The Diamondglass Jinx
(from the journal April 2008)
As I step into the April cool water of Tionesta Creek my hearing is attuned to the nature that surrounds me. The early sun hasn’t crested the far hill yet but light reflects off the overcast gray-blue cloudy sky. A few birds are chirping already to bring in the morning. A hoot owl, somewhere in the distance, gives its morning greeting. The turkey hunter’s translation is “who cooks for you”. I chuckle to myself and think of my friend Rusty out on Saturday morning calling to get a gobbler to answer.
Wading through the shallows, the riffling of the water across the stream is the only constant rhythmic sound. My first cast, with a woolly bugger, reaches the end of the shallower riffles and swings into the knee deep water. It’s more relaxing casting with my 9’ medium action Damon rod than my Scott rod I’ve used for the past 2 ½ days. It’s a bit heavier but today’s about relaxation than a challenge. The first sound of a four-wheeler, traveling up rte. 666, brings a smile to my face. Knowing they’re on their way to work and I’ll be fishing all day on this April Monday, exempt from the hoards of fishermen.
My second drift a trout hits my bugger. Lackadaisically I’m late on the hook set but still feel some resistance. A rainbow hurdles a foot or so out of the water and I watch as my white woolly bugger flips skyward than falls back into the water as does the acrobatic rainbow. A few casts later I hook up and net another that wasn’t so lucky. My hearing is almost unconscious to the natural sounds around me except for a few passing cars and a rustle in the leaves across the stream. After catching a few more trout I light a cigar and tie on a swannadaze maggot. The sun now made the hill but is unforeseen behind the cloudy gray sky.
In the distance the sound of an American legend wakens my hearing. The low tone rumble of a Harley is heard as the sound reverberates through the valley. I picture the rider backing off the throttle as the bike descends down the small hill. The engine crackle and pops from the deceleration. Reaching the level straight away Mother Nature begs for mercy as the rider cracks the throttle wide open. The 1340 cc twin cam engine comes to life and rules the airwaves. Two bends later and some distance afar the echoing of the ‘V’ twin exhaust disappears. The smoke from my cigar lingers in the still morning air than dissipates before my eyes.
Time ticks away as I methodically work the stream, as some may say. Making short casts at first and cast out further until I can no longer get good loops with my weight forward line. I take a few steps downstream than repeat the procedure to cover the water like a fine toothed comb. My thundercreek shiners and lighter color nymphs take dozen or so rainbows with a few brookies thrown in. I fish downstream to where the faster, rocky, water begins. Casting in slower pockets, I come across a palomino. I tease him until he is no longer interested in my offerings, or was he teasing me?
The sun warms the air temperature and by noon a few brown stoneflies start to emerge. I'm about to break for lunch but with the rise of the stoneflies I decide to walk back upstream and make another pass through the area I fished earlier. A quick hit and retrieve of a brookie on a latex caddis gets me thinking about my Diamondglass rod.
I bought the rod early in February and have taken it out a couple of times already without catching a thing. The two hours on Minister Creek in early March and the 1-½ hours on the Farnsworth Branch last Sunday morning turned out to be just a walk with a new rod. I was beginning to think the rod is jinxed.
After a second hit and miss I go back to the van and assemble my Diamondglass rig. Even though the 3 wt. isn’t right for the stream, the fishing has been easy and I need to break the ‘jinx’. The 7’ 3wt. feels like a hickory switch compared to the 9’ 5 wt totem pole I’ve been using.
Back to the stream I drift a thundercreek shiner. After two misses I tie on a light sparkle nymph and cast in the same area and bring in two 9” rainbows consecutively. I learn real quickly that with the soft action rod I must set the hook with more pressure than my other rods. My stomach is growling for lunch but with the afternoon sun, now fully exposed, I notice flashes of fish nosing the pebbled bottom to my left. Seeing stoneflies coming off regularly now, I tie on a #12 brown stonefly nymph. It doesn't take long to hook into two 11”-12” rainbows. The fight on the flexible rod is super in fighting the active rainbows. I break for lunch and am excited about fishing Salmon Creek, for brookies, this afternoon with the 7’ Diamondglass.
Salmon creek was stocked a week ago Monday. With the pleasant weekend I was sure the brookies that weren’t kept or left for dead seen every type of live bait, spinners and the like. They’ve most likely been close to being stepped on and maybe a taste of toothpaste or dish detergent from some unconcerned campers. The fishing will no doubt be challenging but if no one else was here earlier and I move with caution and stealth, I might be able to catch a few off guard.
I find the stream running cold and clear. I spot 2 brook trout swimming in a rock pool on a large flat rock but refrain from casting to them. How they end up there, in the pool crevice, on the flat rocks is beyond me.
I slowly wade the small narrow creek in ankle deep water down stream casting a latex caddis to shady areas along the banks. The first trout I catch is a 3”-4” native brookie hidden under a sunken limb down and across stream. I unhook him and he darts away as soon as he’s unleashed. I cautiously continue as I wade mid-stream. Peering down creek, a ways, I notice a gray mass moving outside of the faster run left of a rounded rock-stone. I figure 2 or even 3 brookies are clustered together in full view of the sun that is above and behind me. Hopefully the bright light is distorting their vision of my dark clothed figure. They’re a good distance and with the forested background I hope to blend in. I feel I’m in the best position, being in the middle of the creek, to drift a nymph into their vision without a quick line surge from the faster run of water in front and to the right of where I stand.
I roll cast a latex caddis to the far bank, delicately, and watch the mustard color fly line slowly sweep the water before swiftly moving across the faster current. Each time I cast I let a little more line out to get a reaction from the trout. I can’t see the caddis because of the distance but I watch the fish for movement and my better judgment knowing the length of my leader and tippet, from my fly line, to get the fly in front of the fish. On the forth pass the trout moves to have a look-see but doesn’t follow. The distance is now calculated. The gray mass moved as one though instead of two! This could be a bigger fish then I first expected. The fifth drift doesn't excite the fish at all.
I tie on a tailed swannadaze maggot. It’s a nymph I tie with white chenille and rib it with one strand of white floss on a curved nymph hook. I leave a tail of chenille, for movement, out from the hook bend. I roll cast this to the same spot as I did for the latex caddis towards the far bank. As the mustard fly line points to the fish, the fish follows into the faster run. I wait for a quick movement or a stop in the fly line but the line continues through the faster, deeper run to the shallow waters towards the right bank down stream from me. The fish returns to its lie. There is no doubt in my mind the fish is interested in my fly and must have missed it in the faster run of water. I add a little, little more weight and pull about 6 more inches of line out of my reel. This extra 6” I keep slack between my left line hand and the reel. I play my idea in my head and then roll cast to the far bank as I did before. When my mustard line points towards the fish I open my left fingers and thumb. The extra 6” of fly line slide through the guides and out from my rod. I clinch the line again and watch the arc of my fly line and tip. The arc, in my fly line, drifts towards the right but I notice the tip movement to the left. I raise my rod, yank and set the hook. The big fish explodes out of the faster run. Swirls of water surfaces with each fighting turn of the big brookie. The big fish torpedo upstream hesitates than swirls and heads back downstream. I move to the right rocky bank to fight the fish from the side. My Diamondglass bends and flexes deep with the fighting fishes every struggle. I’m not worried about the 3wt. rod as much as I do my knots and 6x tippet strength. After a battle of wits I finally get the fish close enough and pull my net out. I chuckle to myself, as there is no way the big brookie will fit in my small catch and release net. To me the biggest challenge was to figure out how to hook and play the fish, netting him is of second importance anyway. ‘The two big fillets sure would smell and taste great if I should be able to land it’ I consider. In a futile attempt the fish pulls away as I half-heartily try to net the fish. The only way is to bass lift him by getting a finger or thumb in its mouth. After a few tries I notice the hook is well into the roof of the trout’s mouth. With a little more lifting of the rod, and a tamer trout, I clamp into its open mouth. I cradle the fish into my waist and make my way to the bank. I unhook my fly and a green Joe’s fly spinner that’s hooked into its side. The brookie measures 17 ½”. The Diamondglass rod jinx is over, that’s for sure!
After putting the brookie in the cooler for a future fish dinner I return to the creek. In the next hour or two I hook up to a dozen or more unwary brookies by slowly, cautiously sight fishing the creek. Casting the delicate 3wt doubletaper Sylk line way in front of the sighted fish and letting the nymph slowly drift within its sight accounts for another successful birthday.
On my drive up the solid dirt road of Salmon Creek, towards Muzzete Rd., I light an Arturo Fuente. The only station on the radio plays an old Bob Seger tune “Against the Wind”
The cigar smoke lingers before me and then is swept away through the slightly opened wing window of my old dodge van!