Thursday, October 20, 2011

Autumn Rainbows

Autumn Rainbows

 After a morning hunt in the PA. State gameless lands I decided to go fishing. It was windy out and the squirrels weren’t about let alone any other game. I’m sure the off and on rain showers didn’t help the situation any either.

 I could have traveled to a DHAL or FFO project area to fish for fresh fall stocked trout. Instead I selected on staying in the ANF and fish waters open to general fishing. Maybe I wouldn’t catch as many but with the overcast sky, rainy and windy conditions, I figured on being the only one on the creek. First thing when I got there was to take a short nap.

 It was near noon when I woke up aside the dirt road next to the picturesque mountain creek. It didn’t take much time before I had my fishing gear on. As I was stringing up my 4 weight fly rod a Jeep pulled in a few yards away. 5 guys came jumping out of the Jeep eager about whatever they planned on doing. They went to the back of the vehicle and started putting on chest waders, hip boots and raincoats and grabbed their spinning outfits and nets. I wasn’t sure if they were going fishing or going to corral the fish and force them in a net. The small creek is no more than 15 yards across at its widest section. No where I know of was the creek more than 3 feet deep and those areas are rare. Most places you can walk across not even getting your knees wet. There are miles of creek along the dirt roadway and these guys decided to park and fish where I was already. Oh well, it’s open to the public and these are the things we must deal with even when the rest of the creek is vacant of other fishermen.
  I started to hurry wanting to get down to the water before they did. The group headed down to the creek before me and strung out along the roadside bank. I headed upstream a bit and started fishing a streamer in front of a downed tree that ran the width of the creek. A few guys disappeared downstream and a couple of others walked up creek from me after not catching anything. I suppose it was about an hour later when these guys gave up, walked up to their vehicle and left. By now it started to rain harder so I returned to my van and put on my raincoat.

Back at the creek I was alone now. I lit up an imported stogie and took the time to look around at my surroundings. The cold clear water flowed over and around rocks and branches making for good wavy current and tumbling riffles. Twisted roots extended from bank ledges gathering leaves and twigs that happen near by. The autumn color trees were vibrant yellow, lightest of greens and ambers. Their wet leaves shook with the wind and glistened under the afternoon sun. There were a few fir trees scattered about giving a darker contrast to the lightened forest. Downstream the water flowed around bends and through the forest into infinity. The sound of tumbling water, the fall foliage and clean mountain air made for beautiful scenery and blissfulness.

 Many loose leaves floated down with the current making fishing quite more of a challenge. I changed to nymph fishing and caught my first rainbow. With that I felt more confident and continued drifting the nymph as I meandered with the water down through the forest.

 Casting up stream some, with a quick mend, I would keep the rod level with the water while following my drifting nymph. The takes were subtle. The slightest hesitation of my floating fly line would have me wristing up for a hook set. Many times an underwater leaf was the culprit of a sudden line twitch. This would have me swinging my line out of the water, resistance free, and occasionally caused line twisting around overhanging branches. Other times it was a lazy trout sucking in my moving offering. This resulted in good fighting fun in tumbling current. The 4 weight bent into the mid section as the rod tip vibrated with the tight line as rainbows struggled on the other end. A few ‘bows’ cleared water with short energetic jumps and subsurface splashing. Most rainbows were a good handful with meaty bodies and wide girths.

The rainbows were well scattered about the creeks course so I moved slow and tried to drift the nymph in every nook and cranny that I thought might hold a trout. In the shallower riffling water I’d work the far deeper bank-side. Under these cut banks I would be surprised by a small wake that was created by a trout following my drifting nymph into the shallows. These well hidden rainbows were dark and fought more powerfully than the others caught.

 In the deeper sections I might hook up with two but it was uncommon. Mostly it was one here and one there. This kept me on my toes and curious what I would catch around the next bend.

 The tail out of a deeper stretch, I came across, I saw a few trout rising as the sun shined through the moving clouds. I wasn’t prepared for this but found a few dry midges on my fly patch from days gone by. Needless to say I didn’t get one to rise for my dry fly attempts.
 I wasn’t sure how many hours I spent, at the time, fishing this mountain stream before calling it quits. When I got back to the van it was near 5:00pm. I had been out for about 5 hours on this peaceful section of creek. I changed clothes and put away my gear. I ate a precooked cold stuffed pepper and washed it down with a cold beer. By then I was well relaxed as my eyes grew tired from the early morning hunt and fishing activity throughout the long day.

As raindrops pattered on the roof of the van, under my sleeping bag I placed myself back in the water. Colorful leaves fluttered with the passing breeze. The sound of tumbling water was the only sound heard except for the occasional splashing of a rainbow on the end of my tight line!


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Autumn Rarity

Autumn Rarity

 I awake in total darkness. Not a star or the moon show in the sky. Occasionally a few raindrops tink upon the roof of the van dropping from wet branches or cupped leaves. It seems as though it is going to be another gloomy day.
 I open the bottle of Frappuccino and doughnut holes I bought the night before. It would only take a few minutes to get to where I want to fish so I’m not in much of a hurry and besides that it isn’t light out yet.

I back the van in the parking area and sit while finishing off my cold breakfast. The colors of autumn begin to appear outside as the early morning lights up as if someone slowly increases the dimmer switch in a dark room. Yellow, amber and orange leaves shake off the night rainfall with the passing of a slight breeze. The dark olive pines stand as always as if in defiant of these autumn ways.
 As I fit myself for fishing the gray sky shows signs of more rain but I’m going to take my chances and not wear a bulky raincoat. I won’t be fishing too far from the van the first hour or so, so I should be able to return quickly.
 Across the road I follow the soggy trail and weave my way through brush to the creek. There is a tint of brownness within its depths but with the dark overcast sky I’m not sure the clarity further out. As I step down into the water I feel the coolness of the water against my lightweight hip waders and undergarments. The water before me lays flat. By the drifting leaves I hava a good idea of the current flow.

This particular creek isn’t your common skinny cold running brook. It isn’t a wide creek like the Tionesta or Oil creek. For its medium width and miles of water it keeps cool most of the year round with good canopy, deep pockets and riffles as it meanders through the Allegheny National Forest. Its gradient isn’t excessive, just gradual which offers lots of flat slow pools. The creek holds rainbows, brook trout, browns all stocked by the state or the local fishing club. There are areas I’ve caught wild brookies as well as palominos and tiger trout.

I decide to fish streamers, slowly, as I wade and fish downstream. Streamers I always find are a good bet when the water isn’t chilled like during the winter and early spring months. I tie on a triple threat and easily roll cast the 7’6” Powell rod with 5X tippet out into the sky dark waters. I try to locate my streamer as I strip it in slowly but the overcast morning sheds no light into the somewhat tinted water. I move downstream slowly as to not raise the silt below my feet. Casting near branchy blow-downs and shaded banks produce no strikes. I make the bend, out of the shadows, and a little more light lightens the dull morning like a 40watt bulb in a big cement gray walled garage. I could see figures of rocks and branches upon the bottom of the creek in the shallower sections but still no followers of my streamers.
 As I approach the bridge rain starts to fall in sprinkling drops. Circular spirals expand upon the slow flowing current. Looking ahead I find a palomino, than another. The closest one is suspended in the middle of the creek in a deep pool. The other is braving the swifter current at the backend of this deeper section just ahead of where the water tumbles over the wide stretch of lined boulders and rocks.
 I begin to tease the closest palomino with streamers and sucker spawn. He takes a liking, at least a closer look, at my white woolly bugger and yellow sucker spawn but evidently not liking them enough for a taste. I end up catching an 8” rainbow as the sprinkling of rain turns into a lazy shower. Fear for my camera and getting drenched, I head for the van for my raincoat.

Back under the bridge I find the palomino has no breakfast appetite. I catch a beautiful male brook trout so now my attention now turns to catching a brown trout for the trifecta.

Fishing, while wading downstream, for the next three hours I catch a few more brook trout under the gloomy sky. The bright colorful autumn leaves don’t brighten my attitude as rain showers come and go. It’s the solitude and a tight line now and then that keeps me enjoying myself.

I tread the mucky trail back to the hard top. I see my van down the road but with the sun finally peaking through I cross the road and head upstream for another chance at a brown.
 The sun shines a little brighter and penetrates the water. A couple of feet of depth are now visible. I watch the dark figures of trout following my white bugger. One grabs it but I find I can’t hook him. I tie on a smaller bugger and catch 2 out of the three eager brook trout. Downstream I have four trout follow the erratic action I put on the bugger. Two more brook trout come to hand.
 A light sprinkle, from above, dots the slow moving water. Wet leaves glisten under the sharp rays of sun. I hear a splash within 25 yards and look up. A deer stops just behind a bank-side bush, in the water, and listens intently. I reel in my bugger so it doesn’t hang up on the bottom and watch the doe. It looks my way but I’m downwind from her and she doesn’t show much concern. Slowly she walks across the creek, sipping water occasionally, as she heads towards the opposite bank.

 A few yards beyond where the deer crossed the water deepens. I cast out towards the far bank and slowly strip in, waiting for my bugger to come into view. Downstream it appears and I see a figure of a fish following with interest. I let the bugger fall before it gets too close to me. The fish loses interest and disappears. I bring the bugger in and overhand cast out again down and across. I let it swing just a bit than strip in with smooth pulls. Just as I go to grab more line for the next strip pull, a fish darts from nowhere and grabs the bugger as it falls. A wicked backswing of my rod, on the slack line, and the hook point finds something to pierce. The longer length fish fights beneath with tugs and pulls. I bring him closer and net the brown trout. The trifecta is now complete. What about adding a palomino? Could I get a grand slam?

 Down near the bridge I take care and move slowly. The trout thus far have been taking the bugger lightly so I feel sight fishing for the palomino would be better. Besides that it will give me visibility of my drift. I inspect the white bugger and flip it towards the far bank. Beneath the surface it catches the current and swings towards the palomino. I keep the bugger swinging in front of the fish not wanting to bump him or line him. He follows the second drift through, briefly, but shows little interest otherwise. I’m afraid to use the sparkle sucker spawn for fear it will be too flashy under the now bright sun. I pick through my few fly boxes looking for my own mealworm pattern. Not finding one I resort to my Albino Stonefly. A pattern I’m sure the fish hasn’t seen and might be just buggy enough to cause curiosity. 1-2-3 drifts through and the Palomino only hesitates once from its suspended hold just a foot or so from the surface. On the fourth drift, with the stonefly leading the way, the Palomino swims over for a closer inspection. The stonefly is now out of my visibility range so I watch the floating fly line for any hesitation. In the background I see the Palomino turn with haste, my fly line pulls and I quickly set the hook! The Palomino splashes briefly towards the surface as my fly line tightens for a good set. He turns downstream and I give him line through my tensioned fingers. Into the reel I let him take line out of the spool as he heads deep to the end of the pool towards the far bank. I can feel his head shakes as I start taking in line forcing him towards me. He darts to my side of the pool and I take in more line as he fights the bent upper section of the 4weight rod. I get the Palomino into the net and my PA trout grand slam’s complete. Wow! I find the Palomino took the nymph deep so I snip the tippet and put the fish back into the water. He sits near bottom until I move my boot towards him. He darts away with renewed energy. I watch as he swims to the backend of the deep pool, near the far bank.

 I fish for another 20 minutes for another rainbow but no more takers this time. Another shower of rain starts to fall as the bright sunlight fades behind the dark gray moving clouds. My belly growls with emptiness and my dry mouth begs for fluid. I reel in and head for the van as raindrops tap upon my hooded raincoat.

 Back at the van I change into jeans and a Steelers shirt while quenching my thirst with a bottle of Straub’s. I’m tempted to light up the Punch rare Corojo Rothchild cigar but I feel it would be better as an after dinner smoke. I head for the Kelly Hotel for wings, cold brewskies and watch the second half of the Steelers game.

 With my belly full, a Steelers victory and my thirst well quenched it’s time to head for home. I light up the rare Corojo Rothchild for this rarest occasion. Smoke concentrates above the dashboard until I crack the drivers’ side window and wing. Down route 66 I veer off towards Cooks Forest, not wanting to get back to reality too soon. The ash of the cigar grows as the fine cigar burns evenly.

Sometimes the rarest of things occur when I least expect it
I try to savor these moments as long as possible!


Monday, October 10, 2011

Project Healing Waters

Project Healing Waters 2011
My Experience

 I could feel the veteran's enthusiasm before we got to the creek. Some had fly fished before as others hadn't. A couple of Vets wore their Project Healing Waters patches already on their attire.

  I could see his determination as he drifted the nymph we selected for him. He had no argument as I would later change flies to hopefully get a steelhead to take one. Explaining to him how to hold the rod level with the water and following the drifting nymph down stream, he had no complaints and followed my suggestions. I felt the disappointment he had with each break off or missed opportunity. He neither wanted to give up or felt he couldn't land one.

 The hook set and the good battle the steelhead gave him was joyous to watch. I felt the excitement he was feeling as I netted his fish and the accomplishment he must have felt when he held his first steelhead. I recognized his concern for wanting to get the fish safely back into the water after waiting for the many pictures that were taken of him and his fish. The fish swam forcefully away when I finally released it from my grip. I felt the pride in his soul when I returned and shook his hand with this accomplishment. Though he landed no other fish I knew he took away this learning experience us guides instilled in him.
We were all happy for all their success.

 I know there were many Fish Erie members who helped make this happen behind the scenes but being there and experiencing the ones in the forefront was amazing.

 When we met the Vets for the first time on Friday, at Uncle Johns Campground, a couple of them had no sleeping bags or pillows. John and Hans provided these for their cabin accommodations. Hans and I went to the nearest store and bought food and drink while they awaited Saturday's adventure.

 At Crowley's each Vet was presented with a custom fly rod, made by board members with Batson Enterprises blanks and hardware, in cases from FishUSA. New reels from Angler's Roost, and fly line provided by Dan from Cortland. Fly boxes loaded with flies were given to them from Defrank's Flies and the leaders were donated by Brian, a FishUSA Rep. It looked like it was going to be a fun event for them at the time, and it was as we found out later on.

 Even though there were only 5 Vets, instead of eight, the other guides came along to scout or assist us guides who were one-on-one with the Vets.

 When the fishing was over we headed back to the picnic and event area. On the drive over to Folley's End Campground, Dave and I had good conversation in my van. The one thing I know I'll never forget was this brief comment exchange;

Doubletaper: "I'm glad you had confidence in me when I was suggesting fishing techniques to you as you fished."
Dave: "Thank you for having patience with me!"


Dave, the Vet I guided, in action

Another Vet catches a brown

Releasing the memorable catch


Guides & Vets

It was a rewarding weekend! A cigar was in order for the ride home.

Other action