I awoke as the morning light found its way between the partitions in the curtains covering the rear van window. I lay in silence recalling the night before. I vaguely remember relieving myself as I watched bats flying around below the bright moon.
My #19 molar had been aching and the dentist said I’ll need a root canal and a crown atop it. I spent two thousand dollars on my #30 molar last year saving it and wasn’t about to spend another 2 grand for this one. So I’ve been nursing the tooth until I get it pulled on Wednesday.
The sun moved directly behind my window and its sharp light ray penetrated through my closed eye lids. I began to feel a dull soreness in my molar and decided I should rise and get ready. I released my grasp on my Scott rod tube and swung out from under the blanket. I opened the side door quietly and gave a few yelps with my turkey diaphragm call. I listened for a few minutes and gave out another yelp after I stepped onto the dirt ground. Not hearing a reply I turned and noticed my jar of peperoncinis sitting on the van roof. I took it down and placed it into my cooler. I unzipped the shotgun case and placed it on the bed with three turkey loads beside it. I figured, while I’m fishing, I’d call now and then and if I hear a gobbler I’ll just return to the van and go after him.
I was outside the doors getting my gear together when a truck pulled up beside my van. Two guys got out and hurriedly put on chest waders. they put on their vests and the one grabbed both spinning rods and they raced down through the woods to the creek. It’s about 7:10am now and no one else is around. The camps near by are vacant and I hadn’t heard a car go by while I laid in bed. “What’s the hurry” I thought?
I was stringing up my 4 wt. fly rod when a white SUV pulled up next to my drivers side. A little after the SUV doors slammed I heard the sound of death chains rattling. It reminded me of the chains on Paul Newman in that prison movie down south. If someone would have said “yes boss” I would have lost it right there. I heard them rustling around in the back, the whole while the chain links rattled, until a rear door slammed. A fellow and his woman walked around my van towards the path that led to the creek. They said hello as I replied good morning. They kept their pace and disappeared through the woods.
After washing down a soft oatmeal cookie, a Penicillin tablet and two Advil with a cup of Sunny-D I headed down to the creek. I was actually trying to waste time waiting for Jim to show up but because of the hurriedness of the four fisherpersons, I figured I better get a move on so I don’t miss all the excitement.
I looked upstream of the long deep hole. The two spin guys were whipping spinners or such from the far grassy land into the pool. The fellow and his woman were directly across from them, sitting on the bank as if carp fishing, gazing into the water. I looked into the four feet of water before me, from above, and not seeing any fish walked down the path a little further. I dropped down the bank and tied on a latex caddis and started fishing. Within a half hour I turned upstream and seen Jim working his way towards me.
"Those four people still crowding the deep water above?” I asked
“There’s six now” he replied.
“Let’s get out of here and fish down below where I heard they stocked some breeders” I suggested.
From early morning until noon we waded the creek trying to locate the big fish that would bite on our nymphs, buggers and dry flies. The water was cold as usual for this time of year and the fish weren’t that active to take our offerings. We didn't come across any breeders that we could see but I did manage two rainbows beneath and hooked onto one on a dry caddis but he got off somehow before I got him to the net. After a long walk we figured we spent enough time fishing the creek and decided to walk back to the vehicles, eat lunch and visit the Tionesta.
After lunch we hit a couple of spots on Tionesta Creek along the devil’s highway, rte.666. I managed three rainbows at the first stop with an elk hair caddis. We didn’t get any hits at the second stop so I took Jim to another, supposedly good spot, for us to spend the rest of the day.
We noticed a few fish were rising as soon as we got to the water. A few grannoms and tan caddis were flying around so Jim and I both tied on dry patterns. I’d catch a trout now and then but very few in my opinion. In time a swarm of grannoms moved upstream along with what looked to be tan caddis and maybe a few stoneflies mixed in. we tried every pattern possible trying to find that magical fly that would get the trout to take consistently. Time and time again a swarm of flies would move upstream as we tried to match the hatch with dries, nymphs or wet flies but nothing was consistently taking fish. Standing on a flat rock for the past few hours began to make my lower back sore and I was getting thirsty and restless.
“I’m going to try one more pattern, grab a beer, sit on the bank and watch you try to figure out what the heck these fish want” I commented to Jim.
I tied on an emerger that I must have tied some time ago. I casted it out about 20 feet in front of me and wham a trout rose like a dolphin and sucked it in.
"Got’m” I called out as Jim looked on.
For the next hour or so, before dark, I continued to cast out that pattern and hooked up regularly. I’d dance the thing across the water or just let it drift on its own. Other times I’d pull on the line, after casting it out, making it submerge briefly before it would rise again, on its own, due to the poly top wing. Fish would hit it aggressively enough that a splash could be heard, or other times I’d watch them rise, mouth it and see them pull in anger at being hooked.
“What are you using” I recall Jim asking
“It’s got a pheasant tail body, a white poly down wing and a big dubbed gray head” I replied.
I wasn’t really sure if I tied it sometime ago or if I got it in a fly swap. All I know it was the right fly at the time!
Jim was trying his best to get a taker but they wouldn’t bite. I would have given him one but I had no more in my fly boxes. Jim’s a good sport, though he wasn’t hooking up, he continued to fling away and try different flies to get a hook up. Finally, as the sun sank below the hills and the light drew dimmer, Jim finally got one to take his dry. He ended hooking into a few more before it was too dark to see the fly. We ended the evening bidding each other farewell. He headed home and I headed to the Kelly for a burger.
Sunday morning I awoke to an overcast sky. I looked out the windshield, down towards the creek, and already four guys stood fishing in the same place Jim and I fished the evening before. It wasn’t even 7 AM yet but they were out there casting their spinning rods. I got dressed and washed down a blueberry muffin, a Penicillin tablet and two more Advil with a cup of French Vanilla Cappuccino I had bought the night before.
By the time I got down to the creek one guy had left and there was plenty of room for me to fish between two of the others. They all were casting and drifting bait in the same area we fished the evening before. I asked one of the fellows if they seen any fish rise. “No“, he replied.
Having an elk hair caddis on the end of my 6x tippet I casted out a few times in hoping to make one rise. Within five minutes a fish took my fly and I made sure the bait casters knew I had one. I netted a fine looking brown trout.
By noon 6 fishermen came splashing downstream to fish my area. They were polite enough to give me room and I obliged by not long casting into their casting range in front of them. In a half hour, with only one hook up, the six dispersed for lunch. I continued to fish till about 2’oclock and headed to the Kelly for wings and to watch the Pen’s play.
It was about 5’oclock when I left the bar. With plenty of daylight left, though my body was tired and relaxed, I wanted to try for some wild brookies in a small creek I haven’t fished for many years.
I took a drive up the long hard dirt road and found a single parking space for my van on the high bank from the creek. Down below I could see a couple of slow deep pools but it was the faster running water I was interested in. This is where the native brookies would hide, away from any stocked trout that happen to make its way up this far.
Fishing brook waters is something you have to prepare yourself for. It’s not for the impatient or one that gets frustrated easily. The going has to be slow and cautious. You try to be mentally aware of the overhangs and brush around you. You cast with preciseness and are always ready for the quick rise and strike of a wild bred brook trout.
Slowly I cast the limp Sylk line up creek in tail-outs and around boulders. The tall hardwoods and high hemlocks block a lot of the light. Even so, the light that is upon the water is still frustrating in trying to follow the fly as it bounces and floats among the baffling glare the erratic moving waves create. The heat of the evening fogs up my polarized shades that they render them more troublesome than without them. I let them hang from my neck and squint my eyes in locating the fly. An underneath quick movement in a tail-out of a pool and I set the hook in time to hook my first rising brookie. It flexes the slow progressive action fiberglass rod into the middle as the tip dances with the brookies wild fight. I cradle the fish delicately in my hand for a quick shoot and release. It skitters off and disappears almost instantly.
Continuing on I slowly move after each cast, side-arming, making looping casts, around jutting out bank boulders or straight shooting the fly and letting it fall into a small rapid force of water. High-sticking, to keep as much line off the back current as possible, and taking in line or backing the rod up, to keep the most amount of tension between me and the fly.
A flash between two side currents coming together catches my eye. As long as the trout doesn’t turn to see me or any unnatural splash of the fly or line atop the surface gives me another chance at him. I’m prepared and cast the fly again, this time right in the center of the slower moving current. Another streak of reflection and I set the hook on the little guy. He doesn’t flex the rod as much as the first native brook but still fights like a mad Chihuahua at the end of a rope.
I catch one more wild brookie on the elk hair caddis before my fine tippet and leader become entangled in a mess. I had my fun and caught enough trout to be satisfied with my results. I clip the tangled mess and put the knotted twisted tippet into my empty cigar butt pocket. I glance once more to my surroundings and bow out gracefully.
Opening the side doors of the van I’m met with an unpleasant odor. The stench of wet socks, damp waders and sweaty clothes turns my nose and almost makes my eyes water. Evidently the two days of constant fishing and sweating in the cool mornings changing into heated afternoons, in the same clothes, has taken its toll. Even with the windows open during my fishing time has not filtered the smell but contained it in the confines of my ‘cabin on wheels.’ I take time to pack my worn clothes and socks into my two satchels. I put away my Diamondglass and Quest reel. I take a long drink of the left over, cooler cold, Mountain Dew and get into the drivers seat.
Popping the top, off the test tube, I slide the Garcia Y Vega Crystal out of its glass protector. I’m sure the dark Maduro wrapped cigar will eliminate all discouraging odors within the confines of the van. I light the end with the cigar lighter and let it burn….