Monday, April 26, 2010

Sandy's Rainbows

Sandy's Rainbows
 After youth turkey hunting with my grandson in the morning I dropped him off home. I was planning on taking him and my granddaughter fishing but my daughter said they had friends coming over for the kids to play with. I ate lunch with them and then headed to do some fishing, alone.
….. The wind kicked up when I got out of the van along side the road near Sandy Creek. The sky was moving slow with dark clouds and there was a feeling that rain might drop by later in the day. The early afternoon was still a little chilly but bright, as the sun tried to show itself behind the grayish cloud cover. After waking up early and hunting the morning I didn’t feel like piecing together my 4 piece rods so a put together my 2 piece Scott rod, got my wicker creel basket and headed for the stream.
 I crossed the creek and walked up the old railroad grade. Just a little more upstream from where my grandson, Damon, and I fished the first day. I walked through the woods and stepped into the shallow waters along the bank. I fished streamers and a latex caddis as I slowly made it to the area Damon and I fished the week before. The going was slow as well as the catching. I managed landing two trout with a couple of misses. There were a few other vehicles where I parked, and though I didn’t come across many other fishermen, I was sure some already hit the deeper holes I was just fishing.
 A few fellows passed by and fished the 3-4 feet of water downstream from me. They nymph fished there way out from the hanging pine branches but never attempted to cast beneath. One fellow pulled a fish from a log jam, on the RR grade side bank, as the other two joined in for a few minutes and tried for more. After that, they climbed the bank and headed for the path and I knew why.
 Downstream from that log jam was a wide shallow area of water. Dry boulder tops peaked above the gradual moving water. Riffles and small pocket waters surrounded each boulder or water laden branches. It just wasn’t worth the patience to pick this water apart for what may only contain a trout or two if any. I figure most of the other stream wonderers go to the same log jam, looked downstream at the shallows and climb the bank to the path also. Well, when I got to the log jam I decided to take the challenge and methodically work the shallow stretch. 

 First off the previous waters were most likely fished over today or I would have caught more trout.
Second, if I was right, everyone else got to this point and skipped over the shallow stretch also. Therefore the fish, which I was sure there were some, would not be spooked and I would have a good chance hooking into some of these aggressive hungry trout if I fish it correctly.

 I tie on a latex caddis to my 7 1/2 foot or so 6x tapered leader. The water is clear but with good placement I could use the riffling water aside the boulders to my advantage. I stay a few feet away from the less used bank which gives me some room behind me for back-casts if need be. Other than that I can maneuver my overhead cast to drop the caddis from upstream, to any downstream fishy location.

….I move with stealth barely kicking up any mud from below my felt bottom boots. I pick my spots and, with down and across stream long casts, I lay the latex caddis just shy of any skinny riffle along any dry top boulder. Keeping my rod tip high, to prevent the line from hanging up on any surface snags, I mend upstream a bit making sure the caddis enters the run first. At times the wind kicks up and a breeze moves upstream so I angle my arm a bit to cast into the wind. The breeze holds up my line, above the water, putting an arc in it. This in turn causes my caddis to flow slower into the thin channeled riffling water giving any shallow holding trout more time to take my offering. I watch my fly line end where it meets the water. Any stoppage or sudden jerk I pull back and set the hook.
A rainbow shoots out of the water with the hook-set. I work the active trout towards me, around hazards and through the shallows. He flips himself out of the water again 10 feet in front of me and returns with a splash. I hold the rod high with my right hand and guide him to my left hand held net.

 I slowly work my way through the shallows as if walking on egg shells. My booted feet subconsciously feel for any loose or uncommon obstructions. My casts are of minimal movement, using my wrist more than my forearm, not wanting any sudden movement, by my part, to warn any trout of my intrusion. I pin point my angled cast, dropping the latex caddis between a sunken boulder and a jutting out surfaced rock. I watch as the white caddis sinks within the riffles. My fly line moves with the current a little beyond my sunken caddis. I set the hook and the flash of a rainbow skirts through the back end of the riffling shallows and turns downstream from me. His head surfaces as he sprays water with his tail fin. He splashes his way towards my net.

 I continue on as before, each cast being as precise as I can make it. My fly lands near danger and I quickly back-cast it up out of the water and redirect my next forward cast. I come to ankle deep shallow water but I roll cast into it anyway with my rod tip high while looking around and contemplating my next target drop. A submerged heavy limb extends from the bank. I drop the caddis inches from the limb and guide the line along its submerged structure. The caddis slows beyond the limb below a hanging pine bough. I draw back on the line to keep the caddis flowing downstream in front of my leader. I move my rod slowly to my left letting the caddis flow with the current. A sharp pull this time and I set the hook. Another rainbow flops into my net.

 …down below I come to a deeper wide pool of water restricted by a wall of human placed rocks and boulders. Water flows between and over the wall making a shallow run of riffles clear across the stream bed. A palomino is present in the deep pool as another fly guy nymph fishes from the opposite side. In time I catch two fish on the latex caddis and a couple on a yellow sucker spawn. The nymph guy catches a few also but the time spent is slow and tedious. My nymph fishing patience has run out so I tie on a bunny leech.
 Stripping and flinching it with my rod tip, I try to coax the palomino to take notice. He wants nothing to do with it but below and further out I catch a glimpse of a long dark fish holding near the bottom. On my next drift through the dark fish starts to follow my bunny leech for a closer look. I try to give the leech more movement with strips and rod tip action as the dark trout follows. Nearer to me I quit all movement and let the leech sink to the bottom for fear the fish will notice my actions before him. I watch as his long body curves downstream and he returns to his lair. I try three more drifts though with only a short glance from the big fish before looking into my fly box for another temptation.
 I tie on a heavy white wooly bugger hoping that the weight will drop the bugger down deeper, possibly into a safer feeding zone. After a partial drift I watch the bugger come into view but no sign of the fish. Two more swings and no reactions from beneath.
 I contemplate the situation in my mind. The big fish is either curious or hungry. He didn’t get that big by not being cautious. He had time to look my leech pattern over long enough that he must have felt something wasn’t right. The heavy bugger didn’t enthuse him at all so I figured he either seen them before and knew they were danger or didn’t like the bulkiness of it. I look into my bugger box and take out a cone head triple threat. It’s a pattern that the trout may have never seen and with just the sparseness in material and color to give a good minnow imitation.
 I tie on the triple threat and cast upstream, across and beyond my target, practically at the nymph fisherman’s boot. I let the triple sink, with an upstream mend, and begin to strip it in quickly, not wanting the big fish to get a good look at it. I see him follow with curiosity but the bugger’s moving too fast for his liking. Again I cast out, this time not as far out. I watch my line and when I think the triple is within his vision, I short whip the rod tip upstream with erratic movement. I strip in line again and again he tries to follow for a closer look. No chance!!
 I take a deep breath as my heart races and I watch circular rings form on the water surface from the sporadic rain fall.
 I cast once more towards the far side and mend upstream letting the triple drop deep. This time no extra movement or sudden jerks on my part, just a slow bottom drift like a dead minnow. I see the white belly of the triple come into view below the palomino. From out of nowhere I see an oblong fish charge my fly and witness the whiteness of his mouth opening and engulfs my offering. I lift the rod quickly and feel his weight. It feels good!!
 The pull on the rod, from below, tugs like a twisting turning branch in fast current. The energy of his head shakes and body jerks are transmitted through the line making the rod tip fluctuate. My line hand finger tips feel every vibration of his aggressive actions. I watch the elongated object as I feel his might. He turns and forcefully swims away as I let tensioned line slip through my finger tips. He wrestles with the line and rod, to free himself, exerting a great amount of energy. Finally, upstream from me, the rod force subdues his escape unexpectedly and again he aggressively tries to release the triple from his jaws with more head jerks. He turns towards me as I can tell he’s tiring quickly from his all-out bursts of energy. In seeing me he turns upstream with a quick bolt but I angle the rod upstream and horizontal making him fight the tip pressure from his side. He turns, this time, downstream and I guide him towards me. My shallow C & R net is too small for his length, I must bring him to the shallows to unhook him. He splashes as he reaches the shallower water than arcs his body towards the more open water. My rod tip is high and he completely turns around as the strength of the rod gives no more leeway to the tiring fish.

 Sometimes there’s not much more a fisherman can do to revive a fish. Holding him by the tail, gently, into the slow current I wait for him to react. He tails out of my hand but within a few feet he body sides up. I try for a few more minutes to revive him to where I feel he will survive. When he wedges himself, nose first, between a rock and a submerged limb I have no choice but to take him home. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Looks like I’ll be eating trout fillets for dinner early next week.

On my way through Franklin I stop at Spanky’s Tobacco World and buy $20.00 worth of tobacco supplies. I slide the $4.00+ Fuente cigar out of the cellophane wrapper. The natural tobacco, of the Double Chateau, immediately enhances my sense of smell. I savor the flavor as I wet the natural outer leaf for a smooth slow burn. I lite the cigar and the distinct aroma fills my van as I head for home.

 Oh well, my birthday trout came three days late. Better late than never! : )

more pics;


Friday, April 23, 2010

Tipping the 'GLASS' 2010

Tipping the ‘Glass’
Birthday 2010

I decided to fish with my fiberglass rods for this year’s birthday. Just trying something different, I was hoping it could turn out to be something special that I could always remember as part of another fly fishing birthday excursion.

 There was a morning April chill when I crawled out of my sleeping bag to start the van to warm things up. The clock on the, AM only, radio showed 7:30 as the 318 Dodge engine came to life. No matter, it was Wednesday and I had no one to contend with. I opened the side van doors and the sound of creek water tumbling over rocks made the forest morning more pleasant. There’s nothing like waking to the clean air and pure sounds of the Allegheny National Forest. I put the single Coleman burner on a sawed off stump, filled the tea pot and got the flame going. While the water heated up I started dressing for the morning temperature.
 The kettle whistled and pressured steam blew out the spout hole just at the right time. The hot steamed mixed with the cold air causing a visual steam engine smoke effect. I had just gotten my fishing clothes on, gear together and set the breakfast table. I made myself a cup of tea and enjoyed breakfast in my nice warm van.


The morning choice
Trail-Pack 6 piece 5wt fiberglass rod. (Restored by Jack)

Just out from camp, on the second cast, into the very slow moving pool, produced a strike but I wasn’t expecting anything to hit the bunny leech so quickly. I thought I had a good enough view in the three feet of gin clear water but the trout struck at the swinging leech just at the time my vision was impaired by glare. They’ll do that sometimes, you know?
 I didn’t get any strikes in the millstone shallow riffles as I slowly worked my way downstream. I eventually came upon a stout older gent with an 11 foot fly rod, neoprene chest waders, standing in water just below his knees. After he told me that a few fish were rising in the pool he was casting into, that was all it took to get me psyched for some dry fly action on the ‘red glass’ rod. I slowly waded to the opposite bank and observed my situation. The sun was still below the tall hemlocks and the blossoming bank-side tree on the opposite bank casting a full shadow over the wide semi-slow current moving pool. I had been roll casting with 4x 7 foot tapered leader. I knew this was too short for a clear day and clear water conditions. I knotted on a piece of 5x to the leader and a longer section of 7x to that. I might have got away with 6x but with the sun on the rise and the clear water I was afraid some of the trout would be line shy to the thicker tippet. I started with a #18 blue dun as I watched more than a few trout rise throughout the pool area.
 Overhand casting the 5 piece fiberglass rod felt like a beast but it casted the small flies well and with good distance even though I was using double taper line.
 I could make this morning adventure story telling long but the pictures show some of the nice brook trout I caught on a variety of #20‘s, # 18’s and #16’s dries. These are just a few of many I hooked into on dries stemming from blue duns, BWO’s, Adams, Adams parachutes etc. I missed quite a few but I blame this on the small hook sizes I was using and not slower reactions due to old age.

.Dry fly fishing ’till noon catching and releasing brook trout continuously!! What a good start of a birthday!
 I went back to the van for an afternoon break. I wasn’t sure what time it was because when I’m catching fish I don’t pay attention to time anyway. I had nowhere to be anyhow and I was where I wanted to be at the time being.

Afternoon D-light
Diamondglass 7’ 3wt.

 Back on the water I nail knotted a fresh 9 foot 7x tapered leader to the 3wt. Sylk line. To this I tied on a BWO parachute because the wind picked up a bit and a few small creamish flies, they looked like moths from what I could tell, were flying about. I felt the white parachute might raise some fish and the dark olive body should show up well beneath the bright sunshine that now stood overhead.
 To a fly caster the wind will hamper ones casting ability, but when you’re fishing in clear water with slow current, the riffling that the breeze makes on the surface is a blessing in disguise.
 With the sun beaming down the riffling surface should hide the leader and tippet well. The fish won’t have as good of a look at the drifting fly so I felt with the breeze now and then; my odds were more favorable with than without. When the breeze would stop I was able to cast cross creek under the blossoming tree where I would get a rise more often than not. It was a far cast and much easier with the other rod but with concentration and correct timing I was able to get the dry there. I also was able to reach the far tail out where there was more surface activity than nearer to me. When a breeze kicked up I cast nearer and occasionally upstream, where again, the line shy trout might not notice my line above their heads. All in all I casted in the direction the wind permitted and continued to make trout rise throughout the afternoon.
 Casting the 3wt Diamonglass was quite a bit different and more relaxing than the 5 piece. I could feel the rod load more distinctly with the weight of the Sylk line and leader on my backstroke. The slow action had me stopping longer than I normally do but it felt good. On the forward cast the rod gradually moved forward with my gentle arm speed. The limp Sylk line looped forward with the leader and dry following. I watched as the fly gently fell to the water like a natural mayfly as the straightened line fell quietly upon the water surface. Quite often a fish would rise to the fly as soon as the fly hit the water almost as if they could see the fly gently falling to the water.
Here's a few caught on the Diamonglass rod

Another few hours of dry fly fishing produced many more fish and fatigue in the one year older joints. My casting shoulder and arm were felling heavy. I was also feeling the lower back aches of ’Loomis Syndrome’ (inside joke) and my finger joints were feeling the dry aches from arthritis. I was plum tiring out! For giggles I tied on a latex caddis and casted out to visible trout. They attacked it like woman to a chocolate buffet dessert table. It wasn’t challenging but I was just curious. I left the pool and fished the riffles, below the pool, swinging a bunny leech pattern. A couple of quick strikes produced fighting fish but the stirring activity soon made the other trout wary of my presence.
 I climbed the opposite bank and headed towards the van, leaving the pool fisherman-less, quiet and with still a few subtle rises.
 At the van I laid the rod upon the back bed. I took a long drink of cooler cold tea and made a sandwich. The clock showed 4:05. Wow, what an afternoon! I pulled out and headed for Clear Creek State Park for the rest of the evening.

My evening with Shakespeare
5wt Wonderod
 Still my favorite 'glass' rod. Maybe because we're old pals from being together for so long. I like the short Wonderod for small creeks but not affraid to take it to tame bigger fish in bigger streams. Tuesday evening, after work, we went down to Mill Creek for a pre-warm-up before my birthday. We caught a few brook trout in the low water conditions. I decided to end the evening with another visit with my pal.

I pulled into the parking area amongst 3 other vehicle. I lit a cigar and headed to the swimming area for a look see. An older gent was casting to visible trout in the slow creek channel that led to the swimming area. He was stripping a streamer with no results. I met another older fellow at the wooden crossing bridge holding a new looking fly rod. He said there were trout about but they weren’t having any luck.
“I think they want bait” he commented.
 I crossed the bridge to have a look see at all them trout. The water was very clear making the trout easy enough to see suspending above the muddy bottom. There was practically no surface current as a 3 foot branch slowly floated atop. The guy across stream continued his efforts, casting and stripping in a streamer, with no results or questionable followers.
 Back across the bridge I came across the fellow with the new looking fly rod again. He sat tying on a caddis dry to his long leader.
“well, might as well get your rod and try fishing” he suggested
“ That’s what I was planning to do” I replied.
 I took out the 5wt. Shakespear Glass rod and pieced the two sections together. I lit up a cigar and with my fly gear on again, headed for the water. I crossed the bridge and stood upon the bank looking upon the conditions. I tied on a good length of 6x fluorocarbon and tied on a #12 latex caddis to this. I roll casted out to the trout and the ones nearest the dropping caddis and line scattered like cockroaches upon being surprised with daylight. A few trout, away from the scene, swam over to see what all the commotion was. One took the chance and mouthed the slowly sinking caddis. I whipped back the long length of line, the line tensioned and the rod flexed forward, for about a second or two. The line quickly went limp and the rod tip straightened as I watched the hooked fish take off with my caddis. Bad knot tying, grrr!
 After the old guys left I re-crossed the bridge to the more open casting area. Playing around for another hour or so I hooked into 4 fish, one actually being a brown trout. The going was real slow and the boringness of it all got the best of me. I tipped my ‘glass’ rod towards the water and headed back to the van.

At the van I took the time to pack away the two fiberglass rods and dressed into my riding clothes. I lit up my last Macanudo Ascot as I drove around the parking lot. Out on rte. 949 headed towards home.
What a great Birthday memory, I thought, ‘one to never forget’
“Something special!” that’s for sure.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Swamp Mission

Swamp Mission with a Fly Rod

We met at Sheetz about 9:10am. I pulled in with the canoe on the van. John stood by his truck checking his cell phone. I hoped it wasn’t important because he was to guide me around a swamp for some pike and largemouth bass using a fly rod.

 I followed John to a State Game Lands. The swamp/lake, (I’ll use the term swamp for the rest of the story), was a few hundred yards away from the gated parking area. I thought we would be able to pull up to the swamp, unload gear, return to the parking area and be on our way. I guessed wrong, seeing the circumstances, but John had another idea. I remember him saying something about bringing his deer hauler. So, as I got the canoe down from the van roof, John assembled his deer hauler.
We balanced the canoe on the deer hauler and strapped it down. We filled the canoe with our fly fishing gear, paddles, life jackets and net! Oh ya, John brought along a spinning rod and reel for some reason or another!?! We wheeled the canoe passed the locked gate, which blocked the grassy road, and easily made it to our launching sight. It WAS easier than I expected. John got in the front of the canoe and I pushed him out into the water further and than climbed in. We were going to do some swamp fishing in April!

 The sky was streaked in grays and light blues with small cumulus clouds above. The weather people had predicted rain but for now the sun was peeking through these skyward factors. This gave the swamp a fishy atmosphere, not too bright yet not a dull ugly look either. A small breeze blew towards us and created a washboard ripple look upon the water surface. As we turned the canoe, towards the long stretch of swamp, I got a better look at our arena for the day.
 10’ to 12’ thin trees, partially submerged in water, branched skyward along most of the bank. Unplowed farmers fields colored the backdrop in spring greens and wheat tan and yellow hues. I noticed patches of scrubby brush growing in small areas within the swamp as well as tops of lily pad growth spread throughout the waters.
 John pointed to a grove of gray, well weather worn, tree trunks standing feeble in the middle of our direction ahead. Their bark were stripped as the wood beneath looked like well aged barn siding. Their limbs branched out, up to a few feet or so, elbowing in different directions finally coming to an abrupt broken blunt end. Far off John pointed in the direction of another grove of weathered tree trunks. An Osprey was tending a branchy nest in the crook of one of the well weathered tree trunks. Within 20 yards another looked on high upon his perch in another crooked branched feeble tree.
 As we paddled on I took notice to clusters of lily pads throughout the swamp, some thicker than others but all good cover for hiding or predatory fish. The water was visible about two feet or so, than the underwater swamp weed tops and stems blocked the view further down. John would point out the deep channel that snaked its way through the swamp as we would canoe over it. It was easy to tell as the underwater weeds disappeared instantly.

 The wind died down as we positioned ourselves within the weathered trunks. John started casting a green popper out along the protruding trunks with his fiberglass fly rod. I put a chew in and started off casting and stripping in streamers I had tied for pike a week earlier. We covered the area pretty well in about an hour or so without any strikes. The area looked perfect but the fish wouldn't cooperate. The sun found its way above us in the clearing sky as geese honked in the background like a traffic jam in a major downtown city.
 We paddled out of the area and figured on fishing in deeper water. Ducks flew out from cover as we approached near weedy patches. In some areas we would see small wakes of fish swimming away from our presence. We found a visible stump, just off from a deeper section, and I tied the back rope to a limb. John scored first with a crappie on a small white streamer he was using. Not long after this he scored another crappie and I believe a small largemouth. I was trying my best but I’m not as well acquainted with fishing in a canoe in a swamp as I am along a streambed.

John noticed a beaver hut far off in the distance within the swamp water. He gestured that maybe pike would be in and around the loose limbs and branches near the beaver hut. It looked like a long way to paddle but we had all day and maybe that’s where the hungry fish were. The wind picked up a little as we paddled, into it, to our destination. The sun dimmed, and looking up, I noticed small groups of dark clouds blowing through. Sprinkles of rain dotted the calmer sections of water hidden behind groups of swampy bush growth. It didn’t look serious and nothing was said about turning back or giving up. We made a wide arc, paddling around the beaver hut, not wanting draw attention to our intrusion of the area. We circled around so we could put our backs against the wind to make our casting less difficult. We found some sturdy branches protruding the surface water and I tied off with the rope knotted to the rear ring of the canoe. The canoe drifted out towards the beaver dam and than came to an abrupt stop. The wind made for good distant casting and the washboard water surface hid our heavy leaders and tippets.

 I worked the far left side of the beaver hut casting a yellow sunfish slider and occasionally a perch looking triple threat where I knew the channel deepened. Occasionally I’d cast high over John’s left shoulder, towards the beaver hut, when he wasn’t looking while fishing to his right. John worked the branchy outskirts of the hut and deeper channel between the canoe and the hut. He would, at times, toss his green popper to the shallows towards his right but concentrated nearer the hut and deep channel more often.

Mind you, we’re sitting in a 17’ canoe casting hard foam poppers with 8 ½ and 9 ½ foot fly rods. We’re not standing on a boat deck flipping jelly worms! With the wind behind us, we’re casting and dropping our offerings 30’ to 45’ away accurately not wanting to snag up on the loose branches or water weeds. Than having to flip the popper out of the water soon enough to start our back-cast trying not to snag up on the swamp weeds in front of us.

 In the deeper channel John finally coaxed a small largemouth up from its depths. He worked the fish towards him for a group picture. After he caught another largemouth I switched to one of my own tied frog poppers.
 Casting across the breeze, to my left, my popper glided and dropped just shy of some overgrown branchy looking hazards, just on the far side of the deep channel. I let the popper sit a few seconds than popped it twice to cause a commotion. The breeze wasn’t strong enough to sweep the popper across the surface but was strong enough to make the washboard surface difficult to keep a constant eye on the popper. I swam the frog popper towards me across the deep channel with even strips. The popper gurgled some and a small wake was created from its sides. I stopped it where I thought the middle of the channel would be and again let it sit. Twitching the rod tip sharply upward twice popped the popper and bubbles formed from the cupped mouth. I took in some slack line as the popper sat there rolling with the small riffles. Wham, a hurricane of water erupted upon the surface and I reared the rod back instinctively. The fished pulled hard as the rod tip bent downward from the pressure but not with enough force I thought I’d have to give him much line. I lowered the rod tip and swung it to my left guiding the bass around some surface branches and to the canoe. I thumbed the nice size largemouth for an instant picture. The bass had engulfed my frog popper completely in its mouth. With a quick twist of my pliers, I released the hook and than released the bass back into the swamp water. I watched as he disappeared into the darkness.

 After another hour of casting without catching, we canoed to a quiet calm cove with lots of lily pad growth and good shoreline brush. With the sun shining again the area looked like the perfect spot for fish.
“It’s something how we fishermen always know where the fish should be but most times nobody told the fish.”
 In the time went spent in the cove John caught one blue gill, maybe two, before we decided to drift fish out in the middle of the swamp. We paddled through some snot green thick water surface growth that made us put in a little more effort than we expected to get through the mess.

 Out in the middle I snapped on a shiny clouser looking streamer Kevin had given me the week before. John changed to small white Mylar tubing looking minnow. As the canoe slowly wind drifted, I casted into the deep part of the channel and let the heavy streamer sink a bit before slowly stripping it in. It felt as if I hooked a drifting underwater branch until I pulled back hoping not to snag the unseen object. The darn thing pulled back his way and his weight caused the rod to flex into the middle. We struggled a bit as I kept the rod high and palmed the reel with pressure as needed. After a few tugs in different directions, I controlled the struggle and led my biggest bass of the day towards the canoe. Near the boat he tried to dive deep but the rod pressure only let him get down so far before the pressure was again too much. The largemouth surfaced and I thumbed him in the canoe, got a phot, unhooked him and released him.

 We only drifted a short distance when John hooked into a crappie. After releasing his fish we continued to drift without any strikes. We paddled back and wedged our canoe in a ’V’ of a surfaced branch in hopes of catching more fish but that didn’t occur.

 We finally let the canoe drift again as the wind kicked up just enough to gently push us towards our entry point though we were still quite a ways off. John continued using his white Mylar minnow streamer as I would switch different streamers as depth would allow. We were slowly drifting towards a nice wide patch of lily pads. John was teasing any fish laying in wait along the outskirts of the growth. I had just casted and was slowly stripping in a white streamer when I heard a gulp. I looked over and the splash denoted a fish and, with John’s fly rod bent, I knew he had’m on. I wanted to grab the net but I knew I had to reel in the streamer first in order not to snag up. I reeled frantically looking over the edge of the canoe trying to get a visual of the fish. John kept the rod high and we began to drift smack dab into the lily pads. Lily pads were bending and moving erratically from beneath and than I saw a large mouth surface with a big body shaking behind. I had just got the streamer in as I watched John try his best to heave the bass into the boat as we continued to drift further into thicker lily pads. I laid my rod down to grab the net but, you guessed it, the biggest fish of the day got away. At least I witnessed it!!

Oh well, that was the big excitement. We were about ready to call it a day anyhow. We fished the far bank a bit before we canoed to our entry point. We loaded the canoe on the deer hauler and hauled our tired basses back to the vehicles. We talked a bit as we put our gear away. I drank a beer while John took a couple of pain killers.

I followed him back to the Sheetz and he continued on as I pulled into the parking lot. I went in and bought a Dutch Masters Corona De Luxe and a bag of Cracker Jacks. On route 58, east out of Greenville, I unwrapped the 43 gauge corona and then realized that I didn’t have to nip off the end of the machine-made cigar. I’ve been used to smoke’n hand rolled imports. I lit up, thought of the great weekend and looked forward to getting home and relaxing.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

MISSION: Pike on the Fly

On the way back from steelhead fishing, back in March, Rippinlip commented that he would like to target Pike on the fly rod.
“Sounds good to me” I replied
I pictured a nice warm day in ‘T’ shirts maybe around the end of June or July. We’d have a cooler of beer and lots of room to cast our fly rods and heavy streamers in some pike waters.
Well, a few days later Rippinlip private messages me and tells me he was going out to scout around and see if the pike were in the stream and active. I guessed the ‘targeting pike mission’ was going to be sooner than I expected.
I never fished for pike exclusively but did catch one in the Shenango Dam area on a white rooster tail when I was in my twenties. I never thought of pike as a game fish for fly guys but I was up for the challenge. I looked through my L. L. Bean catalogue, Cabela’s catalogue and The Fly shop catalogue to get an idea of what size hooks to use and pictures of pike flies. I figured 4” streamers would be about right and hook sizes from #2’s to 6’s. I started tying trout pattern streamers like a Black Ghost and Counterfeiter only in longer lengths and sizes. I also tried to match some of the pike flies I seen in the catalogues with the material I already had available and a few patterns I conjured up with my own ingenuity. I had tied 2 of each pattern, one for Rip and one for me.
Rippinlip private messaged me to set up the fishing outing for pike soon. We figured on Easter Sunday and I’d be at his house about 9:00am.

Mission; Pike on the Fly

 We inconspicuously parked along the side of the road with no signs of my vehicle being owned by fishermen. We put on our dark polarized shades and hurriedly put on our fishing gear. We grabbed our 2 piece, unassembled rods, and headed across the private property, permission granted, towards our secret location.
 The morning air gave off a slight chill so a long shirt was appropriate. The blue sky showed no future sign of rain. The early April Sunday wasn’t the warm ‘T’ shirt day I was hoping for but it surely wasn’t the cold frigid windy April days I was used to.
 Rippinlip carried his Pflueger 7/8 weight fly rod and a wallet full of streamers. I carried my 7wt. Clearwater steelhead/largemouth bass 9 and a half footer, equipped with 10lb bass taper leader and 12lb spider wire. I brought along 6” steel leader if the fishing gets rough. I had my hand tied streamers in a narrow cigar box along with my trout streamers and a few other items in my ‘pike vest’.
 We were newbies to the mission, with fly rods, so we wanted to be prepared for all situations.

We walked on an almost unmarked animal trail through dried saplings and shoulder high jagger brush that slowed our maneuverability, catching our clothes and sections of our fly rods. Good thing we didn’t have to enter the area quietly. Frail sticks cracked under our hip boots and fragile branches were broken and snapped as Rippinlip made the trail more accessible for me. A machete would have made the trail blazing easier!!
 Frogs croaked in the distance telling me we were getting closer to the creek. The early sun shined brightly and there was a sense of a fine fishing day ahead of us on our mission. Nearing the creek green and dull maroon colored water cabbage leaves poked through the water surface in clusters suggesting good cover for ambushing pike. Looking down into the deep channeled discolored creek gave an eerie feeling of what might be lurking within. I finally spotted a small path leading to the creek bank. Still on the trail, I pieced together my 9 and a half footer and slid open the cigar box. I selected a Black Ghost pattern and snapped it on my Fast-snap that I had knotted to my 12lb spider wire. I pulled out my pouch of side chew and three fingered a good cut of Stoker’ Black Wild Cherry and stuffed it into my left cheek, I was getting serious! Weaving my way down the bank, through short trees and wily flimsy branches I came to the mud ridden bank bottom. I noticed a shallow underwater muskrat hole that I was sure to lose a leg if I wasn’t careful. The mud bank looked soft and I was sure I would sink in it like quicksand. I carefully stepped on clumps of branches and limbs to secure my footing. The branches would sink an inch or so, under my weight, before settling into the mud. With backside foliage, I pulled line out and began to roll cast my fly out into the tinted channel. Dropping my streamer, across stream, I let it sink some and than slowly stripped it through the cold creek water. Downstream I heard branches snapping as Rippinlip descended down the bank also.
 I changed streamers often in trying to at least get a follower to give me an idea what color or size might be tempting. I thought a little more action might bring out a curious pike so I snapped on my own ’Torpedo1’ tobacco brown body and olive marabou tail streamer. I false casted with the flow of the creek and dropped the streamer just shy of a downed limb that laid across the stream surface. Letting it sink about a foot and a half, I quickly pulled and jerked the fly line to get the propeller spinning that I had mounted just behind the hook eye. Slowly stripping the streamer in, against the current, midstream, I watched the 4” streamer come into view. Behind this, about a foot away, a baseball bat long cylindrical dark fish followed. His thickness was like that of the barrel of a baseball bat. The long flat nosed pike slowly inspected my streamer from behind keeping my offering at a distance. My hands gripped the cork handle tighter as I kept the long rod horizontal in front of me. My heart started to race with anticipation waiting at any moment for the pike to shark attack my streamer. I twitched the rod tip to give the streamer a little more action but the fish just kept his distance following without any sudden movement. I quit my stripping for a few seconds and let the marabou tail waver with the current. The long pike stopped and kept himself suspended still keeping his distance from the streamer tail. I again stripped in line slowly until the streamer was right in front of me. Lifting it up the pike turned towards the opposite bank and disappeared into the deep channel.
 Disappointed, yes, but encouragement and enthusiasm flowed through my nerves, blood and brain waves. Patience and persistence I knew would eventually prevail.
 We moved downstream to a wider and deeper section off a cement embankment. Rippinlip worked the mid to outflow section of the pool as I worked the mid to upstream section. Delicate and precise casts were needed to avoid the foliage behind us and the far bank-side brush and branches. Rippinlip got a good roll cast putting his streamer in the mouth of a narrow channel of water entering the pool across from him. I listened as he commented that a small pike followed his offering. No take but the sighting gave us a little more encouragement. Time ticked on and Rippinlip climbed back upon the cement and trail as I slipped into his vacated position. With each of my casts throughout the pool he spotted for me from above. Watching for any followers and indicating where submerged logs were, he guided me around or over such snags. I notated this helpful info, in my mind, of where in the pool these obstructions were as I was unable to see them from my low angle of vision. Soon I heard Rippinlip breaking through the brush behind my right shoulder just around the bend. He slipped into the water across from a bog of partially submerged water cabbage clumps that edged the far side of his position. I continued to work the pool with an array of my different color streamers.
 All of a sudden I heard him call out “got one!”
I quickly reeled in my line wanting to get a picture of his catch. Just as suddenly he shouted the fish got loose. He exclaimed his heart was pounding profusely after seeing the pike take his fly and for that instant feeling the fish on.
 I looked into my cigar streamer box and snapped on another 4” streamer. Within five minutes Rippinlip called out again he hooked another. I heard a splash and turned to see his rod bent and tensioned fly line. I started up the bank when again he shouted “it got off” in disappointment.
‘Two hits in 5 minutes’ I thought, ’maybe they’re going to turn on?
 I casted out and began to work the pool over. Again in my fly box, I pulled out a pike fly Cold had given me the day before down on Little Mahoning Creek. The clouser looking streamer, with a conglomeration of cross cut chartreuse rabbit fur, artic fox, Icelandic sheep hair and ostrich herl that looked to have potential. (Not that I’m an expert, mind you!)
 I roll casted the streamer into the narrow channel across from me. Letting it sink I slowly stripped in line and twitched the rod tip sending waves and vibration to the streamer. During the strip in the line resisted as if I took hold of a snag. I stripped set the hook anyhow and sure enough the rod tip flexed downward and I seen the flash of a turning small pike.
“Ya, fish on” I called out “not a biggie but it’s a pike!”
 The small pike wasn’t a match for the 7wt. Rod or heavy tippet. After getting the fish to my feet I reached into my pocket and handed the camera to Rippinlip for a picture of my first pike on the fly.
 Back to fishing it didn’t take too long for Rippinlip to hook into another. After he called out I heard a splash. I hurriedly climbed up the bank to the trail and grabbed my camera hanging on a branch. I watched as the tip of his fly rod flexed under the tension of the unseen pike. Than, without warning, the line went limp and his fly rod straightened. There was a dead silence as Rippinlip couldn’t believe it happened again.
 I gave him words of encouragement before razzing him a little as good friends always do.
I went back down to the wide pool and on my second cast, of Cold’s pike fly, I landed it into a far side weedy bush. There was no saving the streamer as I tugged wanting it back. Pulling on the fly line the 10lb bass tapered leader broke before the spider wire knot. Cold’s pike streamer hung, dangling, on a branch as the sun’s rays reflected off the shimmering strands of Krystal Flash.
 I knotted on another Quick-snap to the Bass tapered leader. I looked into my trout streamer box and pulled out a Mylar minnow looking short streamer. I worked the pool to my left and than false casted backhand and side armed my forward cast near the cabbage patch across from Rippinlip. Just out from some branches that lay upon the water between Rippinlip and I my line sank quickly upon a short pause on my strip in. I pulled back and set the hook on the flat nosed pike. Another quick fight, swirling water and controlling the fish I got him bank-side. We got a quick picture together and I released him back into the pool. Within the next half hour or so Rippinlip hooked into another but failed to land it. I had lost my minnow looking fly to an underwater snag and was ready to try a different spot along the creek.
 I walked a short piece upstream from Rippinlip and made my way down the crumbly forested bank into the soft mud and branches near shore. I watched Rippinlip for a minute or so underhand casting the long fly rod. He lifted it up and wristed the line and fly, flipping it out, into and between the cabbage patch. He skirting the tops with his streamer and then letting it drop, just this side of the bog, back into the deep channel of the creek. It was like watching a master pitching and flipping a lure from a bait caster reel and rod.
 After a few casts I snagged up on one of the cabbage rolls on the far side. I quickly yanked the line back and the hook let loose sending my fly line and leader into the overhanging branches above me. What a bird’s nest snag I got myself into. I thought I was going to lose it all but I managed to get the end of my fly line close enough to cut the tapered bass leader. I pulled the fly line through my guides and the line snaked its way through the twisted branches overhead. I climbed the bank and nail-knotted the bass leader back onto my fly line. I was back in action. Rippinlip moved along shore and made his way back to the wide pool. I dropped down the bank and took position where he just left from. It seamed that all the pike we had caught had been on something shiny and a good deal of white material added in. Knowing that Rippinlip and I had mostly the same fly patterns I selected something different from what we have been using. I took out a black bunny leech with bead chain eyes.
 I started working the area in front of the cabbage patch edge with my black bunny leech. On one cast out I let the bunny leech swing with the slow under current down stream. When my line made it mid-stream I lifted the rod tip, lifting the leech pattern, and started to strip the streamer in. I caught a long lengthy flash out of the corner of my eye and I dropped the rod tip slightly. The fish turned and my fly line took off across stream with my rod flexing towards the middle. My grip tightened immediately and soon the visible fly line swung and vibrated with the vicious head shakes on the other end.
“Got another” I called out “nice one!”
 She sub-surfaced as I lifted the rod. Upon diving back down I swear she alligator rolled trying to twist her way free. I gave her some line as the rod flexed downward towards her. She tried to force her way to the cabbage patch bog area but with my rod down and sideways the pressure was too much and I forced her to retreat towards me. A little more persuading and I got her to my feet. My third pike and bigger than the last two.
 I climbed the bank with a handful of fish and Rippinlip was ready with the camera. After a quick shot I released her back into the water. She swam to the nearest cover against the near bank.
 We fished another hour or so without any hook ups. The sun was heating things up and Easter dinner time was drawing near.
We found an easier going path back to the blacktop road and walked to my ‘day tripper van.’ We tried to inconspicuously put our gear into the back hatch and climbed in the front seats. At the stop sign Rippinlip emptied his smoked cigarette butts, from his pocket, into my garbage pail as I took a Macanudo Ascot out of the 10 pack tin. Borrowing a lite, I nipped off the end and lit the small cigar.
‘Mission accomplished!’ I figured. We didn’t land any monsters but for a first time mission I thought we did well.
“What’s next?” I asked Rippinlip for an idea for another first time fly fishing mission for another species.
“How about ____?____ on a fly rod?” he asked
“Sounds good to me”. “Just tell me the day and time” I said between puffs.
I can keep a secret!!!

first pike

second pike

third pike