Anyone that has fished with me knows I love to fish woolly buggers when fish aren’t on the rise. I don’t mind nymph fishing but swinging, drifting or stripping a bugger is definitely more exciting than the constant boring rhythm of nymph fishing in my opinion. Be it trout, bass, pike or steelhead I’ll always have my bugger box. I carry them like a cigarette addict carries packs of cancer sticks. Well, the past weekend I met up with Jeff up in Potter County for some north central PA. trout fishing. I was up there to dry fly fish. Though I did fish a couple of nymphs for only a short time, I intentionally left the bugger box in the van. I knew if I used one bugger and caught one fish it would have ruined my dry fly outing. It would have eaten at my brain cells to continue using it like a rehabilitated alcoholic breaking the rule and sneaking his first drink since quitting.
Friday’s Warm Up
I pulled in behind Jeff’s truck about 3:30pm. He already had camp set up under a tarp cover with stove, water and such on a fold out table. As I got out of my van I could see him rising from his air mattress in the back of his pick-up. He had left Pittsburgh around 4:30am and finally took a break after fishing all morning and some in the afternoon. He said he did well on the Kettle catching rising trout until things died down around 1:30 so he returned to eat lunch and get some rest before the evening rise. I was a little tired myself, having worked until noon, but was ready for some trout action before the evening hatch. He threw his stuff in my van and we headed for Cross Fork Creek for some warm-ups.
It was hot even under the shady foliage of Cross Fork. The afternoon sun shined down like a Florida beach vacation. At times my shades even fogged up when concentrating tying a fly on. The black flies were out in full force. Once one found me it was like he radioed in for reinforcements to bug the living crap out of ya. They weren’t the biting kind but crawling on my hands, arms and buzzing around were annoying. Jeff said ‘there was no use trying to fight them!‘
I had to get used to it. They weren’t as bad in the shade for some reason but there were still some hang’n around to suck the sweat seeping through my pores from the muggy conditions.
Jeff gave me first choice so I decided to fish my way downstream for an hour or so before heading to Kettle Creek. There is no use of us following each other along a small stream as we are both accomplished fly fishermen with our own techniques. If we’re both fishing dry flies we don’t leave much for the guy following!
I saw the first rise near a bank undercut. He was sipping now and then just beneath a leafy branch overhanging a slow flow of water. I already had a #14 Gray Fox pattern on and cast it upstream from the fish. The current moved the fly out further than what I liked. I was getting ready to back cast when I seen a swirl at my fly. I lifted the rod to no avail. I missed him or he was just eyeing my imitation. Either way he didn’t rise again after a few casts so I continued on.
Down around the bend the water deepened some in a stretch of wavy water, seams and riffling runs around bank-side exposed boulders. I tied on a #12 March Brown for better visibility. I slowly waded and fished my way in the shadows of the tall shade trees. Casting in pocket waters, I’d let my fly waver, than dance around in the cross currents as I let line out for a drag free drift. My fly bobbed atop a rush of water mid-stream and a fish rose aggressively and slapped at the moving fly. I was ready and set the hook quickly with an upward movement with the rod tip. The 7’ 3wt. Hardy flexed from the resistance as the fish scurried and fought beneath the wavy water. After getting the rainbow calmed down I found he inhaled the big March Brown as it was stuck in the roof of its mouth. A quick bit of painless surgery and I set the fish free. The fly was soaked so i switched to the Gray Fox. Casting out again I let the Gray Fox swing and than drift again just downstream from my previous caught fish. Wham! Another quick rise and hook set. The frisky rainbow came to net.
This was only a warm up so I headed back upstream to meet up with Jeff until he felt it was time to hit the Kettle. We fished a bit in a clear slow wide section of skittish almost impossible to catch spooky occasionally rising trout. I got one to rise for a #20 midge and completed the trifecta with a nice brown before heading out.
I dropped Jeff off along Kettle creek and drove downstream to park the van in a grassy parking area. I chose my 8’6” Scott rod for the wide section of creek we’d be fishing in. I crossed the creek and waded my way upstream towards Jeff keeping an eye out for any early risers. Jeff already made his stand where the last riffling of water, from the faster run above, slowed and settled into open flat water. He had good position to cover both types of water. I continued upstream to just below a wide section of shallow, stony bed, part of the stream. Here it narrowed and deepened into good wavy cover and some gradual current flow behind sub-surface flat rocks. A good section of slower current flowed mid-stream giving any sluggish trout time to see a slower moving fly and still have time to nab it before the next section of fast wavy water. Across stream looked to be almost still water that gradually whirl pooled and flowed in the opposite direction. I positioned myself with good back-casting clearance between two tall trees just in case I needed to get some distance.
As time drew on fish started to rise sporadically but I didn’t see any mayflies they may have been rising to. I tied on the big March Brown that I knew had made fish rise earlier and will be big enough to see in the fast wavy water. It didn’t take long before I made fish rise but missed the first two so I quickened my hook set. The third riser I actually caught casting upstream and drifting down towards me. When I saw him rise to my fly for a look see I was already prepared with my rod held high. He gulped it in and I set the hook. He circled downstream after being hooked and after a little coaxing I got him to the net.
I saw one rising near the slow whirlpool of water so I was going to give it a try. I waded a few more steps towards the center of the stream and began false casting pulling out line. My first cast was short and landed in the fast but smooth mid-section of the creek. I waited out the drift and sure enough a fish rose and slammed the fly like it was the first hearty meal of the day. I lifted the hook set.
As I looked up I saw his rod flexing towards a tight line. It happened that quick that
I didn’t have to ask him what he caught it on.
My next cast towards the whirlpool trout again came up short but I was counting on this. As my line straightened out downstream I lifted the rod and single hauled line with my line hand. The friction of the pulling water and pulling down on my fly line flexed the rod downward and once the fly cleared the water surface slingshot the line and fly rearward with my backstroke. Beginning my forward cast I tried to double haul the line by again pulling the line down with my line hand short and sharply. I must have done it right because the line shot out over the mid-section of stream and the fly was headed to the whirlpool. I flipped my wrist gently back as the fly was reaching the end of the line. This put a few ’S’ bends in the fly line giving the fly a little more time to stay put before the fast current tightens an arc in the line. The fly fell just this side of the pool and slowly started to drift with the current which was moving upstream from the main body of water. I figured the trout had about 2 seconds to make up its mind whether he wanted it or not. Well he wanted it and made enough of a splash when he slurped it in I was able to see the surface disturbance. I lifted the long outreaching line and felt him on the other end.
“Another one!” I called out in a laugh.
This one fought well, also across the current. I was having trouble getting the net out of the holster as the frisky rainbow jerked and pulled on the line. I tried giving him more line using one hand but he pulled hard enough that he got loose. I quickly brought in my tippet and sure enough he broke me off, my only Yellow Drake was gone. The light was dimming quickly by now and I knew I had to get a fly in the water fast. I opened my fly box and picked out a #12 light Cahill parachute with the yellowiest body I could find. It was still light but I turned on my headlamp for more direct light on my fly tying.
I began to cast out to the risers. I found the parachute was easier to see atop the rolling current but not that easy to see within the wavy waters. I know I missed a few but did end up hooking into a nice long brown trout before nightfall.
He reached the van before I did since he went up the hillside and walked down the road. He lit his headlamp when I called out to him so I knew where to cross the creek towards the van.
Back at camp Jeff warmed up Venison BBQ he made from a deer roast. He also heated up some baked beans and we washed it all down with a couple of cold brewskies!
After a little conversation, bringing each other up to date in our less personal lives, and another beer, it was time for me to crawl in the van for some shut-eye.
5:30am comes bright and early up in these parts!!