…Early to Rise…
Feb. 26, 2012
After a few warm sunny days throughout the week I was getting the itch to catch a trout on the dry fly. The problem was they were calling for a snow advisory on Saturday with freezing temps. Sunday’s outlook was to only get to the 40’s so it didn’t look too promising. I made plans to meet Rick for a teaching and fishing expedition in one of Pennsylvania’s north central trout streams on Sunday. There was still hope for some dry fly action, but I was very doubtful.
I woke up at 6:05am and was on the interstate traveling East a little after 7. The sky was pure gray without a bit of sun showing in the direction I was traveling. The temperature was below freezing and the snowy forest outside didn’t look too inviting. I know if I wasn’t meeting Rick I would have been still under the warm blankets snoozing away. When someone asks to fish with me, it’s just hard to say ‘no thank you’ especially if it’s one of my favorite creeks and I haven’t fished it for awhile.
I sat in the warm van in the snow gravel parking lot looking over the lake and the snowy forest. It looked and felt so peaceful I put down the drivers’ window some and listened to the quietness.
When Rick arrived we introduced ourselves and he followed me where I felt was a good open area to practice some casting. He had fly fished some before but wanted to know a little bit more.
On the creek I explained and demonstrated casting such as overhand, roll casts and sidearm. I explained how and why to mend line, the reason for no drag and dry fly fishing. After that it was time to begin fishing. I set him up where he had room to back-cast and I thought would have the best chance to hook a trout. I took a stand upstream and we began casting nymphs.
Large pine boughs extended a forth of the way across the large section of water where the narrower channeled water entered the pool. Another pine tree extended its boughs over the back far bank corner just before the water flowed, riffling over a line of branches, rocks and twigs. Between these pines, laurel hugged the bank. The pool was deeper into the center with a red amber lager tint to it.
My second roll cast landed just shy of the overhanging bough. I mended line upstream just enough so my stonefly would drift in front of my leader. As it slowed its drift in the deeper center my fly line tip curved down. I quickly yanked the rod upward and the 3 weight Demon rod bowed downward just before it started flexing with the scrambling of the fish on the other end.
“Got one” I called out to Rick
After a good melee I got him to the shallows at the shoreline and was surprised at the length of the good sized brown trout. Within the next 10 minutes another fish likened my stonefly. He fought a little stronger and I had to let tensioned line slip through my fingers occasionally with his quick turning tugs. He sub surfaced, under the rod pressure, and took deep, reluctantly swimming towards me. Another fine brown trout came to hand.
After those two I changed positions with Rick and handed him one of my stoneflies. During the course of fishing the pool a fish rose with a surface splash. I turned to look and out from Rick’s floating fly line I seen the disturbance on the surface. A tingle went down my spine and I got a devilish grin on my face. Though there were no signs of bug activity, we could see, upon the surface, under the cloudy conditions, I didn’t hesitate to tie on a new black stonefly dry pattern. I cast in the area and about but couldn’t get any to rise. I went back to nymph fishing but had it on my mind to return later.
We drove upstream and I set up Rick in a good stretch of water lined with bank-side laurel and more pines. The far side was dark beneath the laurel and I can usually coax one to bite. I stood back on the bank and lit up a cigar while he fished. I helped him refine his roll casts and in time I’m sure it will come natural. While he was nymphing there was one solid take I was sure of but he was late on the hook set. There might have been a few more near-enough looking takes but really hard to tell. After a bit we ventured down creek with me lagging far behind fishing where he had passed through.
I was standing, drifting the stonefly, in an easy current stretch when I heard him call out “Got one!” I looked down creek and the short fly rod was arced nicely as he stood before a tall leaning tree. It wasn’t too long after he called back “lost him.”
I turned and noticed my fly line was arcing and dipping deep as if I had a snag on the bottom. I didn’t want to disturb the nice stretch of water so I lifted the rod easily in hopes it was only a sunken twig or branch I could raise from the bottom. The snag rose with my lift and I seen the white mouth and shining head turn releasing my stonefly. “Darn it!”I took a few puffs of my cigar to let things settle down a bit. On the second drift through my line pulled away as if the trout was going to keep it this time whether I was ready or not. I was ready! This trout fought with more aggressiveness than the last two. A few more headshakes and a longer melee ensued before I got him tame enough to bring in.
After noon we had just been fishing another section of the creek for only about 15 minutes when the sun peered between the thinning layers of cloud cover. Rays of sunlight found its way through the pine boughs and reflected off the riffling current. Snow glistened, from the light, that lay upon the far bank and the drab colored pines seamed to brighten to a shimmering satin. I walked up creek to Rick and strongly suggested going back to were we started fishing in the morning. (Those risers were on my mind)
When we got to the wide pool area the sun was shining a lot brighter and there was a sense of warmth, though I didn’t see any snow melt. The water appeared clearer and the depth, nearer to us, was much more visible. Though the sun was out this way there still weren’t any signs of flying bug life. It didn’t matter to me; I tied on the black stone and started casting about at random. Rick was drifting a nymph in the same area I caught the first two earlier. As we continued to fish one finally rose just out from Rick. I got a location on it and went up creek from the rise so I could drift a dry fly into his sight. I decided a #20 midge, gray body, just might entice a strike. It took a while and tots of patience as I cast out onto the riffles that entered the slower moving pool. Even though the dry was a parachute it was still hard to pick out from the foaming bubbles.
I would slowly move my rod tip, with the current, where I figured the dry might be drifting. I would play vicinity, if there was any kind of surface disturbance visible I would be ready. Among the cluster of foam bubbles drifting along the surface water my lone midge floated within. It times like these I wonder if the trout could see let alone distinguish my fly from the surface elements. Is it the gray body? Is it the tail that extends from the dubbed abdomen that silhouette my pattern to look like a real fly? Whatever it is I notice the water disturbance as the fish breaks surface at my midge. I quickly wrist the tip back and just as quick holler out “gotcha” when I feel the tension between my finger and thumb. The little rascal darts about not strong enough to put much bend in the top section of rod. I swing the rod level with the water and reel him in. The nice little wild brook trout relieves my dry fly fishing fever instantly. I take notice of his beauty and the fly just barely hanging on into the thin layer of lip skin. An easy turning uplift and the hook sets free. We watch as the colorful brookie scurries away, away from the shallows of the bank.
I cast the little #20 midge a little longer but my eyes are tired from the strain to pick it out upon the surface. I decide to continue to dry fly fish. Getting the feel of the relaxed stroke of casting a dry out upon the water just feels right. I look through my midge fly box and decide on a #18 BWO quill body parachute. I tie my BWO duns with a stripped stem of a barred olive hackle feather. It gives a two shade effect that just might stand out as something different to a curious trout. Just like going to the ice cream shop and seeing an eye catching mixture of color and wonder what the flavor would taste like. Aimlessly I cast out and watch the fly fall delicately and than lazily drift with the slow current. I look down creek and watch Rick’s casts and see how he’s doing. I turn back to look for the white parachute and in that split second I actually feel the slight pull of the take in my sensitive fingers and quickly lift the rod. The fly line is pulled under and I know this isn’t a playful wild brookie. He jerks about beneath the surface until I finally get him close. I see it’s another brown trout. Not as big as the previous ones but one I figure should have known not to try his luck with me on the other end. I find, upon picking him up, he had no idea the imitation was a fake by the gulp he must have taken for the hook to pierce the inside of his gum.
Not long after that Rick decided it was time to get back to camp and check in with the family. I drove him back up to his vehicle and he treated me to a couple of awesome brews while we talked a bit.
Before driving off he told me if they weren’t ready to leave he’d be back and fish some more. After he pulled away I grabbed the fly rod and casually walked back down to the creek and finish off the evening without much concern.
As time ticked on I had one more trout on briefly before I heard someone calling me from up creek. I turned and saw Rick standing on the bank telling me he had some food for me he’d leave at the van. I hollered back that I would be right up. He had zipped locked some heluski and a couple of slices of ham his family had as left-overs. I thanked him of course and watched as him and his wife drive off. I lifted the back of the mini van hatch and sat on the bumper. Opening the plastic back all I remember was smelling food. I gobbled it down right out of the bag, being I couldn’t find any plastic ware. After washing off my food fingers I lit up a sweet Pequeno and went back to fishing.
I didn’t wade too far down creek as, with my belly full, I was getting weary. The sun was pleasantly aglow as it was setting low behind the tree limbs. It was time for me to leave this peaceful water and head home.
I believe this was the earliest I ever caught a trout on a dry fly of a new year.
I walked out this morning on my way to work. The sun was already rising between the openly spaced clouds. I could feel the warmth on my face on this chilly February morning. I thought of the lonely trout stream and how I was sure there would be bug activity upon the surface, more than when I was there. Just then I felt a tingle down my spine and a satisfying devilish grin upon my face!