Sunday, October 21, 2012

Vintage 'Bow' Hunting

Vintage ‘Bow’ Hunting

 I fit the ferrules together of the Vintage Shakespeare Wonderod 5wt. I attach the Martin Classic MC78 reel to the down locking reel seat. Due to the low water conditions of the mountain stream I’d be fishing I figured on using light weighted Woolly Buggers and Triple Threat streamers. I knot on a good length of 5X tippet to the tapered leader. After dressing warm in the 50+ degree weather, I put on my hip boots, vest and head down to the creek.
Peeking over a flat ledged rock I see a few of the stocked trout from a week or so ago. The creek isn’t a project area and is open to all tackle. I don’t mind fishing for stocked trout after a couple of weeks. I figure by than the fish left behind are more accustomed to danger and are spread out a bit. I also find a hold over or two from the spring stocking or from previous years. During the fall the water is usually low so minimal movement along the creek is a must. Polarized sun glasses are an additional help for possibly seeing the trout before they see me. Sometimes they’ll take a streamer so lightly that I might not even know it so seeing the take increases the caught ratio.
  I take the path up creek and enter the water in a shallow riffle. I take time casting the flexible Fiberglass rod and limp Cortland Sylk fly line. After getting the feel for it I cross the creek and circle around up creek from the trout I spotted earlier. Hunched in a semi-hiding position I cast out the light weighted streamer up creek from the holding trout. It takes a few casts to get the streamer to flow into the pocket they are stationed in and I feel the stoppage of the fly line. Not sure if I got a fish or the rocky bottom, and not wanting to spook the trout with a heavy pull if it is a snag, I wrist backwards softly. Sure enough a fish is on the other end but my pulling action isn’t hard enough to set the hook. I see the silvery oblong shape rise towards the surface with a twist and my hook lets go. A few more casts and nothing.
  I tie on a dark olive Wooly Bugger and am more accurate with my first cast. The bugger falls shy; of the flat ledged rock I stood on earlier, and sinks quickly. It swings into the deeper pocket and I feel a heavy swiping grab of the bugger. I lift the rod for the hook set, the line tensions and the rod tip dips. The trout rises with a head twist and turns deep, down towards the tail out. The wimpy tip flexes sharply but returns quickly to its natural straight-up shaft position. Another miss!!! After a few more casts the rest of the trout must be bored with my dealings and decide they don’t want to take a turn being hooked and quickly released without seeing the perpetrator.
  I slowly wade along the bank-side, down creek, than stand for a moment to enjoy the day’s scenery. The view is a fall stream fisherman’s heaven. Though the water runs low and clear the forest surroundings and autumn foliage makes for a serene environment. From above, cumulus clouds move slowly reflecting the unseen sun in the blue sky background. Below bare trees lean towards the water as their branches twist and reach out in all directions. Fallen leaves lay upon the forest floor as some gather upon the shallowest stream sections. For the lack of color, a few pine trees do give the calm looking forest a little more diversity. I take out a Don Tomas Candela Churchill and light it up as I look down creek at the endless flow of water.

 Onward I slowly wade and fish my way downstream. Due to the low water conditions I find my weighted buggers are too heavy and catch bottom often. I tie on a small conehead streamer and proceed. At times I need to keep the rod tip up to keep the streamer from hanging up also. My casts are long with slow retrieval. Just out from a deeper bank-side run I see the flash of a trout and I’m ready for the take. Instantly I strip-set the hook and pull the rod rearward remembering that a softer rod needs a little more oomph for a good hook set. The rainbow dances on the other end in a foot or so of water swaying the rod too and fro. There is nothing like the feel and thrill of a trout fighting a fiberglass fly rod. From the cork handle I can feel each pull, twist and tug instantaneously. The slightest veer of the fish is followed by the rod tip curving towards the action. I swing the rod up creek and the rainbow follows hesitating now and than with quick resisting spurts. The rod in turn flexes downward towards the trout but regains its strength and moves the trout towards me. Finally a rainbow comes to hand.

 Later on in a shallow riffle I see a few trout just hanging out like lazy fellows on a street corner. Their white lipped mouths are evident in the slow moving current. I backhand a cast up and across from them. The streamer catches the current and heads towards them. I twitch the rod tip and the streamer fibers wave in the current. I hold the rod tip at an upward angle and let the streamer swing in front of them. One takes notice and swims towards the streamer with caution. I have to keep the streamer moving upward and towards me so it doesn’t hit bottom. With the rod still at an angle I slowly retrieve the streamer with short smooth strips and let it dangle now and than. The rainbow is satisfies and lightly lips the streamer like a warm wet noodle. I lift the rod instantly and the line tensions as the fish turns in disgust…with a hook set in its lip. The other fish dart away as the rainbow wrestles with the tight line. The rod again quickly reacts to every maneuver that the rainbow attempts to unhook himself. It’s not long before the rainbow concedes.

 For the next couple of hours I continue with the same strategy. Rainbows are fooled and make the Wonderod come to life with plenty of action. A drizzle starts to fall from the sky as it turns gray. I head up creek, pausing for a few casts before getting back to the van.

 I drive down creek further to a new area. The rain has stopped but the cloud cover keeps the brightness of the sun to a mild glow. The water surface glistens with the reflecting sun rays off the existing clouds as shadows, from the forest trees, darken the bank-side flow. The big pool, forward of the wide section of shallow riffles, holds trout as usual. There’s not much space between the bank-side cliff and brush for hiding my presence. The fish are wary and swim away like a crowd dispersing from a poor performing political speaker. I can’t even get one to follow the streamer after a quick glance.
 I cross the creek at the wavy, fast moving riffles and get ready for action on the other side. The creek broadens and from the bank I cast across and down creek. I let the streamer swing and then strip in with no results. Down creek I can’t produce any strikes near a fallen tree so I go around it and have to cross again being not able to proceed any further do to the deeper water and sharp cliff. I wade within the shadows of the trees and cliff. At an outward bend the water flows quickly away. With my movement I see a trout swim up against the near side of a submerged log. I try for him unsuccessfully. From where the submerged log lays a thick branch extends from the creek bed towards the far shore. This creates a deep ‘V’ path of water that flows before rising over a few partially submerged branches. I move up creek a bit and cast towards the far submerged log. I extend the rod tip and let the streamer dangle and sway with the oncoming converging current. It doesn’t take long for a savage attack and the hook sets with the hard strike. I power the rod up creek to keep the trout from swimming deep below the submerged logs. My knots hold tight and I’m able to coax him out from the danger. I can feel he is a heavy fighting trout as he tries to escape with force. I get him in more open water and he tames a bit. Closer he tries to dart away from my hand but the sharp arced fiberglass rod gives no more and he comes to hand.

I try the same technique on similar casts and am rewarded with another healthy fighting ‘bow’.
  The next couple of hours before dark I continue making my way down creek. Unexpectedly I catch a rainbow in a thin riffle hugging the bank. One of my last nice size rainbow comes while holding up in the tail end of a pool just before the water crests over a wide section of shallow pebbled stones.
  There are about 4 trout that I’m able to distinguish across and down creek. Within the shadows I’m pretty sure they hadn’t noticed me. I pull out line from the Martin reel, it clicks like an old rusty chain on a slow spinning sprocket, and make ready for a distant cast. With long strokes and a couple of false casts I get the streamer well ahead of the group. The current before them drifts the streamer right in their zone. I lift the rod up creek trying to make sure the streamer doesn’t move into the group, not wanting to snag any. When my streamer gets nearer to them a couple of trout dart forward and there is no doubt that one of them would strike the swinging streamer. With a hard tugging yank on the other end, I set the hook and the shallow surface water boils with disruptive activity. The fighting trout appears to not know which direction is the best direction for escape. She fights a bit in the same general area before trying her luck hastening up creek and towards me in deeper water. I get a good visual of her as she turns again for the tail out. Holding the rod steady I let line slip through my fingers with good tension. She swings around in an arc and I bring her along side of me.

 After another half hour the evening light starts to fade quickly. I step onto dry land and head for the van. A cold bottle of Coors original satisfies my thirst as I change out of my fishing attire and put the rod and reel away. Somewhere in the distant I hear an owl hooting above the gentle flow of riffling water of the mountain stream.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Cameron County Natives

Cameron County Natives

  The native brook mountain creek flowed low and clear. Autumn leaves lay upon the banks and moss covered boulders and drifted upon the water and in some areas covered the creek completely. Twigs and branch roots extended over the skinny water making placement of a fly difficult let alone the bank-side hazards hampering casting. Though the creek flowed clear the stony creek bed gave up no obvious visual stationed trout. It was technical fishing at its best.

Skip let me take the first casts into the first couple of open pools as we fished up creek. We fished dry caddis imitations and the native brookies, when not spooked, rose quickly to them in the October chill. I caught a couple of minnow size natives but Skip’s catches out lengthened mine by a few inches. His 2 weight rod flexed with ease on the forward cast and the caddis fell upon the water gently at times.
  I found that when the brookies were spooked they’d flee to undercuts or under the cover of leaves gathered along the banks or tail-outs. Skip figured, even though we both fished up creek, I may have been getting too nearer the pools in such clear water. Once I stayed back a few more feet the more success I had in making trout rise.

One of Skip's brook trout

One on mine

 Skip would pass up sections of skinny water, point out bigger pools and we would take turns trying our luck in the nicer open runs. The mountainside gave a gorgeous backdrop of green ferns, autumn colored leaves and olive pines on uneven terrain. The creek flowed over and between crevices of rock. Some creating spouting water falls into the head of small pools. These small deeper pools, no deeper than a couple of feet, is where we would catch the bigger natives, some as lengthy as 8 or 9”. Late in the afternoon Skip gave me the OK to give one of these pools a try.

I learned from a guide, while we were fishing a small brook in The Great Smokey’s, you fish a pool from the tail-out to the head. You just never know where a wild trout will be holding.
 From my position, in the middle of the creek, I checked my back-casting clearance and began my cast with my 3 weight Hardy Demon rod. A soft loop placed my caddis about 3 feet up stream from the leaf covered tail-out. Skip and I watched in amazement as a surface torpedo wake b-lined right towards my imitation from under the poolside leaves a couple of feet away. When the water rippled at my fly I wristed the hook set and the unsuspecting wild brookie skittered about. I brought her towards me with not too much commotion in the upper part of the pool.

 My next few casts were further up towards the head of the pool with my last cast being nearer the right side in dead water. It was the left front of this pool I was counting on.
From above, water found its way between rock crevices and spilled over a narrow rock shelf. The falling water bubbled below within a foot and a half wide channel that led to the wider mouth of the pool. If I could get my caddis in that channel of wavy water I figured would be my best chance for another unsuspecting trout. I told Skip my plan as he watched me cast. My first cast was short and a little to the right. I let my fly drift back towards me before recasting. With a little wrist on my forward cast I dropped the caddis exactly where I wanted; shy of the falls and between the stone wall channel.
“That’s it!” I muttered as the elk hair wing wobbled in the channel with the riffles. In an instant, with a hardy surface splash, a fish attempted to consume my dry. I reared back, with a little more force than I needed, to set the hook. The fish skittered a short distance with a fight before it released itself from the barbless hook.

Truthfully, bringing that native trout to hand or even seeing it didn’t matter as much. It was the execution, the precise placement and fooling the trout that was the most rewarding accomplishment.

Beyond that pool Skip assured me the water narrowed even more with less open pools. We walked up to an old logging lane and proceeded back to my van. I lit up a Cohiba Pequenos for the relaxing stroll along the mountainside.




Monday, October 15, 2012

Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone

 I’m not sure if it was that everyone was up Erie fishing for steelhead. Maybe they went down to tailgate early for the 1:00 Steeler game at Heinz Field? Maybe no one wanted to brave the morning chill and predicted rain. Whatever it was I was on the creek by 9:15am and not a soul was to be seen. Even the parking lot was vacant.
 It was a typical early fall morning. A chilly overcast morn with the scent of a moist forest. Colorful trees lined the creek in their fall colors. I could hear the chipmunks snickering and scampering about. Brown leaves laid scattered upon the stony bank. The creek water flowed quietly before me with an occasional leaf drifting along with the current. I stepped off the bank and into the water, taking in a deep breathe of fresh air.

I added a section of 4x tippet and knotted on a Woolly Bugger. Each of my first three casts were lengthier across the creek. After the third cast I let the Bugger drift from the slow current and into a swing caught by a riffle section of moving water. I felt the tug between my finger tips as I seen the sharp pull of the arcing fly line. A quick twitch of the rod and a pull of the fly line and I felt the trout fight in a scurrying manner trying to release itself from the hook. I forgot all about the past two outings Steelhead fishing.
 I forgot all about the football game. I was in my comfort zone, creek fishing and playing fighting trout. The rod tip flexed and moved erratically under tension as the trout wrestled beneath the riffles. Lifting the rod, as the trout drew nearer, I gloved the hooked rainbow.

 After I landed three more and missed a couple of taps it seemed like a good time for a smoke. I pulled out a Nick’s stick, cupped my hand and lit the end of the barrel. A light gray smoke appeared from the end and wavered with the slight breeze.

 After a couple more trout I started to nymph fish to see if they were interested. With no takes I switched to a few more bugger colors but it appeared the only thing they would hit on was my first choice. It was peaceful during the first hour or so and it wasn’t till after that I saw the first two fishermen appear up creek. Just a few minutes later Jeff showed up and explained he was late because he got an eight point that morning during archery season.

We fished towards noon in the chill of the day. The trout didn’t hit the Wooly Buggers very hard but once hooked they fought aggressively to the net.
 As I fished down creek, casting and swinging woolly buggers, I’d pick up a few here and there. It started to sprinkle when I was a ways down creek so I hooked the hook point in the hook keeper and started back up stream. By the time I got to Jeff it was sprinkling a little harder.
 “I’m going to take off” Jeff said and added “Got to get the buck home and hang him up.”
 We talked for another 5 or 10 minutes before he took off for good.

 The light rain kept falling like a heavy ocean spray. My thee layers of top clothing would take awhile for the rain to penetrate so I felt I didn’t need to be in a hurry to leave just yet. The sun tried to pierce it’s rays downward but the bluish gray clouds kept moving in it’s path. It was so peaceful. I looked down creek and there was a lone fishermen in the middle of the stream casting about. I lit up my last Nick’s stick and decided when it was gone than I’d go. My cowboy brimmed Harley hat kept the rain from my face. Small droplets would bead on my Bonehead shirt but soon would absorb and seep into my Duofold long sleeve. It would take awhile to penetrate to my heavy weight Polypropylene undergarment.
 I’d cast out towards the far bank, let the line swing with the current and the bugger would follow in an arc. At the end of the drift I’d short strip in, let the bugger settle in the current momentarily, and pull long slow strips back to me. On occasion I’d feel the grab of another rainbow flexing the rod downward. My rainy wet hand gripped the custom made cork grip feeling the fight of the trout as I steered it towards me. My left hand held the tension of the fly line as I teased and eventually forced the fish my way. The whole while I’d puff on that stogie and listen to the oil derrick thump in the background.
 The rain started to come down a little more abundantly and I started to feel the dampness on my skin as well as the chill when a breeze stirred up. My stogie was down to the last quarter. I made up my mind and cast one more time and watched the drift end without a take. Short strips had failed to encourage a trout. I hooked the bugger to the hook keeper and kept my word.

At the van I changed out of my wet gear as I listened to the Steeler game. A cold Dr. Pepper quenched my thirst. I was thinking about heading to Petroleum center to fish but with the rain and all I decided against it. It had been a fun catching day already and it was time to go home, dry out, and relax.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace

 There I was with the nub of a Bohemian Red clinched between my teeth standing in thigh high water. The butt section of the 7 weight fly rod was in my gut and the rod flexed deep downward. My forearms tightened as the steelhead rushed up creek with the force and speed of a buffalo in a stampede. The tensioned fly line couldn’t cut through the water surface fast enough to keep up with the hasty steel and arced somewhere beneath. It was a good 10 or 12 feet when the steelhead exploded upward out of the water from where the yellow fly line entered behind him. The fly line shot up like a slingshot spraying water as the big fish belly flopped back onto the surface like a fallen log from a high mountain ledge into a calm pool of water.

 It’s been a long day for Kevin and me. The near two hour drive up to Erie started for me about 5:30am. Now it was around 2:00pm and I only had 1 hook up so far that broke off at the pinched lead strip on my 5x fluorocarbon tippet. Kevin had yet to hook up but he wasn’t the only one. Most of the people fishing this lazy Thursday weren’t pulling anything in either. What was nice was there were few anglers and the ones roaming around didn’t butt in too close to cause friction. The bait fishermen weren’t doing any better than the fly guys. Except for one fly guy, who was getting strikes now and then, the rest of us felt the excitement of steelhead fishing had gone for the day.
 It was about then that Kevin mentioned for the third time he was going to get something to eat. My belly growled for the third time, a little louder, as if strongly agreeing to the notion, but I didn’t let on. I asked if he wanted to fish somewhere else after he ate. He said he hated to leave fish to look for others. I told him I’d stick around and fish while he goes eat. I mentioned there was a whole hoagie in my cooler if he wanted to split it. He left his rod and vest along the bank and headed to the truck as I lit up a Bohemian Red and continued fishing.
 The stogie was almost half way gone when he returned with the hoagie and a couple of drinks. I took out my compact scissors and cut the cigar in half. On the shore I took half the hoagie and went back to fishing as Kevin sat on the bank eating and watching me.
“You know you might catch a fish” he stated
“If that’s what it takes” I answered as I clicked the drag tighter and began to cast out with one hand.
 I heard a few people, up stream on the far bank, mention about me eating the hoagie while standing in the water fishing.

 I was drifting a Triple Threat just above the creek bed with a white sucker spawn below my indicator in the very slow current. With the hoagie in my left hand, right hand holding the rod, I was chewing the last bite when the indicator twitched downward. I yanked up on the rod with one hand and felt the tension. I called out “FISH ON”, stuffed the rest of the hoagie between my teeth and grabbed the line with my left hand. I remember hearing people laughing as I fought the steelhead with a portion of the hoagie hanging out of my mouth. The fish wrestled in front of me a bit and I backed up with the rod held high to keep tension. He momentarily rose subsurface, dove deep and shot away with head shakes. After a short distance he turned violently and the rod bent deeply and I remembered I had the drag set heavy. With a quick thrusting turn the tippet broke and the rod straightened. I found the line broke below the knot closest to the indicator.
 On the bank I set the hoagie down and proceeded to tie on the same set up checking my knots for tightness. I finished the hoagie, took a swig of ‘Dew’ and went back out into the water. Kevin joined me and entered a few yards down stream.

 There was nearly a breeze to help the indicator to drift any faster in the almost still water. At times I pointed the rod tip at the indicator just to make sure it was moving. I could picture the Triple Threat just skimming the top of the creek bed. About after three casts I took out the left over stogie and lit it back up.
 Kevin was carrying on a conversation with the guy next to him. A few people were gabbing above the rocks up on the far bank. The sun would reappear at times through the overly clouded sky. The air was cooling off but still comfortable in long sleeves.

 The indicator landed among the drifting leaves and I watched the sucker spawn and Triple Threat plop into the water. It drifted a good bit and than suddenly pulled downward at an angle. I yanked for the hook set and it was than I was in my own little steelhead world.
 There I was with the nub of a Bohemian Red clinched between my teeth standing in thigh high water. The butt section of the 7 weight fly rod was in my gut and the rod flexed deep downward. My forearms tightened as the steelhead rushed up creek with the force and speed of a buffalo in a stampede. The tensioned fly line couldn’t cut through the water surface fast enough to keep up with the hasty steel and arced somewhere beneath. It was a good 10 or 12 feet when the steelhead exploded upward out of the water from where the yellow fly line entered behind him. The fly line shot up like a slingshot spraying water as the big fish belly flopped back onto the surface like a fallen log from a mountain ledge into a calm pool of water.
 After the ‘steel’ reentered he continued upstream towards the rock wall along the far bank as the Allen Alpha II reel spool spun like a kids windmill in a wind storm. I yelled out “COMING UP!” and more anglers reeled in their lines. I hurried along the bank keeping up with the steelhead as I knew it would have to turn downstream eventually if it didn’t want to try to swim into the shallow couple of inches of water. The fish turned towards my side of the creek and as I started to reel in I noticed it had taken me into my backing. I had it coming in when it turned away and another tug of war ensued. It took time to get the steelhead close to shore so I could get a grip on it. With the sun at my back I snapped a couple of pictures of the calmly laid chromer. I released it unharmed back into the creek.

 That evening, after Kevin dropped me off at my van, I changed clothes and headed home.

 Somewhere along route 322, as the headlights led the way in the pitch darkness, I reached down into my traveling humidor and pulled out a Hand-rolled Buffalo Trace cigar Jack had sent me a few weeks ago straight from Kentucky. I nipped off the torpedo butt end and took a whiff of the barber pole outer wrap. There was nothing special; it smelled like a mild cigar. After lighting up, the deep orange embers glowed on the end of the barrel in the darkness. The draw was smooth but the flavor was unresolved. The mixture of tobacco in the first quarter was a little rough but not enough to give up on it. After the first quarter the cigar’s character came alive. I began to taste oak with a bit of a charred wood flavor. The draw was still smooth and wasn’t as rough as the light up. The longer I puffed the more satisfying the char-oak flavor became. Half way through the stogie another flavor was noticeable. There was still that soft oak flavor, that seemed to cling to my lips, but I began to taste a trace of the sweetness of Bourbon. I noticed the cigar smoke hinted this Bourbon sweetness also if I concentrated on it. Nearer the nub I couldn’t taste the heat of the draw until I felt the burn of the outer wrap nearing my fingers. Overall it was a smooth mild-medium smoke once I got passed the first quarter.

 I pulled into the driveway at 9:30pm. I dashed out the cigar butt on the pavement, grabbed a few of my things and headed towards the front door.
 It turned out to be a relaxing satisfying steelhead day that ended with a good hour long satisfying cigar.