Good Cigars and a Fly Rod
Patience on the Fork
There’s a good possibility that if one fishes Cross Fork Creek with patience it will pay off. The fish always seem wary of the presence of strangers. Maybe it’s the clear waters that they reside in every day and the amount of pressure they receive throughout the year. Accurate upstream casting will yield more risers in many confined quarters. I find if I work it alone, without being hurried, I have a better chance of hooking up more often. To the fisherman’s advantage is the fact that the trout have to eat, be it, they know your present or not.
With the abundance of mayflies, from midges to drakes, the trout will take advantage of a meal at their leisure. On flat open pools of water they’ll sip midges or slap at fluttering mayflies trying to ascend off the water. In riffles they’ll let it pass before turning on it and excepting the consequences if they are fooled. They hide near crooked submerged branches along the bank or under over hanging brush waiting for a bug to draw near enough so they can quickly strike without exposing themselves too long from their hideouts.
At times the creek is like a candy factory. The many different bugs and mayflies drift the current like flavorful candy on a factory conveyer belt free for the taking. Midges are like tiny gum drops, fluttering or drifting, from Chocolate Duns to tiny Blue Wing Olives. Mayflies from creamy Cahills, lemon color Sulphurs and Orangeish March Browns. In the super size category are Green Drakes and Slate Drakes.
It gets frustrating at times seeing fish rise, dimpling on top or flat out whopping a bug in uprising flight, and you can’t understand why they won‘t take yours. You’ll finally catch a trout and think you figured out the right pattern, than you may catch only one more on a bunch more casts and wonder why other risers are ignoring yours. You’ll switch patterns and maybe get a rise out of one, not saying he’ll take it, but rise for a look see. What you’ll find is that while a few might be taking Chocolate Duns others rather like the flavor of Sulphurs. Some will only rise to fluttering Drakes or a clumsy March Brown drying his wings. I found switching patterns and sizes often yields more risers. A good drift and light tippet will help out immensely.
From above you can see the bigger trout suspended near the bottom from 16” to 20”. To get one to rise is a question I’m sure many have pondered. Trying to drift a nymph from a distance that they can’t see you or the splash of the entrance upon the clear water to warn them is a matter in itself.
It all requires patience. A little razzle dazzle like twitching the rod tip enough to get your dry imitation to ’flutter’ upon the surface makes it look more realistic. A plop of a beetle hitting the water surface, before the fly line or leader, among a group of hungry trout will cause a rise or two as they compete for the next visible morsel. Yet sometimes going against the grain, when the trout seam to be cautious, and casting a #14 odd color Sulphur to see if it just maybe….
I still had my raincoat on though the rain had ceased an hour ago. The sun had popped out for the time being giving the gray streaked sky some promise. I was standing alone in the creek with dimpling and quick rising trout about in the gin clear water. I already, patiently, fooled a few 9” to 12”rs on small midge patterns when 2 gentlemen joined me. They took up a stand, one on each side, leaving me with plenty of casting room and area to cover. It wasn’t long before each one hooked up with a small brook trout. After that the creek went cold for them as I continued to change midge patterns and made a few more rise. The guy downstream from me noticed what I was doing and he began to change midge patterns also. This in turn caused a few trout to rise to his new imitations. The guy upstream gave up and disappeared upstream only to return later with no trout story to tell.
As the evening went on there were still occasional risers with very few visible bugs about or spinners upon the water. We had been fishing #18’s and 20’s with some but little results. After another hour of this I decided to go against the grain and toss out a hearty #14 Sulphur Dun. 4 casts under the bridge caused two rises but no take. It was watching a trout rise, swirl beneath the imitation and than drop to the bottom again without a taste. Even the guy upstream commented when he seen the trout rise the second time beneath my offering.
There had been two or three sippers near the far bank directly across from me all day. I tried for them with midges and beetles but none came up as my dry would drift by. There was a rock just below the surface causing just enough wavy riffles to prevent a good drift on the calmer water towards the bank where the few fish rose. When I thought I got a good drop the trout only had a second or two to take the dry before the riffling current started to drag the pattern quickly downstream and out of sight.
I took a few steps out from the tree lined bank and false cast in-line with the creek flow. After my backhand back cast loaded downstream I looped the rod tip high above me and forcefully moved the rod forward aiming at the far bank. The fly line followed the rod tip arc in the air and shot the peach color 444DT line across the creek. I purposely overshot my target area as I watched the line and fly unroll before me. I slightly snapped my wrist back on the cork grip and this caused the rod tip back. This sent a slight draw back on the line and the Sulphur dropped upstream a bit from the occasional risers with good ’S’ bend slack in the fly line. I lifted the rod some and took in some slack as I watched the Sulphur drift in the zone. A big slurp was heard as I yanked back line to set the hook as soon as I seen the surface splash. The two fellows turned upon hearing the slurping take.
“Got’em” I called out joyfully.
The downstream fellow commented that it looked like a good size trout by the bent rod and swirling fight. I knew it from the force in my hands and the bending of the tugging rod. I was using 6X tippet so I knew I couldn’t horse him towards me. One mistake could cost me and I’d have to tell about the ‘big one’ that got away. He fought momentarily between the bank and riffles caused by the subsurface rock. Seeing he wasn’t getting any looser with his shenanigans in the calm water he torpedoed down creek and I gave him tensioned line as the rod flexed downward. He crossed mid stream and than exploded out of the water like a fresh steelhead. His rainbow body came completely into the air with tail flapping. I’m sure the other two guys, like me, were in awe never expecting a 18” or so trout to be fooled this early in the evening in clear conditions. After splash down he charged upstream keeping his distance as I let the 4wt Powel rod apply the needed pressure to keep him under control. I countered with every quick forceful maneuver he attempted. When I felt he had less energy and went to pause for a breather I took the offensive. I moved the rod like sword play and now forced him to out maneuver me. He surfaced twice with twisting splashes with force exerting lots of energy. I kept good tension on him and gained line thus closing the distance between him and I. he eventually gave up and swam reluctantly towards me. It took three attempts before I was able to get a good grip on the neck of his tail. The fellows congratulated me simply by commenting on the big fish and nice catch. Patience was rewarded!!!
After I released the brute I pulled out an Arturo Curly Head Claro and smoked it like a prize fight winner!
Later that evening a spinner fall had me fooled as I couldn’t figure out the right fly to get the fish to rise for me. I was sure two or three surfaced for my spinner imitation but it was hard to tell in the failing light. Frustrating in the least!
The next morning I returned but three other fellows got there before me. I gave them plenty of room as I fished upstream from many of the dimpling trout near them. Eventually they continued to crowd towards me as the fish began to surface nearer within my casting range. Enough was enough when, after I gave them plenty of room without my interference, they began to fish over the same fish I was. I ventured upstream and was rewarded with bigger trout than the midge sippers they were fishing to.
Overall it was an all right morning on Cross Fork. I was know ready for some distance casting with the Scott G2 on the Kettle and I knew just where I wanted to be around noon!!