Saturday, November 27, 2010

Caught on Thanksgiving

Caught on Thanksgiving
(From 2009)

 I told her, Thanksgiving morning, I was going to sight the rifles in and then go scouting for deer in the big woods.

 This year my 12 year old grandson will be hunting with me and my son is coming up from Florida to hunt also. This was a good excuse to get out of the house while she’s preparing Thanksgiving dinner for 5:00. Who could argue with my excuse to get out of the house?
 After sighting in the two rifles I returned and we had blueberry muffins and bacon for breakfast before I ventured out again.

The first place I checked out had posted signs all the way to the dirt road that I turned down to on the right. From there the posted signs went on forever, further than where I was willing to drive. I than headed towards Marienville up rte. 899 to where my son and I have hunted in the past. After parking I got some warm cloths on and I took the 22 along just in case I seen a squirrel. Roaming the woods for a couple of hours I came across used game trails and found deer tracks in the soft dirt along a small mountain stream that flowed between the pines. I left the area around 12:00 and headed east of Sigel towards Clear Creek State Forest. I traveled down dirt roads here and there checking out the area.

 One dirt road, through the forest, took me across a small brook stream. Stopping along the road I couldn’t resist on checking out the water. Standing along shore I watched the pure easy rippling water flow over and around shiny smooth rocks, under green leafed laurel and drop over wooden barriers. My trout minded brain was already pointing out nice brook trout hiding areas. I got back in the van and headed toward the main black top road. The digital clock radio showed 2:45. I was about an hour away from home!
 Before the main road I pulled off into a gravel parking area for hikers, bird watchers and other nature lovers. I walked down to the flowing water and a trout darted from my side of the bank across stream. I couldn’t resist!!
 At the van I hurriedly put on my hip boots, fly vest and c&r net just in case. I pieced together my 3 wt. Diamondglass rod and tied on a foot and a half of 7x tippet and to this a black foam beetle, all the time reminding myself I had about 1 hour to fish. Oh, and I brought a clip on watch with me.
 I casted beneath bare branched limbs and overhanging green laurel leaves. Nothing wanted the beetle. I tried another dry fly and a latex caddis but still nothing. Time was ticking away with nothing interested in my offerings. ‘Just one’ I thought.
 I checked the time at 3:45. I tied on my last imitation for the last 15 minutes of fishing. Below a water falling deep pool I looped the small orange egg pattern across and let it sink. The surface current pushed my dry fly line down towards the end of the pool. I mended upstream letting the egg pattern drop even deeper as again my fly line drifted to my right. The tip started to sink without drifting and I wrist set the hook. I felt the little guy tussle all the way through the line between my thumb and forefinger. The tip of the fiberglass rod wiggled with the small trout’s every movement. After a picture on a wet rock I released the brookie back into the deep pool.

 Not wanting to look at the watch I quickly tried for another but failed. I walked down stream and drifted the egg under some laurel but nothing wanted to bite. Relentlessly I walked to the van and placed the rod and vest on the floor. 4:05, I had to hurry to get back by 5:00.

 I pulled onto the exit ramp, off the interstate, and turned towards Clarion. Checking I had enough time to get back into my hunting cloths so as to not let her know I was late because I was fishing. I pulled off the side of the road and changed back into my hunting boots, dismantled my rod and cased it. I hung up my fishing vest and hip boots on the back cloths rail.
 I pulled into the drive at 4:58. As I opened the side door the smell of roasted turkey and biscuits aroused my sense of smell and hungry stomach.

“It sure smells good in here” I said with a smile as I entered the kitchen.
Whipping up the potatoes and without looking at me she asked “did you see any deer?”
I told her the few places I had scouted out and was satisfied with the results.
As I turned to leave the kitchen she asked me
“Why are you wearing your fishing net?”


Wednesday, November 17, 2010



 Sunday I decided to fish for leftovers. These are the fish that survived the onslaught of fishermen during the spring and summer. Fishing waters that are open to the general public and all types of fishing throughout the year. The ones that are wary of a sudden unexplained shadow or sudden change of undercurrent. These fish I consider are more of a challenge than those in State Project areas or private stocked waters. These fish aren’t usually ones to brag about in size but the challenge is rewarding non-the-less in my opinion!

 After going fishless at Salmon Creek, in the early morn, I decided to fish a small trout creek that meanders under pines and laurel in the ANF. An out-of-the-way creek where skinny water flows over exposed rocks and timber in an array of constant hazards and trout cover. A creek you have to believe the trout are there and fish it methodically and with patience.

 Midmorning I arrive and find the creek is running clear and shallow for the most part. The few trout should be holding near the banks under cover from birds of prey. They may also be holding in the deeper riffles waiting for a quick meal to pass by before traveling to a safer unexposed place beneath cover. I wade my way downstream making long distant casts with a 9’ foot leader so my fly line doesn’t alert the fish. My subconscious keeps aware of my footing upon the pebbled and stony creek bed. My main concentration is on placing my shortened triple threat minnow imitation where it needs to be. My casting stroke is delicate, with my three weight short Hardy rod, wanting my imitation to land softly upon the water.
 Near a down bank-side log I drop the triple threat along side it. It swings further downstream and into the tail end of the streamlined riffles. I feel a quick strike and wrist set the hook. I work the trout through the shallow choppy water. A slim leftover rainbow comes to hand.

 Within a half hour sprinkles start to fall from the bright but overcast sky above. I decide to not go back and get my raingear but instead rough it and hope my layer of clothes keep me dry and warm enough for a good while. Soon the raindrops get larger and I hear them tapping on the dry leaves that lay upon the forest floor. I concentrate on my fishing again as the raindrops become second nature harmonizing with the riffling of creek water through narrow passages and splashing of water falling over surfaced limbs.

 Against the far bank a rocky ledge extends out about a foot above the water. A pine bough hangs low just upstream preventing a sidearm cast beneath or into it’s dark shadow. I can only hope a near enough drift will entice an unsuspicious trout out from the safe shelter and into more open water. I delicately cast upstream from the shadows and as the triple draws near I jerk the rod tip a few times to give my minnow imitation more action. I catch a glimpse of a trout flash out from beneath the rock ledge but miss my offering. My imitation drifts downstream as I watch for any movement beneath the clear rippling of water. I feel the trout entered the shallow riffles in hopes that another minnow passes by. I flip the triple threat out of the water towards me and reel in some to shorten my line for my next presentation. I flip cast beyond the riffles and let it drift to the slower water below. Slowly I strip in the imitation until I feel it is within sight of the trout beneath the riffles. As I let the triple threat waver below the surface current I see the sensitive rod tip flex slightly. I wrist back the cork handle and feel the jerky tugs of the brook trout fighting the rod strength and current. I win the battle and a slender leftover brook trout surfaces.

 I continue on with my peaceful endeavor for another hour or so as the drops of rain begin to absorb into my insulated flannel shirt. I can feel the dampness now on my LLBean cap but feel I can last another ½ hour or so before becoming drenched through.
 In a narrow shallow run I feel a peck at the tail of my shortened triple and see enough of a flash to know what’s below. I bring the leader in and knot on a latex caddis. Holding the rod high, I let the caddis drift through the seam and into the slower water. The second drift through I see my exposed leader straighten and lift the rod tip with just enough force to easily set the hook. A small wild brookie fights furiously towards me.

By now I reach my limit as I know the walk back to the mini-van will be a wet one. I wade out of the ankle deep water of the stony creek bed and onto the sandy bank. I follow the widened ATV trail up creek stopping only momentarily to light a Fuente Deluxe. Drops of water now fall from my cap bill being unable to absorb any more wetness of the rain. I can feel the weight of the absorbed water in my flannel shirt. By the time I get to the lane, which leads up to my van, the rain has lessened. I decide to hold off and walk down to the deep pool that’s at the bottom of the lane.

 Water flows over a man made log jam, integrated with rocks, and into the large pool area. I decide to tie on a heavier weighted triple threat and cast far and near in the wide deep water. I work the triple threat with slow than fast retrieves. I don’t feel any strikes or see any trout following it as it comes within my vision.
 The sky turns dark and the rain begins to fall again. Standing in the open now I start to feel the coldness of rain water through my Duo-fold and medium weight Polypropylene shirt. I still don’t want to call it quits as the quietness and solitude is so relaxing even though I’m pretty much wet clean through.
 I walk up, the small grade, above the log jam. I see the water is slightly discolored like a Kalua and Cream mixed drink. Earlier a few trout were holding ¾ a way cross stream just before an overhanging branch. I had tried for them but, in the clear water, they avoided any offering I showed them. With the water discolored now I have the advantage and decided to give it a try. I tie on a white bunny leech for my first cast. I conjure up the image of the creek bed from my earlier experience.
 Three quarter the way down stream the trout were holding in front of or to the far side of a flat sturdy rock. A couple of feet from the flat rock, towards me, is a 3 inch limb stuck fast to the bottom. With the tinted water I can no longer see anything below the chocolate water. My first cast is towards the unseen flat rock. I stop my forward cast and I figure my leech falls just to the right of the flat rock. I also figure I’m out of range of the 3” limb so I let the leech drop a little deeper before starting to short strip it in. Within a few feet, out from my rod tip, I catch a flash and my line straightens with the strike. I instantly wrist set the hook and I feel the trout, head shake and tries to pull away beneath the water. I let some tensioned line out as I raise the rod. The fish tries to fight across the creek but I force it to swim upstream following my bent rod. I force him to surface and I gently scoop him up in my net. Looking closer I am surprised to see I caught a leftover brown trout. I release him back into the chocolaty water.

 I cast again around the same area before daring to cast beyond the unseen danger of the 3” limb. I concentrate and back cast, behind my left shoulder, with my right rod hand. As I feel the rod load behind I begin my forward cast and stop briefly pointing the rod tip to where I want the bunny leech to fall. As the loop straightens in front of me I angle the rod slightly downward towards the water surface. The leech pattern falls to the surface like a big raindrop falling from above. I lift the rod tip up some and let excess fly line flow through the rod guides as the leech begins its drift downstream. I pinch the line with my fingers and my offering shifts, drifting towards the hidden flat rock that I hope the trout are still holding near. The leader stops its drift on the surface current for a second. There is no time to decipher whether it is a trout or the limb holding the line back. I jerk the rod tip up with my right hand while pinching the fly line with my left. I feel the resistance and see the top section of my rod flex downward. Suddenly I feel the jolt. My rod bows into the middle and I have to let fly line slip though my fingers by the force being pulled by the fish on the other end. I feel him headshake beneath and than he darts across and upstream, my three weight dampens the sudden surge as it flexes deeper towards the butt. I know I have a ’good’ fish on and I want this one badly. I keep my rod tip high letting him flex the rod shaft with his energetic turns and jolts. He turns downstream again and as I feel him slowing I move the rod tip upstream keeping tension on the line. He resists with another head shake but than gradually fights his way towards me. He surfaces a couple of yards away and I see his spotted, darkish olive upper body and faint pinkish splotch along his side and gill plate. I let him swim down to my right and than I tilt my rod horizontal with the water with the fly line now pinched against the wet cork grip. I pull out my spring net, from its holster, with my left hand and get ready to net the thick rainbow. Lifting the rod the ’bow’ draws nearer with a few more weak head shakes and I guide him upstream to my net. He sinks into the net and I feel I am justly rewarded for my lengthy day’s effort in the rain. The rainbow sweeps his tail fin firmly and I release my grip and watch him swim away and finally disappear within the cloudy water.

 Two more casts and sure enough I catch the limb. After breaking my leader I call it a day and head to the van.

 Back at the van I snip off the lit end of the cigar and change into dry clothes. After wiping dry my rod and putting it in its tubular case I grab a jug of Mississippi Mud and take a long swig. The ’Black & Tan’ goes down smooth and hits the spot!! I sit in the driver’s seat as the heater warms while eating the leftover half of a Subway spicy Italian and finishing my jug of beer. Time tics away as raindrops continue to fall while I relax in my warm dry van.

 On my drive towards Cooks Forest I put the short stub of the cigar to my lips and lite it up. It turned out to be a nice day for leftovers!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November Handfuls

November Handfuls

The radio DJ, during the blue grass segment, said it was 34 degrees in Clarion and surrounding areas. I drove across the Toby Bridge and up Miola road; it was about 6:00 am. I was to meet Danny around 7:30am at the old Pigeon Loft Hotel for some trout fishing this past Saturday. I had the mini-van packed with my fishing gear, hunting gear and warm extra clothe, all crowded upon the day tripper floor. Boy, I missed my conversion van!!

 I didn’t feel I was out of the rat race until I was north of Marienville. No towns or rows of houses. No morning work traffic or semi’s passing-by cluttering the roadways with noisy engines or horn blowing. Now, I was in the National Forest, right where I wanted to be.
 One or two room camps were becoming visible through the morning bare forest of fall. Timeless outhouses showed their age withstanding the weather as they stood apart yards away from any other dwellings. Smoke rose from stone chimneys or smoke stacks that protruded through roof tops. The strong smell of burning hardwood captured my senses, as the aroma of summertime vegetation and wild flowers now cease to exist. Brown to tan decaying leaves now covered the forest floor hiding the green ferns or patches of tea berries. Only the young beech trees shown signs of life as their thin leaves flutter in the lightest of breezes. Green pines are now more prominent among bare hardwoods of the once colorful forest.

  At 7:10 am I pulled into the gravel parking lot of the Pigeon Hotel. I attempt to get a little more rest before Danny shows. I tilt back the driver’s seat and put my traveling pillow on the headrest. I try lying on my back, I try lying on my side, and it’s all too uncomfortable. I look at the jammed pack gear on the mini-van floor, boy I miss my conversion van!!
 I was resting my eyes when I heard a vehicle approach and headlights pass through the front windows. Danny found me. Time to go fishing!

 The morning air was brisk but calm and the overcast sky made for low light conditions. We put on our waders and lined our fly rods. We talked as we put on our fishing gear for the day. I handed him a few of my ties and told him to try them out. Before walking upstream we walked to the bridge to observe the water. We found the water was a bit stained hiding any bottom holding trout from vision. Scraggly branches overhung the water way with brushy banks making the creek intimidating. I’m sure many newbie’s to fly fishing would have nightmares about fishing such a creek. Others wouldn’t even attempt to wade the creek and opt for their spinning rods. I was hoping this wasn’t going to discourage Danny being he’s only been fly fishing since spring. That’s the way it is in the Alleghany National Forest. Like it or not, if you want to fly fish the small streams and creeks you got to be prepared. To me it forces you to become a better caster and the importance of it. It also makes you more aware of your surroundings!
 We walked through the knee high brush avoiding the rip causing jagger branches. We slipped into the cold water trying not to disturb it too much to attract attention of our presence. I point out areas to Dan and where I have caught trout before. I let him know that if using buggers or streamers to keep them moving slow within the cold waters. The surface water was slow moving and the undercurrent not much faster, as I was sure the trout would be holding close to shore under cover or in the deepest of pools throughout the creek. We found buggers, triple threats and bunny leeches were to be the most productive. We tied on our choice flies and began our attempts to produce some fish.
 Throughout the morning we would see the flash of a trout turning to strike our slow moving streamers. We had to be ready at all times to set the hook whether the trout struck on a long belly line swing or a slow strip in. At times the rainbows would strike hard nearly setting the hook themselves but most of the times it was slow gulps of the slow moving offering that the first sign of a fly line tip sinking or a flash that we had better be ready to set the hook.
 I helped Danny refine his roll casting and he got a real feel for fishing in close quarters. Within a couple of hours we each caught beautiful colored rainbow trout. Except for the one wild brookie, native to the creek that Danny hooked into, all the fish we caught thus far were no smaller than 11”. The red to maroon lateral line of the fish almost glowed through the water as we brought them to hand. Being cold they weren’t the lively jumping rainbows of spring but they all gave a good thrill and their girth filled our palms with gratifying achievement.
 By noon we found ourselves downstream fishing a deep pool catching lazy rainbows when something like an Arctic blast blew over. Small balls of packed snow fell sporadically around us. The air turned frigid enough to instantly stiffen our fingers and face in coldness. We decided to head back to the vehicles so we exited the creek and took the horse trail back to the road.
 After warming up and getting a bite to eat I asked Danny if he wanted to fish some more. He didn’t even hesitate about saying sure. We drove upstream and started all over again.

 I wanted to give Dan the more brush free side of the creek as I took to the more confined side. It just so happened that the fish were lying towards my side of the submerged limb out in the middle of the water. After I hooked up to three within several minutes I had Dan come over and try for any other remaining trout.
 I stuck around a couple of minutes then continued my fishing slowly wading along the bank. I easily roll cast my line across the creek towards the far bank of half submerged tree cover. The big circular loop unrolled upon the surface as the fly line straightened behind the on going loop. Out from the end of the fly line my triple threat fell to the water, several feet away, with a subtle splash, noiselessly. Instantly the few small arcs in the fly line straightened with a pull and I strip set the hook as I lifted the rod tip. The fish fought beneath in quick short jerking runs. My five weight was too much for the fish as I reeled in the fighting trout. To my surprise a nice sleek shiny brook trout came to hand. Within two more casts I hooked into a good fighting rainbow and decided to continue on downstream.
 At a small falls that ran the width of the creek I worked my triple threat beneath like a wounded minnow. Long slow drifts, while twitching the rod tip, enticed a violent strike beneath the choppy water. Again another fight in quick jerks produced another fine looking brookie. I neglected to fish anymore, wanting to save this pool for Dan. I waded to the bank and walked up the trail towards my fishing buddy for the day. He claimed he caught a rainbow and missed another near the submerged tree limb. I convinced him to continue down stream and told him of my success. I walked the trail, from above, scouting the water as he fished below. At the small falls he hooked into a nice rainbow on a white woolly bugger.
 I than let him work a long stretch of water without me interfering. I finally slid into the creek when he got through the long stretch. We fished side by side for awhile casting into the far side of the creek. I hooked up with a few more rainbows and watched Dan catch a couple of rainbows before I left him and continued around the bend. I made it to the bridge without another strike and with that climbed the grade to the road.
 Back through the knee high brush I came to where Dan was trying to coax another trout to take his offering. All of a sudden the sky opened and snow fell in bunches. An arctic blast instantly turned the air frigid again. After I took a quick picture I asked him if he had enough. He agreed and we walked out, back to the vehicles.

 At the vehicles I gave him some pointers of tying his own flies as we enjoyed a cold brew. He thanked me and the feeling was mutual as he got in his Escape and drove off towards Bradford, with a big smile!

 It was another good day on trout waters with another friend learning a little more and being successful!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Trick'n & Treat'n

Trick’n & Treat’n

 Jokerball met rippinlip and I in the hotel parking lot early Sunday morning. We drank hotel brewed coffee with blue berry muffins. We chatted a bit to let the morning thaw out some before traveling to the creek for some steelhead trick’n and hopefully be treated well.

 When our trucks turned the corner we found 20 other vehicles parked along the roadside. We thought the crowd of trick or treat’rs was going to make our visit much more crowded but we didn’t have an alternate plan. We dressed into our costumes for the day, grabbed our gear and headed down to the creek.
 Jokerball was dressed as a homey complete with a hoodie and dark reflective shades. Rippinlip looked like a long time bush pilot in his camo coat, unshaven face and even had a cigarette hanging from his lips. With my camel colored Eddie Bauer fishing jacket, LLBean cap and Orvis sling pack I probably looked like a long haired floor model for name brand fishing gear wear.

 When we got to the water we found there was only a few trick or treat’rs at the first watery hole. I selected to take the guys downstream to another neighborhood to do some trick’n. When we made the next bend there stood Deetz, looking like Capt. America in red, white and blue wardrobe. Bingsbait came over to greet us looking like an Everglade guide in his neoprene wet suite looking hip waders and Australian top hat. We didn’t waste much time chatting as there was trick’n & treat’n to do. Deetz and Bings mentioned they had a few hook-ups earlier and were planning on heading downstream in a short. We were anxious to get started and with visible steel in front of us we proceeded to try a few of our tricks to get them to bite. Deetz and Bings headed downstream after a bit and we stayed put for some time trying to coax the steelhead.
 Jokerball got treated first and the steel gave him a good tussle. He had the steel close to shore when it turned for one last surge and escaped right before our eyes. I hooked up next with one of my ghost triple threat patterns. The silver took me around the block with tight turns and lightning speed. I kept my cool and got him to hand and a hero shot. He wasn’t a huge steel but the silver put up a great fight and I was satisfied with my treat. At the end of the pool Jokerball hooked up again. He played this one like a homey that owned the neighborhood. This steel couldn’t find a way out of Jokerball’s grasp and finally succumbed to the feet of the master.
 While Jokerball and Rippinlip continued to work the pool over I ventured downstream for a new environment. I slowly fished my way casting in every available pocket I thought I could find a treat in. My patterns weren’t tricking any fish just yet but I wasn’t getting discouraged so early in the morn. Two fishermen were working the next big pool I came across with signs of experience. As I walked behind one of the fellows he turned and looked me straight in the face as if he knew me. After I said hello, he recognized me in fishing this same creek a few weeks ago in high and muddy conditions. I confirmed his accusation that I was here. I felt my costume failed to disguise my identity.

 Wading through the shallower riffles of water I kept my vision towards the far bank where a faster stream of water flowed. A few dark fish gave up their positions behind submerged rocks with the swatting of their tail fins to hold them in the current. I felt the triple threat would swing too fast in the quick current and decided on a golden sucker spawn for more visibility. Within a few casts and drifts I got a good read on the current and finally got a good drift towards the holding fish with an upstream mend. I guided the spawn towards them as I followed the fly line with the tip of my rod. They didn’t take the trick as I watched the sucker spawn drift by them and down into a semi-deep pool as the current flowed towards a big uprooted tree trunk. From there, the water rushed up against the uproot in violent turmoil and then emptied into a big deep pool a couple of other fishermen were fishing. As I pulled the sucker spawn out of the water a light colored male steelhead took up residence beside the other two in less current and greater visibility. I made an upstream roll cast that landed the sucker spawn near the far bank. With a quick upstream mend and pulling line towards me I felt I had the spawn drifting in the location of the new comer. I followed behind the spawn with my rod tip letting my treat sink deeper with the flow. My fly line tumbled above and I lost sight of my golden sucker spawn. A quick lift of the rod and it flexed downward with the hook set. The unsuspecting fish slashed at the first feel of the hook point penetrating into the corner of his jaw. It turned down toward the uproot and I quickly swung my rod downstream, horizontal with the water, and toward my side of the creek. The instant pressure kept him from the uproot but he kept his surge and swam with the fast undercurrent into the deeper pool.
“FISH ON” I called out to let the other guys know the steelhead was going to disrupt their fishing momentarily. I fought the fish well and he gave me a real treat for my effort. I got the fish to shore, unhooked him, and watched him swim away into the darkness of the deep pool.
 I tried for the other two but came up empty. I looked upstream and the two fellows that knew me were still fishing the pool with long drifts. I walked up creek from them and tied on my ghost pattern. With a cast to the far shoreline I lifted the rod some and let the triple threat swing like a dying minnow. It didn’t take long for a heavy silver to take the ghost pattern. She slashed upon the water with each lift of my rod during the fighting ordeal. After each slashing and splashing she used her weight and power to muscle the rod and line out further up creek. I had to give her line a couple of times while palming the spool. After I felt her slowing down I double clicked the drag tighter and put more pressure on the spool the next time she tried to pull away. I stood my ground and planted my feet. With my strength I worked the rod against her will and finally won out. The female steelhead came to hand and than swam off healthily upon my release.

When I got back to my trick’n & treat partners they had said they both had a few more hook ups. Rippinlip had a real nice steelhead roped to take back home to his boss. Before we called it a day they took time to dislodge quite a few flies, indicators and angling hooks from overhanging branches.

 Back at the vehicles we took off our costumes and relaxed with a beer and cheese and smoked meats that Jokerball had brought. We talked a bit before Jokerball headed toward the other side of town. Rippinlip took the wheel and we jumped on I90 heading towards our Rte 8 exit ramp. Rippinlip lit up another cigarette and I finished smoking my left over stogie I snuffed out before the munchies Jokerball brought.

 Though the bite was slow we all got some action for the time we spent. We all had a good day fighting the fish we were able to trick and were satisfied with the outcome of our treats!


Capt. America

the bush pilot

Jokerball in action

Everglade Guide

a couple of my catches