Friday, June 4, 2010

Calm Before the Storm

It was about 7:30, Sunday evening, when I backed up my Springer Softail in front of the Kelly Hotel. I put the kickstand down and turned off the ‘V’-twin.
 “Nice day for riding” A guy next to his Heritage commented
I got off my bike and spat a wad of tobacco juice out in the street.
“ Sure is” I replied, “I got some riding in, got to do some fishing and now I’m going to get wings and beer.”
“Doesn’t get much better than that” I added.

Calm Before the Storm

The weather people called for possible scattered thundershowers for Monday but Saturday and Sunday was such beautiful weather I decided to take my chances and rode the cycle up north for the picnics I was invited to. While I was up this way I brought along the fishing gear to do some fishing also on this Memorial Day weekend.

 Monday, I woke up by dawn’s early light. I was to meet Jeff at a designated area along the Tionesta Creek that I felt fish might be raising to this morn. I got out of the sleeping bag and unzipped the tent. My Springer Softail leaned on it’s kickstand in the dew of the grass. I had already packed the tombstone saddlebags with extra clothes and my leather storage bag, on the fender rack, with my fishing vest and other gear. All I had to do was to bungee my Loomis backpack onto the short back rest and I would be on my way. I fitted the 5pce 5wt. Kettle Creek Stream rod tube in one of the side rod pockets and put my 4wt. short Powel in the other. I brought along the Powel rod just in case we decide to fish the cooler waters of Blue Jay Creek in the heat of the afternoon. I put my reels in the small front pockets and my packable Orvis wading shoes, lightweight hip waders and net in the main compartment and bungeed the pack to the back rest.

 The ’V’-twin came to life as the rumble broke the early morning quietness of songbirds and nothingness. I drove through the grass, down the gravel drive and onto the hard top under the light blue cumulus cloudy sky. I’m sure there were some campers that awoke to the rumble and couldn’t wait until I got out of earshot range. Others probably wished they could have joined me as they listened to me shifting through each gear and the rumble of the Harley as I rolled down the highway.

Jeff had the tailgate down and already fish oriented clothed. His rod was lying on the roof of his truck when I pulled the Harley up in front of his truck. We exchanged greetings and he told me about the dry fly action he had the night before as I was dressing in my fishing gear. He was anxious to get down to the creek so I told him to go ahead and I’ll catch up.

 I stood on the bank and overlooked the long stretch of creek. The water was clear and calm. Blossoms and a few green leaves slowly flowed with the surface current. This gave me a good indication of the faster seems and slower eddies out into the wide creek that lie before me. A spin fisherman was upstream a ways but other than him, Jeff and I had this stretch to ourselves. Jeff was already in the water casting into the middle of the creek.

 The sun was still low behind the mountain backdrop. This kept the complete section shaded. It would take a few hours for the sun to finally rise above the tree line so we should have good fishing at least until then.
 I didn’t see any risers yet but it was still early. I tied on an olive bugger and waded out towards the center of the creek to fish the far side. I covered my casting area pretty well so I decided to switch to a white bunny leech. I was tying it on when I looked downstream and Jeff was netting his second fish.
“Are you catching them on top?” I questioned.
The morning was quiet and still so I didn’t have to raise my voice much for him to hear me.
“Yeah” he said. I wasn’t sure what fly he said he was using but I did hear him say something with an olive/brown body.
 I cast the bunny leech out into a slightly faster seam a few times when I glanced down stream and sure enough Jeff had another fish on. I went to cast the leech again when I seen my first rise at the end of the faster run where it slows just beneath a tree limb. That was enough to turn me to dry fly fishing.
 I knotted on a smoky caddis, #16, with a brown/olive body ribbed with brown hackle. It’s one I tie with gray deer hair. Stripping out line I started to false cast and kept my concentration on the surface water for any subtle rise before me. The fish that rose earlier rose again and I false cast out one last time to let more line out to reach the fish some 50 feet away. My first cast came up short and nearer to the rise than I wanted it. What this cast did do was to give me an indication on how the light wind would affect my air born fly. As my fly line slowly drifted with the current I studied the flow and watched each curvature of the line and how the fly reacted to the fly line flow. It didn’t look as though there would be much drag on the leader as the cross current was pretty much steady across the surface water.
 I waited until the fly drifted beyond the area so there was no doubt the fish would see me lift the fly and line off the water for my back cast. My rod bowed towards the friction and weight of the fly and line as the line rose off the water. I pulled line down with my line hand to generate more line speed and my rod tip reacted accordingly. I waited for the long length of line to draw backward loading my rod. Feeling the rod flex rearwards and load I picked my imaginary target area and forwarded my rod. Above me the loop widened but gradually narrowed as the arc rolled out before me to the end. I didn’t need to back up the rod tip to lay more slack in the line because the surface flow was pretty constant across the water. At the end of the roll out I dropped the rod tip horizontal and the caddis dry fluttered to the water about 4 feet from the riser. I watched the upright deer hair drift with the current. A surface splash and I lifted the rod and length of fly line to set the hook. A second later a rainbow exploded out of the water. His lengthy slender body became fully exposed, in a rocket propulsion, in a twisting and turning motion. He fell to the water and within a few seconds later was air-born, his lateral line showing his colors. After netting and releasing him, within three more casts, I had my second acrobatic rainbow coming to the net.

 My third hooked fish came directly at me. He went air-born, dropped into the water and torpedoed towards me. I hurriedly brought in line. I had the rod tip high as possible and throwing slack line behind me trying to keep up with the fish. He finally held up and I got the slack line drawn back. When I felt tension again he half surfaced in front of me for the last time before I netted him.

For the next hour or so different flies started to emerge or hover over the water. A few fish would rise to them but it wasn’t like a major hatch free for all. Jeff and I worked the surrounding area pretty good picking off a few of the risers. As the sun came up over the mountain it gave plenty of clarity on most of the creek. The foliage and trees along the far bank kept the water surface in the shade and we concentrated on these areas. Jeff worked his way downstream looking for more risers or ones that would take a nymph or wet fly. I slowly followed, using a caddis dry near the banks.

 My biggest brown trout came just out from a group of bank-side boulders. I seen his rises and some times subtle dimples just at the end of a narrow run caused by the boulders. It would be another 50 foot cast or so but this time I hadn’t the back-cast room as I did before. I pulled line out of the reel and false cast with the flow of the creek. On my back-cast I sung my rod tip behind me and force cast forward breaking my wrist sharply with a quick stop. The loop swung and shot forward and the loose slack line now rose off the water, through my curled finger and through the rod eyes. Perfect, only about two feet from his last rise where I was sure he would see it land. He attacked it without much of a drift at all as if he was expecting the caddis to take flight after depositing eggs. It was a good splash of a rise and I set the hook in time. He fought as if he was only caught once before and learned his lesson never to be fooled again. He thwarted deep and gave me a good run for my money for not being a huge weighty brown.

 Jeff was pretty far down creek by now so I worked my way down towards him a little faster. I cast along the shadows near the bank, whether I seen risers or not, and was rewarded frequently. Sometimes I hooked them, sometimes not but it was fun all the same. The noon time sun finally made its way above us and all hatches and activity above the water stopped. Jeff broke for lunch and being on the bike, without food, he asked if I wanted a sandwich. I took him up on his offer and we went to his truck for a roast beef sandwich.

 After lunch we decided on some cooler water and took off towards the Lynch Bridge. At the bridge we noticed darker gray skies way off downstream, figuring around the Mayburg area. Jeff gave me the option of calling it quits before we got hit with rain. It looked to be a small cloud at first with brighter skies still showing around this patch. We parked the vehicles and went fishing.
 Jeff walked down the trail and I worked the riffling water with an olive woolly bugger. I seen Jeff wade into the water below the stretch of riffles and started to cast into the slower flat water. I continued towards him casting into the slower deeper water, nearer to the shore, and let the bugger swing back into the faster riffling water. I felt the swinging line tension more and then a tug. I strip set the hook and lifted the rod and fly line. The fish fought too weighty for a slender trout in the deeper water and even less than a trout in the riffles. The fish finally swam topside and I had me a Tionesta Smallmouth. (Another fish for the species book for 2010)

 Jeff was a ways downstream and I was working the tail out of the riffles when the first roar of thunder was heard. Sprinkles began to litter the slow water surface but the sky still didn’t get all that dark above. It looked as if the gray clouds were going to swing around us and miss us. Soon I seen Jeff sitting upon the bank taking a rest and it wasn’t too much after that we seen the first lightening bolt in the distance. I wasn’t chancing it any longer. We went back to the vehicles and I loaded my fishing gear on the cycle. It started to sprinkle a little heavier so I kept my waders on, better that than wet jeans! We said our good-byes and Jeff headed to his campsite at Kelly Pines and I headed towards my friends house where I was camped out in his big yard just north of Marienville.

Blue Jay road was covered with wetness but my waders kept me dry. When I got to rte 66 the road was all dry leading south to my tent. 45 minutes after I got there the sky let loose with rain, winds, thunder and lightning. I sat with my friends drinking a beer or two and smoked a Don Tomas Maduro Coronita until my ride showed up.

Thanks to my grandfather who fought in WWI, my uncles who fought in WWII and all those who served in the armed forces who fought for this country to allow me to fish and live in freedom. Hopefully this government won’t take away this freedom that so many have fought for!!


a few more pics:

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