I always enjoy fishing new waters for trout. This past weekend I headed to Williamsport for a surprise birthday party for my Godfather. I took my mom and GF along but made sure they understood I would be fishing while we are up there.
When we arrived Saturday morning I found the Lycoming Creek was overflowing its banks with strong flow and white water. Just off the banks I could see the water was deep and felt it was too hazardous so we traveled towards the Loyalsock to find the Delayed Harvest Area. On the way over my mom asked me when I catch trout, being that we’re up here, what am I going to do with them. I explained what the DHA was and told her I had to release them though I release trout anyway. My mom than commented ’what fun is it to take the time to catch them and then leave them go?’ She caught me off guard, being I was concentrating on driving and following the map, I told her that it was just fun just to fly fish and catch them and left it at that.
We found the Loyalsock high and running fast also. From the bank I could see the bottom with good visibility. The Loyalsock is quite a bit wider than the Lycoming so I felt I had a better chance fishing this stream and being safe doing so. By this time it was afternoon so I set my sights on Sunday morning for fishing. We returned to Williamsport to get lunch and check into our hotel.
Sunday morning I awoke at 6:20 am, prior to my set alarm. I packed all my clothes in the van and ate a waffle breakfast in the hotel lobby area. I had till 12:00 to get back to the hotel to pick up the women before check out time.
...In the access area parking lot at Sandy Bottom, the bottom section of the DHA, I got out of the van and was greeted by nature. Birds chirped about in high pitched tones like the chatting of women in a small morning diner. A crow cawed in the distant as if the town crier waking any slumbering animal still in their beds or nest. Looking up towards the heavens a light fog lingered within and above the mountain tops. The morning sky was lightening up with a good sign of a fine day ahead. I breathed in the cool crisp air and listened to the distant sound of tumbling water as I put together my gear.
Walking across the sandy earth it was evident that the area had been flooded within the past few weeks. My felt boots made imprints in the damp sand. Logs, trees and branches were entangled about with trash like cooler lids, tarps and man made material scattered among the folded over brush caused by a swift current.
I walked down the sandy shore, below the fast narrow run of white water, to the wider section of the stream below. Seeing the colorful rocky stony bottom I stepped off the bank and was immediately in a foot and a half of water. I could feel the current against my legs even along the bank-side. Taking a few more steps outward I found the stony bottom wasn’t too secure. Rocks and stones shifted from under my felt soles until I felt solid bottom. I also felt more of the strong current against my legs so I decided not to wade in any further.
The water was clear enough and I felt working streamers, to cover more territory, would be my best choice being I never fished here. The water wasn’t as cold as I would have thought so I was hoping there would be some energetic fish that would follow and take a streamer if I come across any. I knotted on a Fast-Snap to my 5x tapered leader so I could quickly change streamers as I go along without all the retying involved. I started off with a woolly bugger and added an extra split shot above my twisted lead matchstick for more weight to keep my bugger down towards the bottom.
We are kind of spoiled in Pennsylvania. The state stocks over 3,000,000 trout a year in approved streams and lakes throughout the commonwealth. During the regular trout season bait fishermen and conventional fishermen follow the stocking truck for better opportunities to catch fresh dumb stocked trout. Fly guys are no exception as many will only fish freshly stocked streams in project waters during preseason of opening day of trout. I’m not excluding myself from this bunch but I tend to at least let the stocked trout settle down some. I also don’t mind fishing in streams that were last stocked the year past. The Loyalsock was stocked a few weeks prior so my odds of catching a trout might not be too bad though the water conditions won’t be too helpful. Even so, I wasn’t going to let it discourage me even if I didn’t catch anything on this new adventure.
I worked and waded the area below the faster water for about an hour before I couldn’t wade in any further. I walked upstream along the bank casting in pocket waters behind visible oversized rocks that created a wake on each side leaving the water behind in a slower pool. So far I was hitless but was enjoying the outing in the quiet outdoors.
I decided to spend the last hour above the rapid white water run. By now the mountain haze had burned off and the sun was shining down through a slate blue cloud cover which kept the glare to a minimum. As I was trying to wade upstream, in the calmer water, the under current was hampering my intended pace. I could feel beads of sweat run down my spine and the heat of my body was rising, fogging up my polarized lenses. When I took them off I was able to see through the clear water just as well without them as the sun was to my back so glare wasn’t a problem. My intentions were to get within casting distance of an island that separated the large wide section of water. Watching the stony bottom I started to navigate my way towards the island. I didn’t get too far before the water crept up just below my hip wading belt. The clear water made the depth very deceiving. I decided to wade across no further and slowly fish my way downstream towards the rapids casting across stream swinging and drifting streamers.
I took a break to let my body cool off and lit an Arturo cigar. I watched a large bird fly down and perch itself on a bare tree limb above the island. The mountains surrounded me as I stood in the cold water in the valley. A refreshing lazy breeze followed with the current carrying with it the cool rising air from the cold creek. It sort of got a little eerie as I thought about my presence in this remote area, miles from human inhabitance. I always feel safe though, knowing danger when I see it and don’t temp nature.
With my cigar clinched between my teeth I practiced my long distance casting having plenty of room behind me. My bugger plops into the water just shy of a strong riffle made by subsurface boulders. I mend my floating line downstream some as the surface current is slower than the undercurrent where my bugger dropped. I watched my bugger straighten the floating line than swing deep and downstream from me time and again switching colors often. I than decided to practice double hauling. It took a while to get my timing right with short pulls on my fly line. I’m sure it didn’t look pretty but I did get the weight forward line out a few more feet.
Than it happened while swinging a triple threat. At the end of the swing I let it dangle deep in the current before stripping in. I felt the grab and tug of a sluggish fish. Instantly I pulled back line and lifted the rod for the hook set. The fish tugged again and swerved left to right in the current trying to dislodge the hook. I know the quickest way to tire a trout is to fight him from the side. Their streamline body is made to hold, facing upstream, in current without using too much energy. This trout decides not to swim out in either direction but decides to struggle, tug of war style, directly down stream from me. I decided to flank him but he just followed the line pull and current shift from my leg movements. I began to shift the rod from left to right trying to make him use more energy from side to side. With every movement towards me I took in line as the rod tip continued to bend and hold tension on the trout. Nearer to me I shifted the rod far right and the fish reluctantly followed. He rose and his tall dorsal fin and the tip of his tail fin broke the water surface. He struggled in the surface current than dove deep. I moved my flexed rod downward towards him than swing it to my left, the tiring trout followed. Now played out I put my left hand in my net glove and moved the rod upstream to my left. He rose again and I gripped the dark rainbow by the neck of his tail, a solid trout! I admired my only catch of the day before unleashing the hook from his lower jaw.
I thought about my mom’s earlier comment “what fun is it to spend the time to catch trout than letting them go” as I released the trout from my hand. My mom never spent time in nature let alone fishing. I really didn’t know what to say to her at the time.
“Why do I fly fish and release them?” It’s pretty much like the reason I ride a Harley, an American made motorcycle, than a Japanese or foreign cycle. Like the words on a Harley shirt says; ’If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand!’
I looked at my watch and it was closing in on 11:00am. I decided to call it quits and took one more look around at my surroundings. Nice to be out!