Essentials..on a Winters Day
Jan. 8 2012
As I drive east on the interstate the sign, before the bridge, reads ‘North Fork Creek.’ I veer over to the passing lane and glance down over the bridge. The trout waters looks inviting and too hard to pass up.It’s January in Pennsylvania. The weatherman said the high for today would be 34 degrees and cloudy. Hopefully he’d be wrong and the sun will come out to warm things up a bit.
When I get to the parking area snow and ice partially cover the ground. I put an extra layer of clothes on and get my trout gear together. Knowing the bite would be slow, do to the cold conditions, I make sure I have the essentials to bide my time out on the water. I grab my lighter and a few of my favorite cigars.
The creek water looks cold with the snow covered banks. The clear water is running at a good level while midstream the color darkens in the deeper run. Broken ice chunks float like jellyfish near the shoreline and slowly move towards the stronger current.
I tie on a nymph below an indicator, figuring the trout will be in a lethargic state and won’t move too much should they take my offering. Out in the water I roll cast upstream, mend my line when needed in the nearer slower water, and watch it drift with the current. I work the seam of water just this side of the rolling stronger midstream current. There’s a sharp breeze that kicks up and I’m glad I let my wooly beard grow thick. I wear a glove on my left hand and it doesn’t take long before the tip of my index finger, on my right hand, to start to feel stone cold. I keep thinking of putting the other glove on but I decide not to. As I slowly wade along the shoreline I cast across stream a bit, still trying to work the seam. The current slowly eddies back towards me and then flows upstream. My indicator dips down slowly and I figure I might be caught up on the bottom in the slower, almost motionless, current. I lift the rod with pressure to free it while holding the line with my gloved hand. Instead of the indicator rising it pulls away and the rod tip arcs. I can feel the trout on the other end fighting to get free but my glove hand prevents me from feeling the line tension. I start to guide him towards me and have a tough time knowing whether I have a good grip in my gloved hand as I try to take in line. The trout rises towards the top and I can see it’s a playful brown. He pulls away and excessive line slips out of my glove and slack develops. I look down and gain control of the line again between my glove fingers and am surprised that the trout is still on. Now I look at my gloved hand each time I bring more line in to make sure I keep a grip on it. The first trout comes to hand.
After releasing him I pull a Don Tomas cigar out of my insulated shirt pocket. Good time to light up my first cigar of the day. I turn my back towards the breeze, cup my hand and light up the Robust Maduro.
‘All right back to my fishing.’
Casting out I try to get the same current swirl that brings my nymph back upstream. This time the indicator stops briefly without going under. I twitch it back and feel a heavier resistance. Like a little kid I start to bring the fish in without setting the hook hard enough. The fish comes to the top briefly, wiggles and turns away without my nymph. I chuckle at the mistake.
Wading down creek I work the second pool pretty well.
Without getting a strike I decide to switch to a woolly bugger and strip it in slowly. Sure enough my line tightens during the strip in and after a short wiggling match I bring in another brown trout.
Time ticks on as I continue to brave the cold, switch patterns often and puff away on a stogie. I fish through the long flat section with only one follower of my woolly bugger. Occasionally the sun peaks out between the clouds but doesn’t add any warmth to the creek below.
I look down creek, and even though I haven’t had a hit for over an hour or so, I decide to continue on.
I try to work the slower moving current behind rocks and deeper moving runs between small boulders. The indicator, in the faster current, moves my nymph faster than what I like so I take it off and try indicator free nymphing. Casting out I loop a good mend upstream and watch the end of my fly line. Continuing with short wrist mends upstream, to keep my nymph somewhat drifting downstream before my fly line, my fly line hesitates with a noticeable pull. I pull back on the short length of slack line and feel the trout on the other end. He works with the current keeping low beneath at midstream. I feel there is too much tension trying to bring him upstream nearer to me so I swing my rod down towards shore. He doesn’t have the strength to fight with any force and I get my third handful of trout
I decide to cross the creek and fish from the roadside bank. As I stand near the bank small slabs of ice bump against my legs. They aren’t forceful enough to knock me off balance but hard enough to let me know to keep this in consideration when I’m stepping within the creek.
After nymphing a while longer I tie on a streamer and add a little more weight. Slow stripping and dangling the line beneath the rolling current I feel a strike as I raise the streamer. Silver shimmers just below the surface. The fish wiggles free and disappears below. During the next hour I miss one more trout and have a quick release of one near my boots. After that I decide to head back upstream.
Upon stepping onto the crackling brushy bank a grouse springs up from the under brush and noisily flies upstream to a safer place. Two more steps and another takes off from the brush and soars downstream.
I follow the trail and climb the steep bank to the road. On the road I light an Arturo Curly Head Cigar and walk towards the parking area. Back in the water I fish for another half hour before the rod eyes start to freeze up. The overcast sky turns darker and the wind chill is a bit nippier. With a cold stiff smile on my face I head to the van and call it a day.
I start the engine, to warm up the inside, while I take off my fishing gear. I break down the five piece, 5wt Kettle Creek Stream Rod and lay it on the passengers’ floor board, with my reel, to dry.
“Not bad for a cold January winter afternoon” I figure, as I warm my fingers in front of the heater vents of the warming van.