the ‘guiding’ and the helpfulness in putting us on fish.
When I exited the ramp, heading south on I79, I had Jim reach into the glove compartment and pull out the cigar box. I took out a stout Romeo Y Julieta Cedro Deluxe #2 and unwrapped the brown paper over wrap. The light brown tobacco looked refreshing for the ride home. I thanked Rippinlip for the cigar, this time in person!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reflections of East Hickory Creek

Reflections of East Hickory

The Harley stood on dropped pine needles
upon the hard dirt forest floor
Moon beams shot through the upper green firs
reflecting light off the chrome fin-tail pipes
and springer front end
I remember the day
Though the month eludes me.
Sounds of creek water running through riffles
over fallen timber, dropping into deep pools
were the background music
No rock & roll, no country
Just the harmony of nature’s sounds
as tree frogs and crickets join in
along the waters of East Hickory
Flames danced off of split logs
giving a yellow glow of my night
A bed of deep orange wood coals
radiated heat below a small cooking rack
Frying trout simmering in a small skillet
its aroma filling my surroundings
Mixed with the evergreen scent.
A half smoked stogie graces my lips
A creek cold beer
sits on a nearby rock
My tent pitched in the shadows
to protect me from the elements
After a day of cruising and fishing
this I how my evening was spent
My four piece fly rod
leaned up against a hardwood
My vest hung
on a crooked limb
Light beams reflect off of chrome
Wood crackling and flickering within the fire
beneath the full moon.
The forested campsite
The trout stream
Night time campfire
A pitched tent
Frying fish
Creek cold beer
I’ll have to return soon.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Fly Rod, a Trout Stream and a Ricola

A Fly Rod, a Trout Stream and a Ricola

The past 2 weeks I’ve been suffering from cold and flu symptoms. I’m sure two Sundays ago didn’t help it any by fishing in the cold weather down by State College either. The past week I was taking night time flu capsules, day time non-drowsy capsules and an occasional plop-plop fizz-fizz of Alka-Seltzer when needed every 4 hours. I was so bad Tuesday I went home early from work. When Jim called Thursday, about possibly fishing Saturday down on Spring Creek, I had to pass. I needed and wanted to get better even though the weather was to warm up some. Instead of fishing Saturday I went Winery Visiting. I am having my second annual wine sampling party this Saturday and took the chance to go out and buy some wine. I figured maybe the crushed grape juice and alcohol content might help with killing some flu germs.
 After three wineries, countless samples of vino, from sweet to dry, and buying 8 bottles of wine I felt I did ok. I’m not sure if the wine killed any germs but it got me to bed early and a good night’s sleep.
Sunday I awoke to sunshine in the morning. The weather gal predicted sunshine all day with temps reaching to mid 40’s. At 8:30am it was still 20 degrees but the outside world looked inviting. Jim called about 10:30am and wanted to know about fishing. He was headed west to pick up some fly tying supplies and maybe fishing Little Sandy. I knew I wouldn’t make it all day fishing with my symptoms still present so I told him that if I go out today it would be closer to home. I bid him good luck and went back to tying.
The sun was peering through the blinds ever so brightly and my hanging trout clock was ticking and toccing to me. My trout minded brain was listening and by 11:30 I was bundling up to go fishing. I couldn’t resist!! I took two non-drowsy liquid gels, a bag of Ricola’s and headed towards Brookville.
 I pulled into the half plowed, slushy wet parking lot at the fly-fishing only area. One other vehicle was parked there and the guy who owned it was walking his two snow sniffing Irish Setters. I had the complete stream to myself. The sun was shining, the creek was running clear and nearly a breeze in the air. I couldn’t smell anything because of my stuffed up nostrils but I’m sure nothing was worth smelling anyhow in the March winter weather.
 I strung up my 5wt. Scott rod; Orvis reel and 444 double taper line. The most deadly trout combination I own. The trout were in trouble today, I just felt it. I put on my new trout packed fishing shirt over my four layers of clothes and into my 3mm neoprene I was ready to fish. I put a Ricola on my tongue, a handful in my sleeve pocket, and walked through the snow down to the water.
 The ice shelves were a bit thinner layered than two weeks ago and they seemed to extend a little further out towards the middle of the stream. The water looked to be a couple of inches higher also, so it didn’t look like I was going to be able to wade between the extended ice shelves and deeper water. I positioned myself in the shallower water, between the rocky boulders, and contemplated my first set up.
 The water before me rolled through the boulders creating a rumble and tumble of wavy water washing down stream and spreading into the wider deeper section. I knew feeding zones laid within the edges of the faster water on either side but being the clear water was only a foot or so deep, the lethargic fish might not be holding there today, at least not many. I figured most of the fish might still be hiding below the ice shelves or maybe getting some sun in the more deeper section, keeping hidden, near the two big submerged boulders I knew were below. I rigged up a tandem rig of a latex caddis on the bottom and a BWO wet above that. I twisted on a strip of lead further down from the indicator as Dennis explained to me earlier in the week on how he fishes two flies. With a roll cast and an upstream mend I started my fishing. I changed flies now and then and also depth. I was keeping a steady drift as smooth as possible with each cast and finally in the deeper, downstream water, my indicator submerged. I wristed the hook set and the fish immediately responded. We tussled a short and I brought in a nice brown trout. Alright, I had the right depth, felt confident and relaxed. I waded downstream just a bit to get a good drift outward towards the submerged boulders. Within 2 drifts I lifted and landed another brown. After releasing him I took a good look at the reddish-brown nymph I was using to make a notation in my head how to retie a few more of them in case I lose that one. Slowly working my drift further downstream I hooked up and lost a fish. I was sure there were more fish below my best drifts but I was not able to wade any further due to the large ice shelf that extended from shore.
 I got to land and noticed a notch of water between the middle of the ice shelf and shore line. I stepped into the knee high water and broke off a bigger chunk of ice to make a nice notched out area for me to make my stand. Looping a cast over the ice in front of me I got the indicator to drop just before the submerged boulders. A quick mend upstream and my indicator slowly drifted my flies beneath. About the fourth or fifth drift through, sure enough, the indicator tilted upstream enough to tell me something was on the other end. Another quick wrist set and fish on. Holding the rod out beyond the ice shelf I played the fish trying to keep him from swimming beneath the ice in front and downstream. As the fish headed upstream, out from the ice, I timed it and got the appx. 12” trout onto the ice shelf. The sun shined down on the browns irregular pattern of dark patches and haloed spots. I unhooked the fish and let him swim from my hand into the notched area I was standing in.
 I looked out and noticed a fish rise downstream some, but within casting distance, to some midges. I started to retie my line and set up for some dry fly action. A guy and a boy walked down from the parking lot with fly rods in hand. They evidently had seen the fish rising also. They splashed into the water and positioned themselves within 6 yards of the few rising trout. 6 YARDS TO RISING TROUT in clear water!!! The guy waded to the other side of the stream while his son stayed in the shallow water below the trout. There is no way they hadn’t of seen me already drifting my indicator in the area. Well, I guess that’s part of fishing. They started to splash down their fly lines towards the risers. I finally got set up and tied on a BWO #20 midge dry. Within 5 or 6 casts, nearer to the extended ice shelf downstream towards the boy, a fish rose to my fly. With a short quick wrist I tried to set the hook but the point evidently missed its mark. The boy looked up at me seeing and knowing I missed the riser. We all continued to cast to the few risers off and on. The guy across stream would move around trying to position himself for a better cast, I guess, but I didn’t notice any sudden movements as if he had missed one. I missed one more riser but it might have been going after another fly where I thought mine was at. After I felt the two spooked the fish enough I got out of the water and headed downstream.
 Down below I continued to drift the same two flies under the indicator and picked up a few more and lost one. The sun felt good upon my skin and actually started to penetrate the layers of clothes I was wearing. I kept a Ricola in my mouth when I felt a deep cough coming on. The water started to feel cold through my booted feet and I needed to move out of the water.
 I walked along the shore line and reentered into a slow shallow area out from the bank. I casted into a slow section of water, upstream, I knew fish usually hung out in away from the faster current near the middle of the creek.. The indicator just sat atop the water almost motionless. I thought I may have hit bottom. I let it sit there a bit and then the indicator, I swear, winked at me! I sniffled and then lifted a hook set and sure enough felt the resistance and than movement of a fish. The trout seemed as if he didn’t know which way to fight to get away from me. He spun around under the water until I got more rod tension on the line before he realized he was had. I brought him to hand in the water and was able to release him quickly. I casted to the exact area and let the indicator sit just like before. I almost couldn’t believe it when the indicator started to drift slightly. Another wrist set and another brown came to hand.
 I casted a few more times out into the waters before me and then went back up to where I started. The one boy fished over the area where fish were rising earlier but I was able to see there were no rising trout. Two fellows leaned up against the wooden railed fence at the parking lot watching the boy and me fish. I figured I’d display a little casting entertainment. Even with the indicator I’d roll cast so my fly would drop just shy of the far ice shelf. I’d overhand cast further down stream letting the indicator drop easily upon the water instead of a big splash. I’d get that perfect drift flowing with the current. I was hoping for a fish but it never happened. I guess this time I wasn’t able to show off with a hooked fish.
 Oh well, I was feeling the cold through my boots and I figured by now the Pen’s hockey game would have started and be in the first period. I took a couple of pictures of the stream and headed to the van.
Driving through Brookville I stopped to get gas. Back on the road I took the ramp and entered onto I80 going west. I turned on the hockey game and couldn’t resist. I wrapped the small piece of Ricola back into its original wrapper. I opened the hinged cigar tin. I took out one of the four Macanudo Ascots laying in the tin and unwrapped it. I lit the end and watched a small bellow of smoke discolor the air. I then creased opened the front windows of the van, relaxed, listened to the game and smoked the cigar heading for home. I didn’t smell a thing!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Limestoning in February

Limestoning in February

I called Brad Saturday evening on the conditions at Spring Creek down by State College. He said four of them caught about 30 trout. Mostly on nymphs but a few were caught on the surface. A few times throughout the day blue wing olives would emerge and they got a few trout to rise for them. I told him Jim and I should be down there Sunday morn about 9:00am. As soon as I got off the phone with Brad I called Jim and gave him the news. We were both pretty excited about possibly having some dry fly action on the last day of Feb.
We left my house at 7:00am. We figured we’d get down to Bellefonte about 9. We left 30 degree weather with mounds of snow covering the ground. On our journey across the interstate we went through white outs of blizzard like snow. When finally heading south we couldn’t believe the lack of snow in this south central part of PA. We met the group of guys at Dave’s camp. By the time Dan showed up we were all ready itchen to get a line wet, especially us who only came down for the day.
Dennis and Dan started from camp and would fish downstream. Later on they would be joined by Dave. Jim and I followed Brad and two of his pals to fish Spring Creek below Bellefonte.
We all walked down to the long stretch of rolling water. An inch or two of snow lay upon the ground out from the waters edge. The banks were void of snow and the limestone cold clear water flowed with ease, welcoming any anxious fisherman to wet a line early in the year. Upstate, February is still frozen still water, blankets of snow and ice lined creeks. In South central PA the limestone creeks run with an inviting gesture. The fishermen that have read or studied these streams know there’s an abundance of aquatic food sources for these stream bred and stocked trout.
 Jim takes a water temperature reading at 48 degrees. The outside temperature high is to reach 38 degrees but the cold morning and gray overcast skies doesn’t give any clue of this as the day is to progress.
 Jim and I head up to the long channel run of rolling water as the other three fish the more widened deeper pool of the opening channeled water flow. I tie on a tandem nymph/latex caddis rig and attach an indicator. Jim starts out with his favorite triple threat and we begin our Sunday fishing.
 After an hour, and switching imitations, no one is able to produce any fish. Brad had a few bumps downstream but Jim and I haven’t had any nudges at all to get excited about but just being out, loosening up the arm and shoulder joints, is a great feeling in itself from being cooped up for the past month or so.
 Everyone sort of moves from their own little area and we shuffle along the bank and reposition ourselves for another drift. Brad and his pals move upstream where Jim and I started and will continue upstream from there. Jim moves into the deep outflow of channeled water where Brad was getting bumps now and then as I drop down below to fish calmer water. Time tics by and the sun peers out occasionally to brighten up the dullness of winter. I constantly look for the first sign of a blue wing olive fluttering about or a sure sign of a rising trout. Jim claims he had a hit and a grab from a trout in the deep pool but he didn’t get a good hook set. I switch positions with Jim as he continues drifting his triple threat downstream. I try my tandem set up but I get bored with the constant cast upstream, drift through, pick up and recast upstream routine. Brad and Jim both claim to have had trout bump their offering in this pool so I have at least a little more encouragement where I’m now fishing than where I was before.
 I tie on a triple threat streamer and add a little weight. Casting upstream a bit, I mend line upstream so the fly will sink deeper before swinging. I continue to work the pool and then decide to cast over the pool into the shallower stony area beyond.
 The sun peers out a little longer through the openings of the clouds and the warmth, how little it is, is welcomed.
 Knowing that hungry trout like to lie in shallow areas sometimes to ambush a minnow for an easy meal I cast across the deeper pool and my triple threat lands well into the shallow waters. I keep my rod tip up and flex it back now and then to put a little more action to my streamer. Starting at the shallow water up near the channel I work my streamer down little by little with each cast. With each drop of my triple threat I twitch the rod, let the streamer come towards me and than drop the line some so it catches the faster current of the main run and watch the fly line swing out of the shallows and into the deeper backside of the pool. Three quarters of the way down my streamer lands easily with my overhand casting stroke. As I twitch the rod tip up the fly line starts its movement towards me than stops before swinging downstream. I lift the rod higher and feel the weight on the other end. I quick set the hook with a sharper tug. Water boils upon the surface and a wave moves into the deeper pool with my fly line attached.
“I got one” I exclaim to Jim
 The trout fights below the surface like an angry trout and not the lethargic ones usually caught this time of year. He almost surfaces below me and I can see he’s a good size rainbow.
“Get the camera out” I say to Jim “he’s a good one!”
 The rainbow than shoots out of the water displaying his lateral pinkish red hues. He splashes back into the water and gives me a little tussle as I bring him in on my 6X tippet. With a little hand coaxing he agrees to take a picture with me without any more arguments before I release him back into his home water.


It's fun sharing a drift with friends you haven't seen for a while. here's a couple of pics of other trout caught throughout the day.
Dennis caught this 'bow' on his new fly rod built by Dave

Jim's wild brown