Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Exercising the Bamboo Stick

Exercising the Bamboo Stick
March 27, 2011

 Jim and I stood on the bank with our hands in our pockets watching Dan drift a stonefly for trout. It was about 8:30am and I’m not sure if it was 25 degrees in the shade yet. Dan came over from Ohio with my sister, Anna, and wanted to know if I can take him trout fishing. They had a party to later on so he would only have a few hours to fish. I planned on meeting him at the Big N creek, it was the closest delayed harvest area. They also stocked it a couple of weeks ago and it should be in great condition for fishing than the previous rainy high water weekends. He suggested meeting at 8:00am. I told him it will be cold but fishable! Being Dan had to leave at 11:30 he wanted to get in as much fishing as possible. He has fished for steelhead before with a fly rod but I wasn’t sure if he ever fished with one for trout. Though the water was cold I was hoping to get him to catch his first PA. trout.

 I met Jim at the truck stop as he wanted to come along also. When I picked him up he jokingly asked if I thought the ice would be off the Big N? He said it was 18 degrees when he left his house.
“Weren’t my idea to meet Dan at 8:00am” I answered!

 We met Dan in the parking lot, near the creek, and put on our gear. I strung up my SAS Scott 5wt for him to use with a F5DT line. On the creek bank he was having trouble tying the tippet to the #16 black stonefly I suggested for him to use. I figured his hands were pretty cold and wasn’t used to tying on that small of a hook so I tied it on for him. In the chilled water I demonstrated, to him, how to roll cast and mend line upstream so the nymph will drift downstream in front of the leader. After handing him the rod I went back on the bank with Jim and we watched Dan and talked about fishing. Within a half hour Dan hooked into his first Pa. brown trout. I waded in and netted the fish and congratulated him on the job well done. After that he was on his own.

 I think it was around 9:30am when I couldn’t take it any longer being next to trout waters with the sun rising throwing tree shadows across the surface. Looking upstream the sight of white water spewing over the dam wall upon the creek and flowing around rocks and boulders along the shallows was getting me excited to fish. I walked up to the van and decided to take the Bamboo rod for an exercising excursion. I planned on giving it a good workout from drifting nymphs to casting dries and throwing streamers. I pieced together the three sections of the handsome Tonkin bamboo. It was given to me last October by a guy out in Kentucky that refurbished old Bamboo rods. Today I was going to see how well it performed. When I got the rod I couldn’t fathom putting a modern reel on it so it wears a Martin Classic MC78 made in the good old U.S. of A. when I take it out. I strung up the rod with a F5WF Cortland Sylk line, my fingers feeling the biting cold with each step!

 Back down at the creek I saw Dan down below the bridge already. A couple of guys were upstream at amateur falls so I slowly waded in right in front of the shop, the most widely fished section of stream. I roll cast a bunny leech and than a bugger to get used to casting the Boo stick even though I figured the trout wouldn’t be very active in the cold conditions to chase a bait fish imitation. After feeling comfortably cold, feeling the chill of the water through my waders and fleece wading pants and air cold upon my exposed skin, I decided to change tactics. I consciously decided what combo of flies I wanted to drift not wanting to retie flies continuously in the cold weather. I decided a small weighted stonefly beneath a bead-head prince nymph would be a good choice. I carefully tied on the combination and added a strip of lead about a foot or so above my top fly. The water before me had a nice even flow of slow current. I’m not much of an indicator user for trout and I felt I should be able to see my floating fly line tip throughout the drift to detect strikes. I lobbed a roll cast with the Boo stick a little upstream and looped a mend up further. I watched my fly line tip as the leader and flies lead the way. Though more effective in cold weather than streamer fishing it gets boring until…..

…until the fly line dips down or stops briefly. I lifted the Boo stick sharply and felt the resistance than tugs on the other end. Unlike graphite or fiberglass rods, the bamboo is less accommodating to give up much bend to a fighting fish. It is as if I could judge my catch by the flex of the Boo more than the line tension of the fishes fight. The Boo stick tip section doesn’t dance with the fish as a ’glass’ rod does nor does it give up resistance as graphite. It just bends gradually in a wider arc and always seems to ’stand its ground’ pressuring the fish with only little of my encouragement until the fish tires.
 I net the 10” or so brown. I unhook the stonefly from its mouth and release him back into the chill. My wet hand feels as if it is in an instant freeze as the colder breeze hits it. I try to find warmth by wiping my hand on my fleece pull over and putting it in my coat pocket. A few finger felt frost bit!
I continued the boring routine covering the wide section diligently. I put on a fingerless mitten upon my left line hand. Occasionally I overhand cast the tandem rig, with smooth sweeps of my arm, further out and throw bigger mends upstream. Daydreaming a bit, I noticed my fly line tip not only dipping deep but curving upstream. I quickly swung my horizontal rod downstream before raising it, taking up the slack and setting the hook. The Boo’s pressure turns the fish downstream and he fights in a semi-circle as I clinched my teeth on the mitten and pulled my left hand out. Again the Boo stick and I direct the fish in our direction. I reach down and unhooked the exposed stonefly from the side of the fishes lip skin.
 From out of nowhere I looked around and see more fly guys enter the arena of the creek. I wade down a bit for newer territory to drift my tandem rig. In time, while holding the rod only with my mitten hand, I try to warm my right hand by blowing warm breath upon its palm and fingers. I saw the line stop briefly and I lifted the rod to set the hook with my mitten hand. I saw my line tighten, felt a slight resistance and than the line went slack. A fish rolled in the distance.
 My next good hook up came on a sharp distinct take. I set the hook on a seemingly traveling rainbow. He fought just subsurface to my waiting net. I seen he had taken the prince nymph as I unleashed him from its hold. After hooking into a sucker a couple more fishermen gathered around so I decided to head downstream. I waded as I cast streamers out to cover as much water as possible with each swing and strip in. I had two different rainbows follow a bunny leech but no takers.

 By now I was pretty far downstream where the water riffles over a rocky bottom of about two feet of depth and drains into a wide slow deep pool of water. There were three spin guys in the water just off the opposite bank of the deeper pool area splashing their gadgets on the surface and dragging them back in. A fly guy was across from them so I couldn’t pass around him unless I climbed the bank. No matter, I decided to drift a streamer or such into the mouth of the slow deep pool. As I was casting and switching different buggers and triple threats about, the spin guys decided to climb the bank and head out. Before they left, from above, they directed the fly guy to where they saw a few fish holding close to the bottom downstream from his stand but within his casting range. I figured he wasn’t moving anytime soon so I decided to do my best right where I was at.
I switched to a darker triple threat and added an extra piece of lead to get the triple to drift deeper. I was already in thigh high water and had to make long casts to reach the riffling water across stream and than letting it swing into the pool. I false cast once to draw out more line and shot the soft Sylk line through the air and the triple followed the unrolling loop. The triple fell into the middle of the riffles. There was slow deep water between me and the riffling water so there was no need to mend line in either direction. I had my fly rod horizontal and the fly line didn’t drift more than a couple of feet before it quit and an arc started to develop in the belly section. I thought I had a snag with the extra weight involved and I quickly wrist lifted the rod upward to pull the triple up and free. The rod tip section bent downward as the fly line lifted off the water. Instantly I felt a couple of tugs on the tensioned line and the pull away towards the tail end of the riffles. The middle section of the Boo stick started to bend with the top section. I knew this wasn’t any fresh stockie and I was ready for the fight. The extra amount of slack line slipped through my fingers and then the Martin Classic clicked as it spat out line through the rod guides.

A fish in the current adds more weight to the fight and therefore adds more excitement in any fishermen’s battle.

 He decides to fight within the current and not travel down into the deeper water. The Boo bent as far as it could through the mid section and at the ferrule it couldn’t bend anymore into the thick diameter butt section. I watched the top section creek downward and felt more tension on the line. I was about to give in and let line slip through my tensioned fingers when the trout turned towards me and head-shook, beneath, against the rod pressure. I took in line with downward sweeps as he traveled toward me swiftly. The rod tip began to straighten with the oncoming fish and I raised the rod to try to keep pressure on the trout. In the deep water before me he turned upstream and than towards the riffling water with long tugging pulls. I held the fly line tight and watched the Boo, again, start to bend into the middle section towards the butt with the pulling fish. I was about ready to give him line but again the Boo’s pressure forced the trout back towards us. The knots and tippet held up through the strenuous exercising routine and I guided him to the net. The holdover brown gave the Boo an exercise program I wasn’t expecting. I released the trout back into the chilling water and straightened the fibers of the triple threat.

 Now I felt I had the right shade of streamer and fished it with a little more confidence. I worked the riffles over again thoroughly to no avail. I now concentrated on getting the triple threat deep within the mouth of the deeper section. With long casts and ‘S’ shape lay-downs, the triple sank deep before it swung into the deeper pool. I could see a few shadows of rock ledges beneath the water surface which gives me a reference point of where I needed to drift my triple. At the end of one drift my line straightened but I failed to feel a tug. I stripped it in and the line slackened and it had me puzzled. A few drifts later and it does the same. I had the location pinpointed where my fly line tip was in both occasions. Maybe the fish won’t come after the swinging or drifting triple and only tried to take and hold it as it bumped up against their noses or something. A few casts later I saw my fly line shift quickly but I was late on the hook set but swear I felt the take. I considered trimming the triple shorter but decided not too. I tried my best to get the same distance and current flow to swing my fly into the same area. Seeing the slightest difference, in the drifting fly line, I pulled back hard on the long length of line. I felt the resistance as the fly line rose above the surface, as the leader drawn tight beneath. The Bamboo bent downward and I could feel the weight of the heavy fish in the deep slow pool. He fought beneath with whipping surges as my bent Boo pointed towards the fighting fish. He made a run in the opposite direction and the reel clicked like the rat-tat-tat of a drum roll. I tilted the rod to my left applying side pressure and he followed the direction of pull with bits of headshakes and surges. The Bamboo held its ground and I watched as the heavy rainbow came up and splashed to the surface. As he began to dive and turn away my eyes were on the Bamboo flex as my line hand controlled the line tension. The fly line angled stiffly from rod eye to rod eye below the bamboo stick like tight cables attached to a suspension bridge.
 I then angled my rod and pressured him to turn by pulling the rod horizontal and upstream thus forcing the big fish to follow. The rainbow gave one last full body surge downstream in a round about turn and dove deep. I was forced to give him some rod and let line slip through my fingers. The extended fight was now exhausting his energy and so I lifted the rod and took in line. He splashed with body aerobics top side as I forced him to my net. He calmed a bit in the net long enough to get a quick picture of him before releasing him back into the water. Another successful challenge of the Bamboo rod!!

Wow, two great fighting fish within a half hour of each. Time passes quickly when you’re having fun.

 I cast a few more times and decided to return upstream and look for Jim. On the way up I came across John and his brother fishing the long stretch of open shallow water and convinced him the deeper slower sections might be our best bet. We walked up to the shop where I caught fish in the morning. I noticed Jim was a bit upstream working a nymph in the current flow. I found an opening between a couple of fellows drifting nymphs beneath. I felt I had the right streamer this time and began to slowly drift the triple threat beneath and strip it in slowly. Nothing took it so I decided to wade down to my right positioning myself closer to John’s brother but still giving him plenty of room to each side. He exclaimed he had a hard hit on a black bugger but failed to hook him. He only fished a few more minutes before John and he decides to call it quits. Upon turning to bid them farewell a bank-side observer waded in and took the place where John’s brother just vacated.
 I tied on a dark woolly bugger and made short roll casts and at times long overhand casts to reach further towards the opposite bank. The guy to my right catches a good size brown trout and I watched as it fought well before he got it in. Within a few minutes I connected with a good fighting rainbow and brought him to my net. A guy behind me, upon shore, asks if that was a bamboo rod I was using as I release the fish.
“Yes it is” I replied.
“That’s a nice looking rod and you cast it very well, nice and smooth” he commented to that effect.
“Thanks” I replied back, with a smile on my face.
 Within a short time the guy to my right again hooked up to another brown trout. I in turn answered with another lunker rainbow that put up a good fight for the admiring shoreline observers. The Boo showed off its ability to bring in the big fish without a threat of disaster. I net the rainbow and brought him towards shore cause I felt he looked tangled up in the net and line. As I laid the net in the water near shore he shook his head and popped out of my small net and into the shallow water. The hook dislodged and the fish turned and swam away unharmed. ’Good deal’ I said to myself.
 Back out in the water the guy catches one more brown trout before giving up his space to a young person which he knew. I caught one more smaller rainbow and dislodged the hook with a quick twist while the fish was still in the water by my legs. After that the water fell silent. Within that lasting 35 minutes or so we hooked into 6 to 7 trout and then it ended as quickly as it unexpectedly began.

 Now with the wind picking up the colder air took its toll as any fly fishermen left upon the stream began to file out. Jim and I stuck around another half hour before I gave up as the wind chill became somewhat unbearable and the rod eyes started to freeze again. Jim didn’t complain and we walked to the van. While taking off my fishing gear and putting them away I enjoyed a cold LaBatts. Jim laid his gear in the back of the van also and we headed north east towards home.

 Before the outlet mall, on rte 208, I pulled out my last cigar in the three finger pouch. The reward of a Candela wrapped Fuente cigar gave a pleasing aroma and an enjoyable smoke all the way home!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wading another Bend

Wading another Bend

There’s a long and winding creek
                      just south east of DuBois
Deep within the forest
                   away from human noise
I visit somewhat often
  one to enjoy
I park along the dirt lane
                and open up the door
The forest, it greets me
                 like many times before
I gather up my 3 weight
and explore
There I am, on the creek again
There I am, the forest my friend
There I am, casting a fly again
There I am, wading another bend

Later in the evening
          I drink my last beer
Smoke my last cigar
                 wondering why I’m even here
I conjure up the winding creek
and I’m there
There I am, along the creek again
There I am, with more time to spend
There I am, catching a trout again
There I am, wading another bend


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An Unexpected Big'n

An Unexpected Big’n

I stepped into the slow water and I could feel the coolness upon my legs as the water flowed around my hip boots. It wasn’t long before I paid no attention to the normality’s of the forest and concentrated on fishing or any sudden commotion that stirred within the stillness of my surroundings.

 It was some time ago but I vividly remember the outing. It was September with cool mornings that warmed in the afternoon, yet, cooled back down in the eve. By now it was bass and warm water fishing more so than trout. This time of year the Alleghany National Forest was filled with vacationing campers and hikers. On Sundays they would be packing up to go back home and leave the forest to peacefulness once again. I’ve been smallmouth fishing the Clarion River the past few weekends, either float tubing or wading, but I was in need of a quiet trout stream. You see the river is congested with canoes, kayakers and swimmers mostly throughout the summer so the peacefulness one looks for along the river isn’t along the river as one might think. I was in need of a more serene quiet Sunday afternoon.

 I took the dirt covered gravel road away from the river. I passed a few camp sights as campers packed their vehicles while the embers smoldered within their circular stone fire pits. I drove slow as dry dirt rose from my rear tires causing a brown dust cloud behind. I continued on a piece through dips and onward up the gradual incline of roadway. The creek that followed the road soon disappeared from my sight behind the forest trees to my left, but I knew it was there. It would parallel the dirt road all the way to a blacktop road where it flows through a camp ground some miles afar. I pulled off the side of the gravel road onto a level spot just big enough for two vehicles; it was obvious no one had been there for some time. Before getting out I looked down through the hemlocks, though knowing I wouldn’t be able to see the creek a few hundred yards away, into the forest. Perfect!!

 I assembled my 4wt 7’ 6” Advantage XL Powel fly rod and tightened the seat ring against the Clearwater reel with spooled DT4F line. The evening air would be getting cooler as the day comes to a close so I put on an olive color button down over my brown T-shirt. I slid my belt through my spring net pouch and slipped into a pair of light weight hip boots, all that was needed on the small creek I’d be embarking on. I put on my shorty mesh vest, rolled up my sleeves and headed through the pines.
 The silence was golden as the warm breeze hushed through the pine boughs. I kept a sharp eye out hoping to catch the movement of some unaware animal but failed to come across any. At the bottom of the hill I came upon a soft mossy bog created by the rains earlier in the week. I detoured around it to reach the creek.

 At the creek I took a good look at my surrounding. A few bigger boulders laid within the running water to my left. An old splintered tree trunk rose up from the ferns upon the far bank. The water ran softly with a tinch of color in the deeper runs and opaque within the forest shadows of the setting sun. I walked an obvious trail upstream until I came to a wider section of stream, making visual notes of the sections of water I had passed.
 I stepped into the slow water and I could feel the coolness upon my legs as the water flowed around my hip boots. It wasn’t long before I paid no attention to the normality’s of the forest and concentrated on fishing or any sudden commotion that stirred within the stillness of my surroundings.
 The creek I was fishing wasn’t a skinny wild trout stream. I wasn’t in the mood for the frustration or constant concentration needed to keep my fly in the water and not in the brush. It was maybe 20 yards wide at the most but 10 to 15 yards across was the norm. The streambed was of millstone throughout so stone tapping the bottom with a nymph would become more trouble than it would be worth. The fish are all stocked brookies but by September the dumb ones aren’t around leaving the lucky or wary ones. Within the water holdovers can be found but even these are few and far between being that the creek is open to the general public of all tackle fishing. The fresher stockies will give up more easily when caught as for the holdover brooks will fight with lively energy right to the net. Most of the water depth will be a couple of feet or so with occasional deep pockets around oversized boulders that are exposed throughout the creek. The mountain water flows clear so I have found many of the survivors hide along the bank beneath overhangs keeping safe from birds of prey. I fish these waters with thunder creek streamers, lightly weighted buggers, an occasional latex caddis and an unweighted buggy looking nymph just above the bottom in moving current. I’m not one to use an indicator but watch for the dipping or stoppage of the end of my fly line to detect a strike.
 I work the creek keeping my eyes downstream and wading across the water from creek bank to creek bank to get better angles and drifts in deeper runs. I catch two fresh brook trout laying wait in a tail out. One takes the thunder creek at the end of the swing while the other couldn’t resist the stop and go stripping of my bait fish pattern. Both are light colored which determines their freshness.
 Each bend of the creek exposes new elements and currents to challenge my expertise. Spider webs along the shoreline brush denotes no humans have been around for sometime as undetermined skeletal insects are attached by fine looking silk.
 A holdover brookie swipes at my swinging thunder creek as it passes beneath the shadow of an overhang but misses. He follows downstream and I let the imitation drift and hold it in the edge of a riffle caused by an exposed round boulder. A few rod tip jerks and the holdover is tempted by the action of the marabou and attacks the streamer. I set the hook with a quick pull of my fly line and lift my rod tip. The brook trout fights with reckless abandon as the rod tip dampens each surge. I keep good tension on the fly line and enjoy the frisky fight of the holdover trout. He fights furiously to my boots and only calms when I turn him upside down in my grasp to dislodge the hook. He scurries away when he again feels the cool water.
 In time I catch a few more but not many by any means. The air turns cooler and I let down my sleeves as the sun’s rays no longer reach the water through the leafy treed forest. I turn a bend and see the exposed boulders and the splintered tree trunk. I slowly wade the creek nearest to the forest road, though hundreds of yards away, casting across stream and fishing the deeper water just this side of the boulders. I notice a game trail leading into and out of the water I hadn’t noticed earlier. I’m enjoying the last half hour or so of daylight in the quietness of the forest when I hear the breaking of brittle fallen sticks behind me, still a distant away. I patiently wait as the animal slowly makes its way towards the creek. I occasionally turn my head and try to get a visual of the creature through the thick bank-side bush and forest before casting back out into the water.
 I continue to fish, stationary in my stance, with little arm movement as I roll cast the thunder creek, my hearing now more aware to the approaching animal. The next snap of a twig comes just beyond the bush upon the bank. I stop all movement and slowly turn my head to see my unexpected guest. The black fury creature stops just 15 yards or so away from me. A thick bank-side bush separates us from open space. His nose rises and I calmly whistle softly and move my head slowly to draw attention as not to startle him. His sleepy beady eyes open wider as he focuses down through the bush upon my figure. I calmly and softly speak English words of affection to him. Satisfied, he turns his head and I watch the some 400lb black fury body walk and disappear into the forest towards the road.

 ’Darn it’ I think, now I’ll have to walk upstream and make a big arc towards the road so as not to come in sight of the bruin again.

 While wading upstream I think about this being the closest I’ve come to a black bear during all my outings in the ANF. I usually see two or three a year in the ANF when I’m about but not that close. The last closest encounter was when a bear strolled below the tree branch I was on while archery hunting.

 Upon leaving the confines of the creek I light up a La Corona Whiff and kind of noisily make my way up to the road, not wanting to surprise any creatures.

I reach my van safely by following a light beam of my handy flashlight!!!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Nightmare of the Purist

Nightmare of the Purist

As I was dozing off with my head against the pillow my mind started wandering.
Un-mythical trout, pellet heads, trout stocked urban sewer water, what’s the big deal?

 I cleaned off my fly tying table and burned the furs and feathers I collected for years. I didn’t even want to give them away for anyone to get caught up in the foolishness of trout fishing. The boxes of small hooks I put up in the attic and replaced them with bait hooks in sizes #8’s, #6’s and #4’s. The thread I took down to the Good Will store.
 I placed a plastic-acrylic square cutting board on my wooden fly tying table top. I bought bottles of food coloring and a brand new blue plastic mixing bowl along with a canister filled with flour. Instead of tying flies my new hobby will be rolling dough balls for carp. I can dye them different colors and maybe get some stink bait later on.
 I called my son and told him instead of going up to Kettle Creek for Father’s Day weekend we can go down to the Shenango River, below the Dam, and fish for natural reproducing carp. Maybe take the canoe and slowly drag dough balls along the muddy, stone soiled bottom of the river. We can canoe through the scenic town of Sharpsville instead of the natural wilds of Potter County. Instead of matching the hatch for concrete raised pellet head trout we can toss different color dough balls and maybe add stink bait which might hook us up with some river-bred catfish or suckers.
 If we catch smaller ones we can fling them out of the water with our 12lb. test line and pretend they’re leaping for freedom like a rainbow. I can imagine them brownish scaled big lipped short whiskered fish flying through the air ungraceful like. Instead of having a campfire trout dinner we can string a few and take them to grandma’s house. We can have a fillet-o-carp mouth watering supper and drink 16oz. cans Old Milwaukee.
 The phone went dead. Ten minutes later my daughter calls and asks me if I was feeling ill. She tells me her brother called her and said he thinks I was coming down with something. She also said she’ll be right over.

 I called Jeff and told him I’m cancelling our plans to fish the Ausable River in New York this year. Who wants to fish for trout up there anyhow? I told him we can save money and go to Pymatuning Reservoir for a lot cheaper. We could drown night crawlers and some of my homemade anise scented dough balls for lake carp. Just think how exciting it will be to hook into a 4 year old carp while shore fishing with the rod on a forked stick? Grabbing the rod and letting line peel off the spool like hooking into a piece of water logged driftwood in a river channel. We wouldn’t have to worry about if he’s going to jump out of the water to throw the hook. Then reeling him in like a snagged tree branch.
 Just then I heard static and the phone was disconnected. Must be a big wind storm down in Pittsburgh.

 I hung my trout fly rods on the wall in remembrance and started to look for a new spinning outfit in a Fishing Shop catalogue I dug out of the waste can.
 Now let’s see, I’m going to need a 4 piece rod for my cycle. Oh, I almost forgot, and a tackle box. I think that’s what they still call them?