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 than 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!