Alone in God’s Country
By 9:30 am I find myself alone in the Fly Fishing Only section of Kettle Creek. It is picture perfect as my surroundings are alive with forest green spring colors. The rising sun warms the chilled morning air that had been present above the green grassy earth. The wet dew slowly dispersed and misty webs seemed to vanish upon a second look. The wetting leaves on the tree limbs reflect the sunlight as does the cold stony creek water that appears to flow on forever. The toads croak their ritual mating call and morning birds chirp within the forest. The long stretch of slow current water flows undisturbed within the shadows of the trees.
As I stand on the stony bank, before the glistening riffling run of mountain fed water, I see my first splashing rise against the far sloped bank. I see no bug activity about. I search and discover I left my midge box in the van. I look on my wool fly patch and find a few small flies from days before. I try three different patterns, Blue Dun, Blue Quills and Blue Wing Olives, in size 18 and 16 with no results. I decide to tie on something bigger and as I search through a fly box I hear a few more splashing rises. I find a #14 Quill Gordon and tie it on to my 6x tippet. I start to see a few Mayflies rising above the water. Maybe a Hendrickson or two, a few caddis and an unidentifiable dark mayfly.
I cast upstream into the middle of the riffles as I stand in the shin deep water. The Gordon rides atop the small hump wave current like a helpless corked bottle being washed towards the shore. A trout rises with a turn as my pattern passes it by. The trout’s nose surfaces to my fly with a splash and the commotion begins. The once peaceful riffles come alive with turbulence and surface splashes. The rainbow takes out his aggression with long runs, short turns and quick body twists upon the surface. The SAS Scott rod commands the on going battle like an old pro as I play the trout nearer. In the foot or so of water the trout refuses my attempts to grab him. I bring him to shallower water and calm his madness.
After releasing the rainbow I catch another trout on the Quill Gordon, with a cast downstream, and find the Quill body is torn.
I select a Red Quill and continue my dry fly presentation. More fish rise and though I catch a couple more I still cannot get the first riser, along the far bank, to take any of my offerings. He seems to be very selective in even his natural choices that drift by. Soon my Red quill is torn apart and I must select another dry pattern.
Time passes on and I move up creek to another slow riffling run. A downed tree lies against the far bank with the trunk narrowing downstream. The water banks up against it and creates a nice fishy looking holding area. I make casts near and have two fish inspect but refuse my offering.
I slowly fish my way down creek again and I notice the bug activity has paused for the moment. I decide to tie on a Pink Lady dry and cast it into the main stream of riffles avoiding the far bank. A trout surprises me and takes the dry pattern with a gulping lunge forward. A quick upsweep of my rod and another skirmish ensues. This time a healthy brown trout makes an appearance.
Down creek I catch a brook trout, in the shade, that sipped a tan caddis I was drifting in the slower pool of water. As I feel enough time passed I return to where I started in the morning.
By now the sun is rising high. Fewer bugs are present and I feel I don’t have much time before any feeding trout would be active to eat in the noon day heat. I keep back from the water and contemplate what I need to do to catch that first riser against the bank. I notice a few March Browns fluttering off the water. I tie on a lightly hackled, wood duck barred wing, March Brown. I’m just up creek of the wary trout and cast my fly butt up against the far bank. It slowly drifts as I hold the rod high to keep the current from grabbing too much of the fly line and pull it down creek too quickly. It passes without a take. I move up the stony bank for a better angle. I cast with an even stroke and back up the tip before the fly lands. The March Brown falls up creek upon the water, hoping within sight, of the wary trout. I concentrate on the dry as it seems it takes forever to get to his lair. The current is slow along the bank giving ample time for even the laziest trout. I see a slurping take and lift the rod for the hook set. I feel the line tension and a fish darts midstream. I bring in line quickly as the fish battles in the current. As he heads upstream I follow him with the arced rod tip. Palming the spool firmly I test his strength before letting him fight the reel drag. He turns and I can feel him weakening. The once wary brown comes to hand!
I take out a Don Tomas Cameroon Perfecto #2 and take a break to admire the near noon scenery.
The bug activity all about stops. I look down creek, as I puff on my cigar, and decide to fish my way back to the van. I tie on a parachute March Brown for better visibility, for me, in the rougher current. The longer body should be more eye catching to the trout under the same conditions. I slowly work my way down creek.
I come across a couple of toads. One is hitching a ride on another. Later on a lone toad sits, possibly waiting for a mate.
I get a couple of window shoppers checking out my display of dries in the slowest pools and nothing in the first couple fishy looking runs. I catch one brown trout that hits my fly in the quick current tail out. During his struggle across the fast current the hook comes loose and I accept the loss graciously. Weaving with the creek, in and out of the shading trees and winding stream, I come in sight of the bridge. There is no one in sight.
Somewhere in the shallow, more fished waters, I’m surprised to hook into a small brook trout. He scampers about on the end of the line before I bring him in. At the bridge I spend another 10 minutes before calling it quits.
Reluctant to go home just yet I stop by Cross Fork Creek in hopes of no one fishing. Two fellows are fishing near the bridge, one from the bank and another down creek above the riffles. I grab my 3wt Hardy rod and head to the far bank.
After coolly lighting up a Bahia Trinidad Short Churchill I tie on a #14 BWO and see if any of the sipping risers will take. After about a half hour the two gents leave and again I’m alone on the trout waters. I try everything, small and large, in dry fly patterns to get a strike. I have some trout glance once or twice at my drifting dry but refuse. The only things I see on the surface are long Drake shucks drifting by. Some midge activity form in the sunny spots as the sun sets for the early evening. I decide to nymph fish until I see more risers.
I catch a few nice trout before attempting dry fly action again. I have trout bump my dry occasionally but I refuse to try to set the hook to a glancing blow. I finally get a hook set on my March Brown Parachute but the knot unravels and I’m left without a fight. Evening approaches without any bug activity as I look upwards for flying Drakes. A spinner fall doesn’t look promising so I head to the van hoping to drive in daylight through the Sproul State Forest.
It’s a lazy drive home as I smoke my last cigar of the day, a mellow Don Tomas Candela Cetro #2.