Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Creek March

Spring Creek March

  It was cold and windy when I pulled up to the empty camp. Even so I was anxious to fish for the wild trout in Spring Creek in central PA. I was wanting some dry fly action and I knew of no better place closer to home in March. The weather more north was to be even colder with a more chance of snow for the weekend. The past weekend a few friends hit Spring and informed me there was a decent hatch of Blue Wing Olives (BWO), it wasn’t hard for me to decide where I wanted to spend Friday thru Sunday.

 Arriving Friday at around 9:00am I hadn’t seen a soul along the creek as I drove up the road. The water looked inviting as it flowed with a dark green beer shade in the deeper sections. The weather on the other hand didn’t look so inviting yet but the weatherman claimed it was going to get warmer throughout the day.
I dressed extra warm in layers in hopes that the cold wind gusts wouldn’t penetrate through. I elected on my medium-fast action 5 weight Scott SAS rod and fitted it with doubletaper line. I figured with the tree lined banks I would be doing more roll casts than overhead casts. I didn’t expect any dry fly action till the sun came out and warmed things up but even with that I knew the SAS could handle any small dries I would toss out. Until then I decided to bide my time with nymph fishing and took out a VS Triple Corojo Churchill.

  Looking over the stained cold high water flow I decided to go with a beaded bi-color San Juan worm below an olive scud. I figured in the faster runs a worm pattern might look tasty and the scud should look natural in the slower currents. I slowly waded along the bank fishing my way downstream. Roll casting got pretty tricky with the tandem rig and the wind. After a couple of tangles, in which my flies got real friendly with my indicator, I started to concentrate more on my roll casts.
 Along the opposite bank water rippled at a little slower pace than in towards the middle. I cast up creek trying to get my offering in the slower pools, throwing a big mend upstream, before my imitations enters and flows with the faster current. I don’t spend too much time working seams as many of my other nymph fishing friends do but keep on moving at a slow pace.

Looping a mend up creek, against the wind, the fly line arcs on the water behind the indicator. As the line begins to straighten, down creek a bit, on the surface the indicator stops and drops slightly just out from a submerged boulder. My left hand strips in the slack and I lift the rod tip skyward hoping it’s not another snag. There is a slight hesitation as the indicator pops above the surface and my rod tip arcs down in the general direction. The weighty object moves away from the boulder and into the faster current that sweeps around in a waverly manner. Within the first 20 minutes I have my first fish on, I’m surprised and pumped. Within the deep flow of the undercurrent he tugs and pulls in a zigzag tussle as I keep a good hold of the cork handle letting him tire out against the current and rod pressure. He decides to swim forward, escaping the fast current, and I take in line quickly as he passes in front of me. He wrestles a bit more with the tight line before tiring enough that I get him near and get a hold of him!

  With this catch I got super sensitive. Every drop of my indicator I quickly and forcefully raised my rod for a hook set. After losing two flies to tight bottom snags and 1 sharp upward pull, that caused my indicator and flies in an unreachable tree branch, I become more skeptical each time my indicator dropped. It took an hour or so and a trip to the van before I found myself down creek in unfamiliar territory. Even with the sun appearing now and then the water wasn’t becoming any clearer on running any slower. Though I hadn’t caught another fish I still felt the water color was to my advantage. Through a straight stretch I changed patterns often but noticed no obvious takes. I lost my last beaded red/wine by-color worm and found the cheap chenille on my orange San Juan came undone to the tie in point. I did have more non-beaded ones but with the strong current and deeper water, I was fishing now, I needed something heavy to get it down. I decided to knot on one of my Depth Ray Stones and drop one of the unbeaded San Juan’s off that.
 I have to admit I’ve never done very well nymph fishing Spring Creek in such cold conditions as some of my friends have. Maybe I don’t spend enough time in a good looking seam as they, drifting my nymphs over and over again until a trout gives in. Maybe I don’t hold my tongue just right or nip on the right kind of Scotch while fishing. Maybe the brown trout just don’t care for long haired, cigar smoke’n older gents from the North West part of the state.
  Nearing a bridge I find myself hugging the bank in just above knee deep water. The run in front of me looks as though it deepens sharply beneath the bridge. I add a bit of weight just above the knot of my tippet connection and cast up creek a bit throwing a mend a bit upstream further. I hold the rod horizontal as the indicator passes by and dropping the rod tip some while following the indicator. Just this side of the bridge line something snatches the worm like the first green beer being slid down the bar towards a bunch of thirsty Irish mates. The indicator sinks fast and I knew instantly I had a good hook set. The take reminded me of how the big browns took a drifting worm imitation in the fast current of the Bighorn River out in Montana. The trout stayed deep and used the wide section of creek to wrestle, jerk and try to jar the hook loose. My left hand kept tension on the line and I brought him closer with every opportunity he gave me. Soon he was near enough that I lifted the rod high with my right hand and cradled him in my left. A portion of the San Juan hung out of his mouth as I cradled the nice wild brown within my hand. An olive yellowish hue ran along his soft belly just below a row of maroon colored specks that were haloed by a light bluish cast. The remainder of his silvery brown body was dotted with larger spots that were also within a halo of a light blue shade. The bottom of his olive fins were noticeably streaked with white. After unhooking him I let him swim away back into the cold flowing stream.

 I suppose it was about 1:30pm, while I was enjoying a Connecticut Yankee stogie, when I seen my first rise. It didn’t take another nymph fishing cast before I clipped off the tandem nymphs and added an extra piece of 6x tippet. I know the wild trout, in Spring Creek, can be very selective with body and wing color as well as size so I had a whole fly box full with a Chinese Buffet of BWO’s. I knotted on a CDC paradun and looked over the slow riffles of surface water for a minute. A slight breeze was steady with an occasional gust now and then. I let my eyes adjust to the dark surface water and began to notice the tiny BWO’s drifting down like a puff of cotton. Some of the Blue Wings fluttered and skated across the water with the breeze while others drifted, motionless, as if knowing their fate should they cause too much commotion upon the surface. I noticed three risers by now and decided to go for the one closest. The water was deeper there and after a few drifts through, without even a look see, I decided to cast out to the one rising cross stream nearer the shallows. There were trees behind me so I picked an opening between them and let go a long forcing cast cutting the slight breeze to get my fly cross creek. My imitation fell a couple feet within his feeding zone. He picked it off like a bird raising its head to peck at a crawling insect off a branch. I pulled back on the long length of line while lifting the rod. I felt the resistance and than quick jerks on the other end of the tight line. I had my first fish caught on a dry fly struggling on the end of my tippet and it felt grand. The small wild brown fought with courage but was no match for the five weight.
After another caught trout, shortly after the first, it was as if the other risers were aware of my presence. More fish rose though, to the BWO’s about, but became much more selective to my offerings. I changed body colors and pattern styles as well as hook size. #20’s were harder for me to see but I did raise a couple of the trout not rising to my #18’s. I’d go back to #18’s with just a CDC wing without a hackle and even an olive shade lighter on occasion. Fish were caught, some almost caught and some flat out missed. It got to be a bit frustrating at times, especially when I’d get caught up in a tree limb on my back cast, but I kept my composure and succeeded with another caught fish eventually. None of the trout were longer than 10”s but they were wild and frisky. When none took my dry I switched to a bead head emerger. On the first cast a brown whacked it like a rainbow grabbing a stripping streamer. I caught one more on the pattern before going back to dries. The cloud cover got to the point in which I found it easier to see my tiny dries without the use of my polarized shades. In time the wind died down, the air became colder and the rises slowed drastically.

 I noticed three inconsistent rises back at the tail end of the pool and elected to try for them. As I slowly waded within casting distance the two closer to me quit rising altogether. The one further out was still finding a few BWO’s and would rise to the lonesome drifters.
 I must have timed it right as my own BWO landed about a foot up creek from his last rise. He leaped forward at it as if he was afraid it was going to fly away. I pulled the slack line in immediately and lifted the rod high for a hook set. His tail whipped water along the surface and than arced his body and disappeared beneath. My BWO and line came back towards me in a wimpy arced fashion.
 As I was crossing the shallow riffles, mid stream, I caught a glimpse of one more rise against the rock wall in a dead pool along the far side of a run that streamed through between two half submerged boulders. A direct cross creek cast would surely drag the fly line down quickly along with the dry. I waded downstream from the rise and cast up creek onto the pool. My BWO sat there in the dead water just long enough for the trout to rise and he sipped it in. I’m sure he was spitting mad when he felt the hook point pierce his lip and the force of the tight line and rod swoop him out of his lair. I caught one more blind casting out in the middle of a shallow run before calling it quits. My hands were pretty cold, my back ached and I was hungry from the long day on the water.

  Back at the van I took out the Coleman stove and placed it on a bed of rocks. There I lit it and started water to boil in a pot. While waiting for the water to boil I changed clothes while quenching my thirst with a Labatt Blue, it tasted sooo good! When the water was boiling I plopped in a couple of already grilled beef wieners and recovered the pot with the lid. My quick meal consisted of the two dogs, corn chips, peperoncini’s, a couple of deer jerky sticks and a few home made cookies. I topped that off with a Cameroon figurado cigar while I finished another Blue. By than it was 8:30, I was alone, pretty whipped and, with nothing else to do, crawled into the back bed in my conversion van to dream about the fish I had caught and planned on catching the next day.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Preparations for Spring Creek


Preparations for Spring Creek

  Hunters and fishermen do a lot of preparations before the actual activity, at least this one does. From wearing a favorite shirt each time out for luck, preparing a lunch a certain way or training bodily functions. Yes, I actually had a friend who, a week or so before hunting season, started training his body to go to the bathroom at 5:00am in the morning than at 7:30am or so from his normal routine during the work week. He explained to me how one’s body gets into a habit, just like expecting that coffee each morning or your body will go into withdraw. Nothing worse than starting out in the freezing cold early morning hunt and having to find a tree to lean on to drop a stool.
  A couple of my preparations, not necessarily for luck, but just a ‘habit’ is as follows. When my gramps and I would go deer hunting he told me to always carry a dime in case I get lost, I can call for help. You have to remember I grew up when there were phone booths outside every mini market or gas station and such. I kept the tradition only by carrying a quarter now even if there isn’t many telephone booths around. One thing I always wondered, but never questioned, was that I never seen a telephone booth in the woods, even if I ever would have been lost to make that call!
 I still pack a lunch during big game season of buttering both sides of the potato bun so my sandwich wouldn’t get stale. Heck, I’ve found salami potato bun sandwiches in the back of my hunting coat months later and the bread was as soft as a warm pancake, it looked like one also!
  When it comes to fishing I prepare myself for the streams I plan on fishing. I bring full flexed rods for slow calm dry fly fishing days. I bring a fast action rod for windy days and streams I know I’ll need long casts and medium fast as my every day creek rod. Different floating lines on their own spools help also. When I go fishing for a three day weekend I also bring some fly tying material especially when I’m not familiar with the waters or have been fooled before on such waters. So my past weekend trip to Spring Creek, near Bellefonte, I brought along some tying material to help from not being disappointed.

  Friday was a good St. Practice day on the stream. Though the underwater fishing didn’t produce many trout, the top water hatches during the day were more successful. Only problem was the fish WERE selective as usual and not all the trout were craving for the same size, shape, color of Blue Wing Olives. Along with the rearward tree branches that also consumed many imitations Friday, I was glad I brought along the tying kit.

  This brings me to Saturday’s eventful day along Spring Creek. I woke up in my van around 6:30am without setting the alarm. I guess going to bed at 8:30pm the night before, for the lack of anything else to do, made for a restful night and early morning. It was dark and cold in the morning so I wasn’t anxious to go outside just yet. As I warmed up the van I started to tie some BWO’s in a couple of different styles to make up for the ones I lost the day before plus a couple of different shades. I did this on the top of my cooler while sipping on a hot cup of tea and eating hot oatmeal. When it became light I was still tying without fear I’d miss something in the below freezing weather outside. I think it was around 8:00am when my stomach told me that I needed to excrete some waste. I put on a sweatshirt and headed to the outhouse behind the camp I was parked next to.
 It had to be just above freezing but without the gusting wind as the day before. The bare ground, bare trees and natural surroundings were of an early morning brisk spring day,, with a few falling snowflakes that gently drifted like goose down feathers. The first thing I noticed, after taking a seat, was there were no windows. Being it was a bit dim outside at the time I kept the door slightly opened. After my eyes adjusted to the dullness inside the second thing that caught my attention was the broom by the door. Now I’ve used many a outhouses in my hunting, camping and fishing adventures and I have to admit I never seen a broom in an outhouse. I mean who actually sweeps a rustic outhouse floor? Besides that there was the more common plastic lidded coffee container that I was sure that kept the ‘T’ paper dry and from being used as a rodents comfortable living quarters. Next to the seat bench, to my left, was some kind of magazine and a pump spray bottle of air freshener. The air freshener was of vanilla ice cream scent! Now, normally I’d expect to see pine aroma or some kind if outdoorsy scented air freshener. Anyhow I left the inside of the outhouse smelling like vanilla ice cream with a touch of chocolate chit aroma!!

 As a light offering of snowflakes fell I got my warmest clothes on and headed for the location I intended to fish. On the drive over, snow started to fall with more abundance as the morning sky brightened quizzically. By the time I got my waders and boots on the snow fall was getting quite annoying and started to accumulate upon the ground. With cold hands I assembled my two piece Scott five weight and with cold fingers knotted on fresh tippet and my double duo offering. By the time I headed up creek it looked like it was the middle of winter with a major snow squall developing. I wasn’t too thrilled with the situation but I had nothing better to do and I was going fishing! I really didn’t expect to catch much, in fact, 1 beneath would be just fine due to conditions, so I decided the morning just might be for picture taking and cigar smoking. I lit up a Sinclair ‘55’ sun grown and went on my way.
 I found an open snowy path to the water just beyond the snowy walk bridge and took it. The water was a bit high but had the perfect green tint to it. Stepping into the water I felt the temperature difference but it wasn’t too alarming. As I drifted my offering in pocket waters and along the bank shore I listened to the chirping birds along with the soothing sound of tumbling trout waters. Two ducks fed and played nearby as the snow thickened occasionally passing like fog. At times I took chances of taking pictures but after a spell decided not to take the chance as the fluffy snowflakes changed to overly wet flakes and at times small drops of hail.
(Notice the snow accumulation in the background)

 Along with the snow I developed problems with trying to roll cast the tandem rig with my gloved left hand while trying to keep my right fingers warm in my coat pocket. By the time I reached the van I had lost a couple of nymphs, a few feet of tippet with nothing to show for it except a few duck pictures. I stopped by, got a drink, put a hot-hand pouch in my right pocket and decided to work my way down creek.
  The snow decided to tease me as I got further and further down stream from my van. The only excitement was a trout took my drifting worm pattern, near the rocky bank, and struggled with me into the faster current. After a good enjoyable tussle he became free and I was thankful not to get my hands wet. After an hour or so playing in the water in the snow fall I headed back up to the van for another drink. After that I went back up creek and began to fish my way back down with different patterns. Each time I’d have to wipe off my bifocal shades to make sure my cold fingers were tying the knots correctly. This time when I got to the van there were at least a couple of inches of snow that had gathered about and the wind picked up. My coat was a bit heavier than when I started due to the thick moisture in the absorbing snowflakes that happen to fall and lay upon my coat now and than.
  It was near 1:30pm when I decided to drive back up creek towards camp. Aside the road I decided to warm up a bit and listen to the Pen’s game on the radio. I woke up a bit later and munched on crackers and cheese till the end of the second period. The sun was out and the snow flakes just about quit…..until I was about 40 yards from my van down stream.

I noticed a few risers in the riffling water as it entered the calmer larger pool. I tied on a bit of 6X tippet and knotted on a CDC BWO. Casting out towards the risers I was befuddled by the lack of visual contact of my dry. The white snow on the hillside, beyond the road, mirrored it’s brightness upon the water that even my polarized shades couldn’t diffract. I tried playing vicinity, guessing were my fly was, but failed to connect 98% of the time. The one time I guessed right on the rise was my biggest brown of the day and on a dry fly at that!!!
  I crossed over to the road side to possibly cut down on the glare but the snowy bank, on the far side, yielded no relief. Getting frustrated I made my way to the road and hurriedly walked down the road where there was a good BWO hatch the day before. That pool was shaded more and also wasn’t as turbulent so seeing a #20 and #18 BWO imitation should be much easier.

  When I arrived at the pool another fellow was wading and fishing the near bank exactly where most of the trout were rising the day before. I crossed the creek in the shallows downstream and than took a position down creek from the guy on the opposite bank not impeding with his upstream casts. In a short time a few trout rose in the middle of the creek but it took my eyes awhile to adjust to the small winged imitation upon the water. After the guy left a few more fish rose but very few at that. Under the snowfall and changing of brightness under the moving cloud color I did manage a few more caught trout on my dry fly patterns. It wasn’t long after I got there that my back and body was feeling the effect of the heaviness of my water soaked coat from the absorption of the wet snowflakes. The air got colder as time went on and a light drizzle began. I had enough ‘fun’ for the day and waded out and walked back up to my camp-on-wheels.

While drinking a cold Labatt Blue I changed into dry clothe and put my gear away. I had planned to stay until Sunday afternoon but the weather didn’t appear to be much more promising. I have to admit the cold, snowy wet weather had gotten the best of me. Two days of wild trout fishing on Spring Creek had been moderately successful thus far so I decided to pass up the last day and head homeward.

When I reached the interstate I pulled out a Victor Sinclair Series ’55’ Cameroon. The darker outer leaf and the thought of a good Cameroon sounded pleasing. After the light up I tilted the Captain’s chair drivers seat back a bit, put down the armrests, and tilted the steering wheel down. With cruise control on and a fat Churchill in my mouth puffing away it was like guiding a cruise ship through calm water, with maybe a drizzle now and than as the sky darkened.



Saturday, March 9, 2013

Out of Towner's


Out of Towner’s

 Stepping into the thin layer of ice, along the bank-side, sounded like stepping onto an open bag of potato chips. The temps of the frigid water were immediately felt upon my calves and ankles. It wasn’t long before I felt the cold temp surrounding my feet. I pulled line off the reel and cast forward not thinking about the obvious.

 So, these guys from Erie wanted to do some trout fishing. It’s early March and the temps this way have been below freezing with snow still laying about on the shady sides of knolls. The weather man promised 40 degrees on Tuesday so someone suggested going down to Neshannock Creek in Volant and trout fish in the Delayed, artificial lure only section. 3 other guys responded and the plan was that they would meet me in the parking lot by the fly shop. When one of them said we’ll meet at 7:30am I had 3 immediate thoughts.

1. Its 16 degrees overnight and it’s not going to get much warmer at 7:30am
2. Because it is Tuesday there isn’t going to be many, if any, people gathered around the creek like it’s the Erie tributaries with an early morning run of fresh of steelhead.
3. These guys are crazy!

Though I live a little over an hour away I grew up fishing the Neshannock Creek even before the section in Volant became a project area. I felt obligated to be there to pass my info for these Erie out-of-towner’s. that night I had my gear packed at the back steps and set my clock for 5:17am.

The lighted flashing sign read 18 degrees as I traveled south down rte 66 towards the Interstate. After my, over an hour, drive I pulled into the gravel parking lot where the out-of-towner’s were already putting on their gear, breath was obvious with every word they spoke. The guys were anxious to knock the dust off their trout rods, evidently Erie guys get bored of steelhead fishing after a while. I slipped on a patch of ice as I exited my van but caught myself without falling. We stood around a bit talking before heading to the creek. Standing in the lot with the sound of the trout stream just over the bank became too much to ignore even under these conditions. There we lined up, with plenty of room between us, along a straight stretch and looked the water over before entering.

 Slush ice moved upon the flat water current like a bunch of plasma cells under a microscope. It was going to take accurate casts to get the streamer between the floating slush and then there is the likelihood of more slush hitting the fly line causing the fly to rise and drag. Other than that, the slightly green tint of the cold running trout stream was too inviting not to give it an early go.
  It wasn’t long before the conditions got the best of us. Fly lines, leaders and rod guides soon started to freeze up. Trying to cast the ice glazed fly line was like trying to throw a semi-stiff rope. Slush was hampering the drifts as our fingers stiffen within the coldness. After 10 minutes I looked up creek and the guys were on the bank discussing the matter, I walked up and joined them.
  In about an hour the sun split the cloud cover and started to rise above the tree tops. By then we were back in the water drifting nymphs as the plasma started to thin. As the sun hit the water in spots the trout seemed to ‘wake up’ and soon after that indicators dropped below the surface. Fly rods flexed downward with tight lines and frisky trout splashed upon the surface. Smiles began to appear on our cold faces and an occasional ‘Got One’ was heard among us. Along with the sunshine a few more fishermen appeared in the water along with fluttering stoneflies.
 By noon the 4 Erie guys decided to drive down to the end of the project area and give that section a whirl. I was pretty much alone now and decided to put on a streamer. Kevin showed up along the bank and in time got his gear on and joined me. Within the next 45 minutes the Triple Threat hooked 4 and missed just as many.
 The other guys returned a while later and we fished till about 3:30 as one of them had to return to Erie for work. It turned out to be a good trout fishing day with friends and to get us pumped for the spring season.

  After stopping at the nearby winery I met up with Kevin at Primanti Brothers for a lamb Gyro. After my departure, heading north on I79, I reached into my traveling humidor and pulled out the glass tube. From inside I slipped out the Fort Knox Centenario Aristocrat by Cuesta-Rey. The tightly wrapped cigar burned slow and smooth for the rest of the drive home within the confines of my warm van.