Monday, November 21, 2011

Day After the Bear Hunt

Day After the Bear Hunt

 Bear hunting went unsuccessful Saturday. After dinner at the Kelly Hotel and a few beers, while I watched the Penguins game, it was time to find a place to bed down. I headed towards the Clarion River and found a place to park the van along Millstone Creek. I started to nod off before the third period of the hockey game was over. I turned off the radio and covered my head with the sleeping bag, tomorrow's another day.

 It was just getting daylight when I opened the side door of the van. The sound of
water rushing over boulders upstream, sounding like a waterfalls, made the morning more pleasant. The November mountain air was crisp and looking down upon the creek water I got the urge! I was as excited as a bunch of Fraternity boys going to watch a college sorority wet ‘T‘ shirt contest.
Let’s face it; I was already in the Allegheny National Forest so I figured I might as well take advantage before heading home! It should put a little more excitement in the weekend.

 I put the heating rod in my tin cup to heat water as I got dressed while the van warmed up. I found a package of Pop Tarts in my picnic basket which was my breakfast. Once the water got hot, in the tin cup, I took out the rod, unplugged it from the cigar lighter and plopped in a tea bag. I let it steep a bit as I drove to the small forest creek I planned on fishing.

 In the parking area I started to put on my fishing attire. The forecasters called for rain, and though it looked to be a possibility, I just dressed warmer and decided against a rain coat. Looking up, the white moody clouds moved in unison beneath the blue sky above.

 The hemlocks stood tall with no sign of a breeze in the air. Their long branches bowed downward and curved out from the trunk. When I heard the first early bird chirp I considered that as a good omen. I was thinking about assembling my 7' 4 piece Hardy rod but the Powell 7’6" rod was already to go as it hung above the window. I took it down, grabbed a few cigars and headed towards the creek.

I decided to work my way from the van downstream. Hemlocks and laurel made for tight quarters. There was a continuous outcropping of rocks and boulders along the creek so I was cautious with every step.

 The clear water made it easy for the trout to see me when I found room for casting so I consciously kept myself camouflaged to the background as I worked my way down creek. It was slow going in the morning. I tried streamers but the fish weren’t too excited. I drifted nymphs downstream but it was hard telling if I got a bite or not with the constant gradual flow of water over and around obstacles. I noticed a few tiny mayflies about and a few spruce moths. I decided to toss a dry. Opening my caddis box I found a #14 cream color moth pattern. I hadn’t any floatant and with the dubbed body I wasn’t sure how well it would float. I cast across creek onto the rolling waves as I high sticked the rod. Slowly I moved along the bank trying to keep the dry from getting tangled up behind me as I cast outward. There was a deeper section of riffles close to the bank with underwater debris. With a downstream cast I held back on the rod and the dry landed with a slacked line. I followed the drift and a fish rose for the dry as it slowed at the tail out. I missed the take with a quick wrist set. For some reason I let the dry be pulled under with the current downstream and lifted it back to the surface. To my surprise I felt a tug and strip set the hook. I saw the little wild trout hanging on for a moment or two before he wiggled himself free. I brought the moth imitation in and it was drenched. Trying to keep it above water, in the riffles, wasn’t working out very well. I next tried an elk hair caddis and a couple of other dries to no avail.

 After my third cigar I was pretty far down creek without getting a fish to hand. It was a peaceful morning so I wasn’t disappointed too much but it would have felt better landing at least one. By now the sun appeared around the white clouds now and than brightening the surface water. On occasion a slight cool breeze would whisper through the hemlocks and blended in nicely with the sound of the falling waters. I walked the trail back up creek enjoying the scenery and calmness of the forest.

  Back at the van I decided to work my way up creek. Earlier I had a few trout interested in my streamers, even though I couldn’t hook up with many, so I decided to tie on a streamer and hope for the best. 

 Up creek you would have thought I was on a completely different stream. The small native brook trout were relentless in attacking my streamers. I had a hard time keeping them on the #10 hooks as more often than not they’d find a way to wiggle free. I looked in my streamer box for one with a smaller hook but couldn’t find any in the color I wanted. Occasionaly though I did manage to bring one to hand.

  I usually fish for the small wild brook trout with dry flies. This outing I was more interested in hooking up to the bigger holdover stocked trout, so I wasn’t too concerned in catching these small wild trout.

 My first bigger trout came when I was drifting the streamer along a cut bank. I was actually stooped down on the bank high sticking the streamer just out from the ledge of the bank. A dark figure of a fish came out from under the bank and grabbed the slow moving streamer. I lifted the rod and set the hook. He darted under the bank beneath twigs and overhung grass. The rod tip pulled downward wanting to make a ‘U’ in the rod shaft.

 I kept the rod tip out as far I possible could with one hand trying to coax the fish back out. He’d dart out now and than tussling with the line and rod before swimming back beneath the bank. I finally got him tired out and managed to get him to land. When I held him I noticed something peculiar about the brown trout but it didn’t register until I got home and the picture of it up on my computer. (It turned out looking more like a tiger trout, with its longer wormlike pattern sides, than a brown trout.)

 I continued fishing up creek and hooked into a good fighting brown trout that was holding under a bunch of leafy stick debris against a bank-side boulder. He fought within the rolling current until he tired and I was able to bring him to the bank. He too was long and slender but healthy no doubt.

 Hours flew by and I got to an upper part of the creek that I didn’t care to go any further. I had fun on my journey up and now it was time to head back down creek. I decided to add a little weight to the leader so as to get my streamer deeper within the deeper pockets of water. The wild trout continued to strike at the big streamer and again only a few I was able to keep on the hook.

 I came to an open section clear of laurel and hemlock branches. I tossed the streamer near the far bank and let it swing into the middle of the creek. I waited a bit for my weight to get the streamer down deeper and than I began to strip the pattern with long, slow smooth strokes. I felt the grab and instantly pulled line to set the hook. The weighty fish on the other end told me this wasn’t another small brookie. The fish thwarted back and forth beneath the current using it to his advantage. I moved to my right, nearer the bank, and kinda tugged him out from under the faster current. He followed and now swam reluctantly towards me along the bank line. I reached down and grabbed him. To my surprise it was a rainbow and a healthy looking one at that! Pretty cool, I now caught a rainbow to add to the brown trout and brook trout. (Remember, I still didn’t realize I caught a tiger trout until I got home.)

 Well I was in real good spirits by now and decided to make my way down creek a little faster and only fish deeper sections. Every now and than I’d hook up with one of those small wild trout but couldn’t manage any bigger trout.

 Back at the van I was well pleased with the outing. I changed over to my street clothes and hung the 4wt above the window. I took the time to quench my thirst with an amber brew and straightened the back of the van up before leaving. There was one more thing on my mind before I got into the drivers seat. The past week I was fishing with Dan and he handed me a Macanudo cigar in a white tube. I was saving it for a special occasion and I felt this was just the occasion for this fine smoke. After I downed the last of the beer, and before pulling onto the hardtop, I lit the Hampton Court. It was a smooth light tasting smoke with a good even burn. An enjoyable smoke for the drive home, I must say!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Depth Ray Stonefly

This is one of my heavier stonefly patterns I use for steelhead fishing as a dropper. I tie it beneath an unweighted sucker spawn or wet fly to keep the top fly in the midsection of the water column in faster runs. It adds a little flash and color to an ordinary stonefly.

Depth Ray Stone
Hook; 9671 Mustad #12 or #10
Thread; Black # 6
Weight; lead wire wrap .15 or .20
Tail; 2 Brown Goose Biots split
Sides; Fluorescent Depth Ray nylon wool 
Abdomen; 20lb Black Dacron backing
Rib; Tying Thread
Wingcase; Brown Swiss Straw
Thorax; Black Opalescent Estaz
Antennae; Goose biots (optional)
1. Tie in thread base and counterwrap lead wire, starting above hook point on shank, forward towards eye. leave room for thorax.

2. Tie in two goose biot tails seperated by a small dubbing ball.

3. cut a strand of Depth Ray wool and fold. Tie in behind lead wire. If not using lead wire tie in full length of body. This will give a fuller body if not using lead.


4. Tie in Dacron backing leaving thread bobbin towards eye.


5. Wrap Dacron backing in tight wraps towards eye and tie off leaving room for thorax. Bring thread back towards hook bend as shown.

6. Bring loose ends of wool strands along each side of body. Rib with three wraps of black thread making three or more ribs, towards front of fly.


7. Tie in biots behind hook eye, for antennaes, now if desired.
8.  Tie in swiss straw for wingcase


9. Tie in and wrap 1 turn of black Estaz forward, for thorax, and tie off.



10. Fold wing case over Estaz, tie off and make a thread head.


I tie these in fluorescent orange and chartreuse 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Punk'nHead and I

Punk’nHead and I
Halloween Weekend

Friday Night and Saturday:

 I met up with Tim at the campsite Friday night. Tim already had a nice fire going among the leafy camping area. I added some pallet wood and the flames shot up brightening our surroundings. We sat around drinking beers, smoking cigars and making plans for steelhead fishing Saturday. Punk’nHead was pretty content smoking a Cohiba and just sitting around with us by the fire. Later that night, while we slept, he sat on my cooler keeping an eye on things and warding off any stray animals.

We rose to a chilly Saturday morn. After a quick cold breakfast we got our fishing gear on and headed out in search of steelhead. Punk’nHead stayed behind at camp doing what Jack-o-Lanterns do. Being lazy and keeping a bright eye on things.

 I never fished this section of creek before so I followed Tim down to the creek and we headed down stream past all the other early fishermen. We stopped at a section of rolling water that had a bit of a limestone color tint to it. I instantly liked this section instead of the slow clear pools I normally end up fishing in.
 I picked a spot and tied on a streamer, added weight, and started the early morning swing. The high shale wall was littered with fallen leaves. The water flowed with good color and if you looked into it long enough you can occasionally catch a glimpse of darker movement gliding around near bottom.
 The two fellows, just up creek, were hooking up pretty regularly in the early morn but I noticed a few fish that passed me, on their lines, were foul hooked. I kept changing from buggers to Triple Threats to Bunny Leeches until I came to the conclusion that the fish below didn’t want streamers at the time. I tied on a tandem rig beneath an indicator and started drifting the flies deep through the current flow.
 The first couple of steelhead I caught were less than 20”. The young ones hit the pink sucker spawn pretty hard as it drifted beneath. A good fight in the swift current made for some excitement. The first big steelhead hit my Depth Ray Stonefly. As the indicator sunk below the surface water I reared back and set the hook. A dark object appeared from the deep and shot its way towards the slower water near the high wall. Line shot through the eyes as the reel spun with utmost momentum. Once on the other side he battled with headshakes that vibrated back through the line and rod tip. I kept the rod tip high and after a short spell he headed upstream against the current. After a little more of a frisky battle I had him near shore in about a foot of water. As I moved towards him, with rod practically bent in half, he turned away. With all the energy he had left he shook his head and headed back out into the open water, free from the hook.

For the next few hours Tim and I fished in the same general area hooking up on occasion.

Sometime in the afternoon hours Tim started drifting a Triple Threat under his indicator. It wasn’t long before he had a battle on his hands. He brought to hand a fresh looking steelhead.

It wasn’t long after that that I was able to land a long silver chromer also.

 As we started to slowly move our way upstream we each connected again to good fighting steel. It started to drizzle by then and the chill in the air found ways to penetrate the layers of clothes we wore. We decided to head towards camp.

 At the campsite we found everything damp and wet from the drizzling rainy day. Punk’nHead had done a fine job looking over our campsite and still had a bit of a stogie left beneath his Ausie Oilskin Safari hat. It was about 4:30 by now with still a few hours of daylight left. I bid Tim good-bye and safe trip back towards Harrisburg. I headed off to another section of creek hoping to hook up to more steel. It ended up not to be.

 I ended the evening eating a rib & wing combo at the Avonia Tavern and washing down the Cajun and Lickers seasoning with a tall Yuengling draught. After that I found a safe place to park the van, rest my body for the night and get ready to fish a mile creek on Sunday.

 The steelhead took the Triple Threat like a passing dead minnow as it entered his path of flow in front of him. That’s what I figured, even though I couldn’t see him take it, I’ve seen others! The line that followed started to ‘U’ upon and beneath the surface so I swung the rod back taking up any slack and setting the hook. The figure beneath moved towards the pull slightly as if he couldn’t believe there was an attachment to the ‘dead minnow.’ The initial hook set evidently didn’t excite him in the swifter current. He just pulled back and forced the soft rod tip down while he returned to his original position. I didn’t know what was to come but I pulled again and added a sharp jerk, this is when all hell erupted. 
Sunday with Jeff: 

 After shutting the alarm off I peeked from under my sleeping bag and immediately noticed crystal frost on the windshield. The light, from the parking lot flood lamps, made it look like my windshield was shattered. A smoky frost was matted on the other windows of the conversion van. I looked down on the floor and ole’ Punk’nHead looked tired. There wasn’t that glow in his eyes as usual. His pukish orange skin was a bit wet. I was hoping he wasn’t getting a fever.

 After warming up the van and eating another cold breakfast I headed to the mile creek. Jeff was to meet me around 9:00am so I had a couple of hours to fish solo. There were already a dozen vehicles parked along the road when I arrived and it wasn’t even light yet. I took my time getting my gear together. I fumbled with tying on fresh leader and tippet under the light given off by my headlamp beneath the early blue/gray sky. Just before leaving I put Punk’nHead on the icy van roof. I put his hat on and stuffed a cigar in his mouth. He was on his own until I returned.

 The first hour or so was slow. The steelhead I found in a good deep run along the far bank didn’t want anything I had to offer. From there I made my way down creek searching for steelhead in the slightly tinted water. It was still a blue/gray sky early morning as the sun hadn’t risen much to light things up. At times I would stop and watch for movement in the slightly deeper sections and runs. As I continued down creek the morning lightened up and I found what I was looking for in an area I shouldn’t be crowded over.

 The high wall across creek was decorated in fallen leaves of color. It made it impossible for anyone to fish on that side. I stood on a small stone island just wide enough for two people but I would move about the stone island for positioning my drifts. A few guys fished down a short ways in a slow flat section of creek and left me alone. Before me I occasionally saw a fish or two move about. It looked as if most of the steelhead were aligned against a dark ledge that ran the length of the creek. A congregation of steel appeared a bit further down when the congested wrinkled surface flow gave an opportunity to see through.
 I started off with a sucker spawn and stonefly dropper. I had a few strikes but was only able to land two of the brutes before Jeff showed up.

When the sun finally came around the bend of the high wall and trees the steelhead began to bite more frequent.

 By this time I was down to my last Depth Ray Stone and shy of black stoneflies. I began to cast Triple Threats up and across stream into a good flow of water nearer the high wall. The quick dip of my fly line tip or a sudden jerk and I’d rear back on the rod and immediately felt resistance and a new battle would begin. After a couple of break offs at the knots I came to the conclusion that the 5x fluorocarbon I was using wasn’t strong enough for these furious fighting steelhead like it was for trout. After sticking with 4x flouro I got more steelhead landed.

 Jeff had been fishing among a few others guys in the long stretch down creek from me. After seeing my more frequent hook ups he came over and I gave him a few Triples. It wasn’t long before, he too, started hooking up with steel.

 It was a matter of preference, I found, that got the steelhead to react to my streamers. Sometimes it was a slow swing that one would grab the streamer. Other times it was a good mend upstream and letting the streamer lead the way near a pod of steel that one would suck it in like a dead minnow. Yet other times it was getting that perfect deep drift, dropping off the ledge drop-off beneath, that a steelhead would grab it before it drifted by.
 At times the bigger steelhead would freeze on the hook set and I would think I had a snag. I learned to never let my guard down, as a stronger tug of the rod meant for a more positive reaction of the staging brutes.
 The fights were furious and each one wasn’t like the last. Some would head down creek right off, stopping briefly and struggle in a forceful manner. A few would headshake just above the surface causing quite a commotion before returning beneath for an unseen battle. Than some would take off up creek pulling line and forcing me to muscle the rod tip up while bracing myself for his next move. At times one would dart towards me and I would have to immediately back-step to keep the line tight while reeling in quickly. Knowing when to give line, let him fight the drag, backing up to keep a tight line, relaxing the rod on a furious headshake or following him to pull from his side wasn’t at all predictable. It was making quick decisions and hoping those decisions were enough to keep the fight going. Some broke off from me over forcing as others simply found a way to release themselves from the hook. Though some of those big brutes I was able to land after a hard fought battle

 There were two I landed that had a hole, from fighting the hook, in the skin of their jaw big enough I’d swear you could drop a pencil through.

 At times I found my lit cigar went out from my concentration of fishing and fighting. Other times, after a good rumble with a quick silver, I found the butt of my cigar was chewed to a soggy strand of wet leaf. I would in turn bite off the soggy section and relight the stogie before my next cast.

 The last take of the day was on a short strip and relaxed drift of my ghost pattern. The big fish took the pattern within my sight just out in front of me. On my quick hook set he lifted his head towards the surface and shook it like a pit bull trying to rip a rag doll into shreds. I stood and watched this steelhead thwarting, waiting at any moment for my rod to relax and my line to go slack. After his furious display of anger he took off downstream like a raging bronco bull with no planned path of escape except to bully free by erratically tugging on the tight line.
 This was the meanest, teeth clinching fight I had all weekend. At times I felt he would never exhaust his energy. I tried my best not to horse him in though times I got tired of his antics. When I got him near he would throw a temper tantrum when he felt the stones below his belly just off from the island. I had to back off the island and fight him towards the slower shallow pool of water near the bank. Even when I closed in, he attempted to break the Orvis Clearwater rod in half. A quick plunge of my gloved hand and I was able to get a good tight grip of the neck of his thick tail. I tossed the rod onto the bank and lifted him to shore. I followed my tippet and found my Triple Threat embedded in his tongue. A quick push and twist of the hemostats and he was free from my imitation at last. He settled down within my grip until he felt submerged beneath the water again.

 We walked up creek and through the woods feeling good about the day’s activities. When we reached my van ole’ Punk’nHead was still atop the van roof gazing out over the field. I knew he was glad to see me.

 Jeff’s ride pulled in while we drank a beer and talked about the following weekend of camping up in the ANF with the Pittsburgh gang. I changed out of my fishing clothes and put on a pair of jeans, fresh pair of socks and a sweatshirt for the drive home. We finished our beers and headed on our way.
 After stopping for gas I headed south towards home. I looked over at Punk’nHead as I lit up a Vintage Cameroon. I swear he winked at me as if wanting to say ‘It was a great weekend!’