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!!!


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