Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dunking in a Pigeon River Fork

Dunking in a Pigeon River Fork, NC
Dec. 24, 2011

 Cold-clear mountain water rushes through the forest between laurel banks. White capped waves rise up from the surging of current beneath, against submerged rocks, rocks bigger than ones fist. Bigger boulders peak out separating the rush of surface water into uncontrolled cross currents. Large rock formations cause drop-offs, pools and ledges. Off these ledges water gushes over in clear brute-full force plunging into deep pools, the sound deafening. The falling water, into these pools, implodes from beneath, boiling than rising to the top, foaming, in white churning swirls. 

 Looking through the rush of this clear mountain stream, its bed is a mass of uneven colorful rock. No sand or small pebbles can be noticed within as they are washed up against the banks. Walking across is of uncertainty as these round and sometimes edged rocks shift beneath ones weight. One wrong step, one overconfident stride or miscalculation of cross current can slip ones step and throw you off balance. Your feet reach below for something solid as you reach out your hand for a near by obstacle, be it above or below the surface, to keep you upright.
 You’ll first feel the coldness of water upon your hand and beneath your instantly soaked sleeve. Soon you’ll feel the chill of the mountain stream creeping down inside your waders upon your backside. You’ll gasp from the sudden temperature change, from warm body heat beneath duo-fold and fleece, to the accumulation of seeping frigid water upon your skin! You hurriedly, with no uncertain terms, feel and guide your way to the shallows and more stable ground. You gasp again as the frigid water, against your body, starts to absorb into your clothing to a slightly more tolerable temperature. You look around and find you are no closer in crossing the stream as when you first started out.
 After finding a safer place to cross you continue to fish for a short while before calling it quits.

 Back at the vehicle you find the beer, that quenches your thirst, is in no way as chilled as the mountain water you absorbed earlier.

 The few fish you caught in the tumbling risky water is rewarding and at least something to show for your effort. You smile in satisfaction after you change into warm clothes.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Picket Pin Tute

The Picket Pin is an older true wet fly pattern for trout. A few of my friends have caught steelhead drifting this one also. Even had a friend dap it with floatant to simulate a grasshopper and caught trout. We found this a very effective wet fly pattern during a dark Stonefly Hatch.
Here's my version which can be tied with a few items found around the house or on the porch!!

Peacock feathers can be found in a table vase used for decorations
A feather duster is cheap and has plenty of hackle that will last for years
Pop the bothersome gray squirrel on the porch and save the tail.

Hook: #14 use any 2x or 3x wet/nymph hook
thread: black 6/0
tail: brown hackle fibers
rib: brown saddle hackle, palmered
body: 2 peacock herls
wing: gray squirrel tail
head: peacock herl

1. Thread base hook shank and tie in tail using brown hackle fibers. (from a feather duster optional) I make the tail about 3/4 the length of the hook shank
2. tie in brown saddle hackle at hook bend. (You can use a cape hackle also.)

3. Tie in two strips of peacock herl by the tips. NOTICE how far back from the eye the herl is tied!

4. Wind the herl to the back end of the hook shank and than back up towards the hook eye.

5. Tie off herl as shown, still back from the hook eye. Leave ends uncut.
You can trim the left over tips nearer the shaft now.

6. Palmer the saddle hackle to the place where the herl was tied off.

 7. Take a small clump of squirrel tail, you can use a hair stacker to even the tips, and tie in at shown point.

8. Trim squirrel butts. Bring thread around herl to front of hook and cover trimmed hair.
9. Wrap thread over herl close to shaft, back to the tie off point of squirrel as shown. Herl should be standing upward.

10. Bring thread to just behind hook eye. Wind ends of herl towards eye. tie off, trim and whip finish.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

North of Nowhere

North of Nowhere

After playing 2 softball games on Saturday I woke up on Sunday later than I wanted to but probably better for it. Besides the aches and pains in my leg and back muscles I had a sore tail bone, from either sliding into second base of slipping when I backed up a throw from the outfield. Rest and relaxation was needed at a casual slow pace. Fishing would be the therapy. Slow, easy going, calm water therapy. I packed a small cooler and grabbed the bamboo rod. I was heading out to an unfamiliar stream I’ve heard about, read about and now going to fish it. I’m sure late August wasn’t the best time to explore new trout waters but I always keep an open mind, positive attitude and hope my experience guides me through.

 Walking up the railroad tracks I could hear the stream below me. Because of the August green growth of ferns, brush and trees, I only caught glimpses of the stream reflecting the morning sunshine down through the forest. When the tracks turned away from the stream I descended down the limestone gravel bank into the forest greenery. Following a game trail and under tree limbs I came to the gradual flowing semi-transparent wide peaceful waters.

 Upstream a small narrow mountain creek emptied its waters into the main flow. The stream was on the shallow side but ran with good flow of clean cool water. I immediately thought ‘I should have brought the bamboo rod instead of the short 4wt. Powel rod I decided to explore with.’ Downstream the water tumbled over a rocky narrower channel and emptied into a wide deep flowing pool. The current flowed faster along the RR side as waves brushed up against the sides of big boulders and cement slabs. I crossed the stream above the rocky channel and walked downstream to the sandy shoreline. The deep pool and run looked to be the perfect place for trout to escape the shallow sections of sun exposed waters. Shade covered the far ¼ of the waters and far bank.
 I contemplated on what to use as I stood in the ankle deep water along shore. Looking over the situation, there were no trees or brush along the far gravel incline that led up to the RR tracks, thus beetles and ants were out. I didn’t notice any hatches under the 10:00am morning brightness. I tied on a #14 black gnat figuring, for some reason that just might work. I cast out into the rougher waters that entered the deep pool. The gnat gradually flowed with the current then picked up speed beyond the tail out. Another cast wakened a trout from below. The fish rose and snapped at the drifting gnat. I set the hook and my 4wt. tensioned with the line surge. The fish dove deep and took to the end of the tail out. I played the fish successfully and brought him into the ankle deep water. A quick picture and I released the long slender brown.

 Within five casts later I caught site of another trout rising to my gnat. He inhaled the fly and I set the hook. He also went deep but forced his way towards the far bank testing my 6x tippet and knots. He rose slightly when I raised my rod to gain more pressure but he forced himself deep again reminding me he wasn’t such a light weight. We tussled like two grapplers trying to gain control. My knots held and I forced him to my side. Not seeing the fly upon his lips and feeling the power of the brown I elected to net the grappler. After a quick picture I performed safe emergency oral surgery and removed the hook from inside the trout’s mouth. He recovered quickly and laying him into the shallow water he gained confidence and swam out of my hand back into the deep pool.

 While continuing to fish the surrounding pool area I saw a fish rise with a splash against the far boulders. Casting out, near him, with the gnat didn’t seem to excite the picky fish. Noticing one brown caddis fluttering above the riffles I matched it with a brown elk hair caddis. It took some doing and convincing with twitches and quick rising back-casts, lifting the caddis off the water making it look like the caddis flowed down the current and then take flight, to interest the trout. One steady drift through enticed the trout to rise. As he ambushed the caddis on the wavy water I set the hook across the pool and the line and rod came to life. The fish shot up out of the water and its pink lateral line signified a rainbow. The rainbow wasted its energy quickly with surging surface runs and I brought the ‘bow’ to my side handedly.
 I fished the pool for about another hour but as the stiffness set in I slowly made my way to my point of exit. At the tall stone pillars a few teenagers were cooling off in the large pool there. Other than them I was the only one on the stream in the area and the only fisherman!!

 At the van I disassembled the 4wt. and reached for the bamboo tube. I took the bamboo out of the plastic tube and took out the three reconditioned sections and connected them in their rightful sockets. I swear it grinned with pride like an old ‘94’ Winchester does every time someone handles it. ‘If the bamboo could only talk’ I thought. I found my Battenkill reel wouldn’t fit into the down locking double rings. I resorted to my Clearwater reel which was tight but I still managed to get it snug.

 Walking back down the tracks I realized just how heavy this rod was. The guys who used these, back in the day, must have had strong wrists to lug around and fish with these all day. The rod felt like a limber tree branch compared to my graphite composite 4wt.

 Out on the stream, where I entered before, I waded upstream a bit and practiced casting the ‘boo. After I felt comfortable with it I tied on a Letort cricket and worked my way to where I caught the browns earlier. Standing in the ankle deep water I laid the cricket in the smoother flowing deep pool. The cricket flowed nicely upon the water and then bobbed atop the wavy water at the end of the tail out. A splash near my cricket quickly caused me to pull back to set the hook. Maybe I forgot my own strength or maybe I didn’t realize the strength of the bamboo but whatever it was the tippet snapped under the pressure. I was angry at myself for missing the fish on a dry. I found out in the next half hour no fish wanted any imitation drifting on top of the surface. Determined to catch a fish on the old bamboo I tied on a lightly weighted black woolly bugger. I remember Jack telling me to use the rod in small trout waters using dries and small nymphs. He felt the bamboo was quite usable, after he reconditioned it, but explained to go easy on it when casting.

 Roll casting the bugger across stream wasn’t easy or pretty. I ended up getting a better feel with more of a sidearm lob. I managed to get good distance on one lob across stream that put the bugger up against the big boulders. With the rod tip up I let the bugger sink before dropping the rod some so the current could take the fly line down stream and in turn start to swing the bugger. As the bugger started its swing the line became tight. Instinctively I set the hook, not even thinking about having a snag. A rainbow bursted out of the water and reentered with a side flopper! (That’s a belly smacker only on its side). It skirted near the top of the water towards my side of the stream. I brought it into the shallows as it flopped around. I kept its head up until I finally relaxed enough for me to take a picture of the first trout on the bamboo rod. The rainbow was still quite active when I released it back into the water.

 With one fish caught on the bamboo I continued to fish the black bugger deep and letting it swing. Another attack, deep near the boulders, and the fish fought with more short jerks than long tugs and turns. A small smallmouth surprised me as it came to the surface. I didn’t doubt there would be smallmouth in the stream but didn’t expect them this far up from the river. I ended catching two smaller smallmouths with the black bugger before calling it a day.

 By the time I got to the pillars the group of swimmers were gone. The sun set below the tree line and left the stream in their shadows. I walked up the dirt trail and up the gravel bank to the RR tracks. The old iron rails showed years of wear along with the rounded spikes that were partially raised above the iron plates. Small puddles of oozing creosote, that shined under the bright sun earlier, now had a dull sheen covering as they lay upon the railroad ties. I walked down the other side and slowly walked up the hard dirt path towards my van. I could feel weakness in my knee joints with each inclined step.

 At the van the first thing was to quench my thirst. I opened the small cooler and  unscrewed the top off of a bottle of Straub special dark beer. The smooth amber lager, not extremely cold, went down easy.
 I dismantled the bamboo and wrapped it in its original cloth bag before putting it into the plastic tube. I changed out of my wet wading pants and clothed myself with a pair of old blue jeans and a ’T’ shirt all the while taking a few swigs of the Straub’s.

 In the driver’s seat, with the window down, I listen to the natural sounds of the forest. While reminiscing about the day I take out my last cigar from the three finger leather travel pack. The El Rico Habano has a dark madura wrapper. I snip off the tightly wrapped end and light a match stick. After letting the sulfur burn off I light the cigar as the flame flutters along the wooden stick. The robust flavor, of the outer wrapper, is bold against my lips as I draw evenly through the filler tobacco within.

I start the 318 engine and slowly drive down the hard packed, pot holed, dirt lane towards rte. 949. I notice the Clarion River is still quite cloudy as I turn south along the river.
The cigar is rewarding after a pleasant day of fishing. This time my thanks go out to my friend Kevin who supplied me with the good dark smoke!!!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Dam Caddis

The Dam Caddis
Sept. 2008

My V-twin rumbles at a half-choked idle in the driveway, packed with my trout gear. If the weatherman didn’t predict good weather for today I would have left for the Kinzua last night in my van. With the gas prices as they are the cycle was the better choice. Even if I didn’t catch anything the hour or so ride back home through the ANF would be enjoyable. The only thing the weatherman didn’t predict is the early morning dense fog.
I couldn’t wait any longer and got on the bike and took off. I was practically at the light when I was able to see the bank’s neon sign ‘7:05, 53 degrees!’ Traveling down river hill and up the other side I feel the cold chill on my bare forehead between my goggles and leather du-rag. Turning right at the light and heading north on rte. 66 the fog was thicker than pea green soup. Being the ride to the Kinzua would take normally a little over an hour, with the dense fog I’ll have to be cautious and drive slower. To make time pass more quickly, and to keep from the thought of the cold upon exposed skin, I’ll reflect back why I am determined to fish for trout, on this weekend, in September!

Last year at this time I got the urge to trout fish. Most of the trout streams were low that I’d be puddle jumping to get my line wet. Even the Tionesta was down and the long walks across slightly wet stones to deeper holes weren’t worth it. The scenery and smallmouth in the Clarion were getting boring to the point I felt I needed somewhere different to enjoy. Besides that, I was in the need to catch some salmonids before the steelhead rush. I read in Meck’s book the Kinzua was a bottom release dam and the water stays cool enough that trout fishing wasn’t all that improbable during the summer. I had called Jeff and we agreed to meet at the welcome center early one September Saturday.
I got there first and got my gear on under the overcast sky. I was already casting dries to a few mouths coming up for something beyond my reach in the slower deeper water. Jeff came down the hill and entered the water. He told me that he did well on my Thundercreek Shiners a couple of weeks ago. Being stubborn I had to still try to catch at least one of the early risers and stayed put while Jeff headed towards the far bank. After giving up I turned towards the riffling water and tied on a woolly bugger.
The water we were fishing was fast moving with an occasional calmer spot here and there. It was this way clear across the river and lasted for about a couple of hundred yards down stream. Swinging the bugger I could feel light taps as the trout were tailing it. Normally in a smaller stream I might trim the tail shorter but I felt that if the trout wanted the thing they’d have to take it, whole hog. It wasn’t long before we started hooking up with rainbows. Fighting the feisty 8”-12” 'bows' in the strong current was what I was longing for. Switching on and off between Thundercreeks and buggers, and catching rainbows, I explored my way back and forth across the river to get a feel for the changes of water depth and submerged rocks. The morning was going better than expected and ‘better’ was yet to come.
 I finally noticed some rises in the riffled waters and couldn’t resist tying on my dry fly assortment. The fish didn’t seem interested in what I had so I paused and looked around. A few Caddis’s were coming off so I tried to bare hand one to take a closer look. Fly catcher birds, (I’m not a bird connoisseur), were dive-bombing at the rising light colored caddis’s across the river. I tied on a #12 elk hair caddis and proceeded to cast to the risers. I’d hook into one now and then but found a few trout were just inspecting the fly. I switched to a #14 and the benefit was extraordinary. The longer the morning went on the more trout rose. The more trout rose the more I was able to target and catch them. Jeff was catching the trout also on Thundercreeks and wet flies. When nothing else works Jeff usually always finds a wet fly a few trout will take. By noon we had caught enough trout to break for lunch.
 After lunch we headed back down to the river. The trout seemed to be more selective and it wasn’t until I switched to a bullet-head deer hair caddis that I felt comfortable not to change flies any more. The trout were evidently keying on emergers and after the bullet-head would drift down stream without a taker I’d twitch it so it would submerge. Lifting my rod, as I slowly stripped in line, I’d feel a strike and set the hook. This went on for a short while until I noticed brown caddis’s starting to hatch. I switched over to a brown elk hair and evidently matched the hatch correctly with the right size. Fish after fish took my imitation until Jeff and I finally called it quits for the day. We ended the day camping out with a bottle of wine and cooked deer meat.

Sunday morning it was overcast and rainy. Even in the slight rain on and off the rainbows still came up for dries and Thundercreeks below the surface. Fly catcher birds and fish catching fly guys were enjoying the ‘catching’ so to say. Late morning Jeff started to hook up with more trout on King River Caddis. He departed about 11:30. I continued to fish, in the some times pouring rain, catching fish on King Rivers, bullet heads and elk hair caddis. With a few Humpy’s late in the day made it 7 hours of catching hungry trout. 2 days of the best days ever in number of fish caught.
That’s not the end of it though!

I pull my Springer Softail into the Quick-Fill across from the prison. I Fill up with petro and grab a sub and soda for lunch later. After warming my hands near the hot oil tank I roll on out to the main road. The sun is trying its darndest to peak through but the fog only thinned out slightly. Onward my Harley burrowed as one headlight leads the way through the confined fog.

Where was I? Oh ya.

Jeff called me that Wednesday and told me he and his brother were heading back up to the Kinzua. His brother only fly-fished a few times and Jeff felt this was a golden opportunity to get him some action. By coincidence my friend Rusty called and said he needed some R&R away from work and town life. I told him to bring his trout rod and a pair of waders!
 We met Jeff and his brother Kevin Saturday morn. Rusty and I were feeling the after effects from a fun time at Ray’s Hot Spot the night before but it weren’t anything a few aspirins and a shot of hot tea wouldn’t relieve…. In an hour or so.
 We made it down to the river in one piece and wandered into the moving water. Rusty only had hip boots so he had to fish at the head of the riffling thigh high water. Rusty’s not a fly-guy so he was fishing with his light spinning rod with rooster-tails and bait. Jeff was giving some pointers to Kevin in the middle of the river below Rusty while I headed my way down river some. It wasn’t too long after that we all seemed to be catching trout. A whoop and a holler by Kevin now and then told me he was having a great time. There were times all of us had fish on all at once. When we broke for lunch, around 1:00, we set up food on a picnic table and had a buffet style dinner. We were all excited about our fishing and talked about our techniques. After lunch Rusty went into Warren to look for more bait. Kevin took off on his cross-country bike and I took a power nap. I’m not sure where Jeff went?
 I awoke hearing the guys talking outside. We grabbed our rods leaning against the shade tree and headed on down towards the river. Descending down the path I told the guys to ‘lets count our catch’. Knowing me, they all knew it wasn’t for bragging rights or competitive fishing. We were still to have fun, I was just eager to get an accurate count of how many fish we can catch in the next few hours. I told them that as long as the fish is on for at least 5 sec. count it. The idea was to see how many different fish we can fool to hook into than actually getting them to net. They all agreed and we were back in the water.

I turn the bike onto Blue Jay Road. The fog finally cleared the roadway though the white object of the sun is hardly noticeable. Knowing the road well I open up the throttle some and take the windy road like a cyclist should. Tilting in and out of turns until I’m able to see the Lynch Bridge. Slowing down, to cross the iron grate, I look down upon the Tionesta. A flock of mallards huddle under the near corner of the bridge in muddy wet sand. Looking up stream as far as my eyes can see, boulders and rocks jutt throughout the water starved creek. Poor fish, I think as I stop at the stop sign. Turning right onto rte. 666 and seeing the straight-a-way I crack opened the throttle to blow out the idling pipes. The engine growls and forces the rear end to dip, gripping the asphalt, as most Harley’s do. The front springer frontend lightens slightly and the whole cycle rams forward. I back her down just before the first bend of the roadway and continue on at a safe speed.

Oh ya.
 Kevin set up, upstream from me, next to a submerged flat rock. With a good flow of fast water around the rock he could drift his streamers through and around both sides. Jeff took off towards the far bank and fished his wets, dries and Thundercreeks. Rusty kept to the head of the fast water and I swear every time I looked back towards him, his rod was bent or he was bent over releasing another trout. I was in the middle of the river, below Kevin, conducting my dry fly magic. Fish after fish were taking my caddis imitations. It really was a sight, I’m sure, seeing us all catching trout. Around 7:30 we all headed for shore. Upon the bank and walking up the path we shared our totals.

According to my journal the catch went as follows.
Kevin caught 19 trout strictly using Thundercreek Shiners and buggers
Jeff caught 25 trout using mostly wet flies and emergers with some dries and Thundercreeks.
I caught 32 trout mostly using dries and a few emergers.
Rusty caught 37 trout using bait and not even getting into the deeper water.

That’s over a hundred fish in a little over 2 1/2 hours between us. All from woolly buggers to wets, dries, and live bait. Enough said!!
 We spent the evening resting our backs at the campground downing a few brews, after our supper, before turning in.

 Sunday morning we were back at it only not as early as we would have liked. A few other fishermen were fishing in the same area but the river is wide and the long stretch of riffling water kept us all from hampering each other. A few spin fishermen were casting spinners as we picked our spots and started fishing. Rusty only fished a couple of hours and then headed off to his small town. I accompanied Jeff and Kevin back to the vehicles for lunch and they headed out to pack up camp and head back to Pittsburgh. I sat on the picnic bench contemplating what I needed to do at home. I figured nothing that couldn’t be done tomorrow and grabbed the 5wt. SAS Scott Rod.
 When I got back down to the creek a few guys also entered from the other side of the river. A few spin-casters were still out in the water so I slowly fished my way towards the middle. For an hour or so I fiddled around with different flies to see what worked and what didn’t. I put extra weight on the buggers and fished deep in some spots to see if I could hook up with any big browns that I heard about. I finally found myself just below the big rock Kevin was fishing near the day before. There were two spin fishermen, now standing there, and casting spinners in the fast water.

I’m known to show off sometimes and this seemed just the time for that occasion. I tied on a #14 elk hair caddis and looked for the first riser. Down stream to the right a trout was feeding pretty regularly. I stripped line and false casted a couple of times. I laid the fly upstream from the feeding trout and quickly mended the body of the fly line upstream. I watched as the imitation drifted with the current into the strike zone. The fish rose and I set the hook.
"He got one!" I heard one of the guy’s say
 I put on a good show for the spin-guys as I brought the fish in. I was actually waiting for another fish to rise before netting the fish and it just so happen another did come up about 25 feet away. I released the trout and took in some line. False casting once, I shot the fly right near the 2nd rise. The fish half jumped out of the water to take in the fly. Again I set the hook and brought him to hand. As I let go of this trout my accustomed tuned ears heard a splash somewhere downstream near, and behind me. I twisted my body and looped the fly to my left. Keeping my rod high, and line as tight as possible, my rod followed the dry downstream. The fish took the fly within 15 feet of me and I set the hook. Three for three I thought. I played the fish upstream enough so I could see the spin fishermen standing there watching me. I netted the fish and released him. Now for some grace. I let line out and executed a graceful cast as far as I knew I was able to perform. I wasn’t aiming or casting to anywhere in particular. I was just concentrating more on my rod movement. The fly fell softly to the water and I mended the belly upstream.

 Sometimes you’re good and sometimes they say it’s luck. Sometimes the fish gods look down, and even if you’re showing off, sprinkle a little magic in the air.

 As I watched the fly waffle with the riffled waves a mouth came up and I set the hook. The fish sprung into the air and reentered the water. That little 8” rainbow completed my show-off exercise at four casts-four fish. After releasing the fish I hooked the fly onto the hook keeper. I than reached into my inside vest pocket and pulled out a Fuente Cubanito. Lighting the cigar I stood there a moment in the middle of the river, puffing on my cigar taking in the scenery.

 After an hour of catching more trout I turned upstream and started fishing my way out. An older gent, with a wading staff, was walking across the shallow waters at the head of the riffles. He was heading to the bank in which I was going to exit the river. I slowly casted my way, while catching a few, towards the bank. The older gent sat on a rock on shore as if inspecting his fly rod. I recall the conversation went something like this.

“You were doing well out there, can I ask what you were using?” he questioned
“Elk hair caddis mostly” I replied. “I figured out using light elk hair when the clouds covered the sun and switched to a brown elk hair when the sun was shining”
He looked at me as if he expected more.
“We were catching quite a few on Thundercreek Shiners when the trout weren’t coming up for dries” I continued.
“Thundercreeks? I heard of them” he replied
I reached in a fly box and handed him one.
“The original pattern calls for painted eyes but I found they work without them” I continued.
“You fish for steelhead?” I asked
“I work at so-and-so fly shop up in Erie,” he said
We finally introduced ourselves and I remember his name was JT or JL, something like that anyway.
We jabbered a little more and I headed to the van and headed home.

Slowing my cycle down through Sheffield human life appears. A few early walkers are striding down the main street. I pull my cycle up to the light at rte. 6. Now more than ever, eager to fish I turn left and roar the power on towards Warren.

 A few days after that weekend I called my friend Bud. Told him about the caddis hatch and if he was interested in getting some fly fishing experience to come on up. To make a long story short we hit the Kinzua that Sunday. I spotted him in a good area of the river to catch some fish. I explained a few techniques and handed him a box of flies. I headed down a bit and started fishing caddis. Very few caddis were coming off, the hatch must have been petering out. I did catch enough trout, though, that I was satisfied when we decided to depart. Bud caught a few also on buggers and Thundercreeks that he enjoyed the outing.

Can you believe it? 3 straight weekends of dry fly action! In the same waters! I had to have caught over 40 trout each day the first two weekends and ended catching about 15 the last Sunday! All in September! No doubt about it!

I pull the Harley into the welcome center parking lot. An empty boat trailer is hitched to a parked truck. Two lone cars are parked along side. I turn off the big twin and walk down to the wooden rail. Foam is spread out across the smooth deep water, flowing downstream. It appears as if the water is a little higher and a little faster than I remembered. I look downstream over the riffled water and fly catcher birds dart from one side of the bank to the other.
Above, a cloud of fog is still touching the out-stretched mountain of green trees across the way. ‘Looks like it may be a good day to catch some rainbows.’
‘Might be just a story worth telling?’


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Zonker Tute

Sometimes you look at a pattern and it looks easy. Than when you go to tie it you wonder 'How did they do that?'

Here's an easy way I tie zonkers

Zonkers for beginners

hook; streamer hook  Mustad 9671
thread; red and black
weight; lead wire .015 or .020
body; mylar tubing
tail; mylar tubing unravelled
wing; rabbit Zonker strip tied down at hook bend with red thread
than pulled forward and tied off behind eye.
hackle; soft grizzly


A. Cut a piece of mylar off and pull out center material if you buy it at a craft store.
B. Thread red thread and black thread in their own bobbins

1. Base red thread on hook shank
counter wrap lead around hook shank 8-10 turns

2. Slip mylar over hook eye and shank leaving some strands unravelled for tail. Tie down with red thread.

3. Lay rabbit strip on hook shank splitting hair where you're going to tie down at just in front of hook bend.
4. Tie down rabbit strip, knot and cut thread. (I add a little head cement to thread.)

5. Push more mylar up hook shaft, behind eye, and base your black thread behind eye
6. Tie down mylar with black thread leaving room behind eye for hackle

7. pull rabbit strip forward, over shank, and tie off behind eye leaving room for

8. Tie in hackle

9. Wind hackle a couple of turns, tie down.
Wrap a nice thread head and whip finish

Olive Zonker

White and Black Zonkers

Enjoy a beer and admire your work!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day After the Bear Hunt

Day After the Bear Hunt

 Bear hunting went unsuccessful Saturday. After dinner at the Kelly Hotel and a few beers, while I watched the Penguins game, it was time to find a place to bed down. I headed towards the Clarion River and found a place to park the van along Millstone Creek. I started to nod off before the third period of the hockey game was over. I turned off the radio and covered my head with the sleeping bag, tomorrow's another day.

 It was just getting daylight when I opened the side door of the van. The sound of
water rushing over boulders upstream, sounding like a waterfalls, made the morning more pleasant. The November mountain air was crisp and looking down upon the creek water I got the urge! I was as excited as a bunch of Fraternity boys going to watch a college sorority wet ‘T‘ shirt contest.
Let’s face it; I was already in the Allegheny National Forest so I figured I might as well take advantage before heading home! It should put a little more excitement in the weekend.

 I put the heating rod in my tin cup to heat water as I got dressed while the van warmed up. I found a package of Pop Tarts in my picnic basket which was my breakfast. Once the water got hot, in the tin cup, I took out the rod, unplugged it from the cigar lighter and plopped in a tea bag. I let it steep a bit as I drove to the small forest creek I planned on fishing.

 In the parking area I started to put on my fishing attire. The forecasters called for rain, and though it looked to be a possibility, I just dressed warmer and decided against a rain coat. Looking up, the white moody clouds moved in unison beneath the blue sky above.

 The hemlocks stood tall with no sign of a breeze in the air. Their long branches bowed downward and curved out from the trunk. When I heard the first early bird chirp I considered that as a good omen. I was thinking about assembling my 7' 4 piece Hardy rod but the Powell 7’6" rod was already to go as it hung above the window. I took it down, grabbed a few cigars and headed towards the creek.

I decided to work my way from the van downstream. Hemlocks and laurel made for tight quarters. There was a continuous outcropping of rocks and boulders along the creek so I was cautious with every step.

 The clear water made it easy for the trout to see me when I found room for casting so I consciously kept myself camouflaged to the background as I worked my way down creek. It was slow going in the morning. I tried streamers but the fish weren’t too excited. I drifted nymphs downstream but it was hard telling if I got a bite or not with the constant gradual flow of water over and around obstacles. I noticed a few tiny mayflies about and a few spruce moths. I decided to toss a dry. Opening my caddis box I found a #14 cream color moth pattern. I hadn’t any floatant and with the dubbed body I wasn’t sure how well it would float. I cast across creek onto the rolling waves as I high sticked the rod. Slowly I moved along the bank trying to keep the dry from getting tangled up behind me as I cast outward. There was a deeper section of riffles close to the bank with underwater debris. With a downstream cast I held back on the rod and the dry landed with a slacked line. I followed the drift and a fish rose for the dry as it slowed at the tail out. I missed the take with a quick wrist set. For some reason I let the dry be pulled under with the current downstream and lifted it back to the surface. To my surprise I felt a tug and strip set the hook. I saw the little wild trout hanging on for a moment or two before he wiggled himself free. I brought the moth imitation in and it was drenched. Trying to keep it above water, in the riffles, wasn’t working out very well. I next tried an elk hair caddis and a couple of other dries to no avail.

 After my third cigar I was pretty far down creek without getting a fish to hand. It was a peaceful morning so I wasn’t disappointed too much but it would have felt better landing at least one. By now the sun appeared around the white clouds now and than brightening the surface water. On occasion a slight cool breeze would whisper through the hemlocks and blended in nicely with the sound of the falling waters. I walked the trail back up creek enjoying the scenery and calmness of the forest.

  Back at the van I decided to work my way up creek. Earlier I had a few trout interested in my streamers, even though I couldn’t hook up with many, so I decided to tie on a streamer and hope for the best. 

 Up creek you would have thought I was on a completely different stream. The small native brook trout were relentless in attacking my streamers. I had a hard time keeping them on the #10 hooks as more often than not they’d find a way to wiggle free. I looked in my streamer box for one with a smaller hook but couldn’t find any in the color I wanted. Occasionaly though I did manage to bring one to hand.

  I usually fish for the small wild brook trout with dry flies. This outing I was more interested in hooking up to the bigger holdover stocked trout, so I wasn’t too concerned in catching these small wild trout.

 My first bigger trout came when I was drifting the streamer along a cut bank. I was actually stooped down on the bank high sticking the streamer just out from the ledge of the bank. A dark figure of a fish came out from under the bank and grabbed the slow moving streamer. I lifted the rod and set the hook. He darted under the bank beneath twigs and overhung grass. The rod tip pulled downward wanting to make a ‘U’ in the rod shaft.

 I kept the rod tip out as far I possible could with one hand trying to coax the fish back out. He’d dart out now and than tussling with the line and rod before swimming back beneath the bank. I finally got him tired out and managed to get him to land. When I held him I noticed something peculiar about the brown trout but it didn’t register until I got home and the picture of it up on my computer. (It turned out looking more like a tiger trout, with its longer wormlike pattern sides, than a brown trout.)

 I continued fishing up creek and hooked into a good fighting brown trout that was holding under a bunch of leafy stick debris against a bank-side boulder. He fought within the rolling current until he tired and I was able to bring him to the bank. He too was long and slender but healthy no doubt.

 Hours flew by and I got to an upper part of the creek that I didn’t care to go any further. I had fun on my journey up and now it was time to head back down creek. I decided to add a little weight to the leader so as to get my streamer deeper within the deeper pockets of water. The wild trout continued to strike at the big streamer and again only a few I was able to keep on the hook.

 I came to an open section clear of laurel and hemlock branches. I tossed the streamer near the far bank and let it swing into the middle of the creek. I waited a bit for my weight to get the streamer down deeper and than I began to strip the pattern with long, slow smooth strokes. I felt the grab and instantly pulled line to set the hook. The weighty fish on the other end told me this wasn’t another small brookie. The fish thwarted back and forth beneath the current using it to his advantage. I moved to my right, nearer the bank, and kinda tugged him out from under the faster current. He followed and now swam reluctantly towards me along the bank line. I reached down and grabbed him. To my surprise it was a rainbow and a healthy looking one at that! Pretty cool, I now caught a rainbow to add to the brown trout and brook trout. (Remember, I still didn’t realize I caught a tiger trout until I got home.)

 Well I was in real good spirits by now and decided to make my way down creek a little faster and only fish deeper sections. Every now and than I’d hook up with one of those small wild trout but couldn’t manage any bigger trout.

 Back at the van I was well pleased with the outing. I changed over to my street clothes and hung the 4wt above the window. I took the time to quench my thirst with an amber brew and straightened the back of the van up before leaving. There was one more thing on my mind before I got into the drivers seat. The past week I was fishing with Dan and he handed me a Macanudo cigar in a white tube. I was saving it for a special occasion and I felt this was just the occasion for this fine smoke. After I downed the last of the beer, and before pulling onto the hardtop, I lit the Hampton Court. It was a smooth light tasting smoke with a good even burn. An enjoyable smoke for the drive home, I must say!