Thursday, May 16, 2013

Red Eyes on Tionesta Creek

Red Eyes on Tionesta Creek
  Looking out the French door glass it looked like a beautiful morning. The sun was shining in the blue, white clouded, sky and the white blossoms on the apple tree were in full bloom. I stepped outside, in my ‘T’ shirt, to put waders in the van and instantly felt the cold morning air over my entire body. What appeared to be a warm morning from the inside turned out to be a chilly morning on the outside. I hurried back inside and decided to tie a half dozen or so fresh buggers and let the morning warm up some.

  It was close to 10am on this sunny morning when I arrived and parked at an empty campsite along Tionesta Creek. It was Mothers Day and the previous rain, the past few days, left campers to a minimum. In fact I didn’t see a camper or even a fisherman along Blue Jay Creek or along route 666. I dressed warm as the morning still had bit of a chill about it. The sun was coming up over the mountain and I was hoping it would bring good cheer.
 The Tionesta was flowing with a light brownish tint but was clear enough to see submerged rocks and boulders in the distance with polarized lenses. The wind was a bit harsh on the way over so I decided on my SAS medium-fast action Scott rod with WF5F line.
  Out on the creek the wind brought a colder chill that I didn’t expect. Within a short time sun gradually faded and put a dirty looking cast over the already tinted water. I decided to not venture too far from the van being that I wasn’t sure how the weather was going to develop. Within a half hour rain clouds moved over the tree tops and rain began to fall. My hands were getting wet and the cold wind just made them feel colder. I think the water was now warmer than the wind chill factor. I waded out to the van for warmer clothes and my rain coat.
  I bundled up adding a fleece pullover over top of my heavy weight Duo-Fold and polypropylene turtle neck. I donned my insulated Gortex Jones Cap and put on my Gortex raincoat. I lit a cigar, in the van away from the wind, before returning to the creek.
In the period of the next three hours I fished within Pennsylvania’s four seasons of the outdoor elements. First the sun shown down upon me like a happy summers day. Than, within minutes, the sky darkened and a light spring shower sprinkled rain drops upon the water and the spring like landscape. Soon after that a wintry hail storm developed. Hardened drops of falling rain dotted the water surface and bounced off my Gortex Raincoat sleeves. Intermittingly the wind gusts were sever enough, like an Autumn wind storm, blowing down loose tree branches and tree blossoms that covered the water surface.
  Trying to cast a weighted bugger into the sudden gusty crosswind was like trying to throw a cheap Styrofoam boom-a-rang. I had no idea where it would land and sometimes it returned towards me that I had to dodge the oncoming object. At times the water rippled with these gusts like small waves in a no wake zone after a boat had gone by.
  Within this continuous 3 hour sequence of abnormal weather conditions I landed one brook trout, missed two strikes and caught two drifting branches. I also had one rainbow, that jumping out of the water and feeling the extreme weather in my world, returned into the water and released itself into its calmer conditions below.
  When the rain started to fall sideways, from the strong wind, I turned my back towards it. It wasn’t long after that that I gave up and headed to the van. At the van for some reason I decided not to take off my waders or break down my rod. For some reason I thought, maybe, just maybe the rain and wind would subside and the sun would shine the rest of the afternoon. It was nearing 3:00pm by now and I wasn’t ready to quit.
  Driving up route 666 the sky did clear up and sure enough the sun shown reflecting its rays off a big cumulus cloud that blossomed over the tree tops. The wind died down some and the wavy water glistened with a pleasant welcome

I couldn’t resist. I parked along the road at a likely area, got my raincoat on and grabbed the SAS. Since I was still unsure how long this weather would hold out I left my camera in the van. I lit up a VS Bohemian Churchill and headed out into the water.
 Once I got almost mid stream I caught a rainbow stripping in a bugger. Thinking maybe I hit a hot spot I returned to the van and grabbed my camera. Returning to the water I started upstream a bit, in the shin deep riffles, and fished my way to the mid deeper section.
  About three quarters of the way across stream the riffling section widened out towards the far bank almost like a cove. The water here deepened and the current was much slower. A couple of weeks ago I caught a couple of brook trout slowly fishing it with a drifting bugger so I figured I’d give it another try.
  I cast upstream into the shallow riffles that emptied into the deeper pool of water. After a short mend, I kept my rod tip up, as if I was nymph fishing. The bugger didn’t go more than a couple of feet when the hook stuck and the fly line began to flow downstream of the bugger. I lifted the rod tip up quickly in hopes of avoiding a snag. When the line tightened and the ‘snag’ began to move downstream I knew I had a fish on. The fish swam into the deeper pool with a forceful tug. At first I thought that maybe it was a brown trout being it was staying deep and not fighting with the friskiness of a rainbow. I struggled with the fish as he used its weight and energy trying to keep its distance from me. Down stream, in the pool, I got it turned towards me and coming in my direction reluctantly. There were two submerged boulder, about three feet apart, in front of me the appeared to be the beginning of the drop off into the slow deep pool. The fish rose towards the surface and than I thought maybe a big brook trout from what I was able to see of it being shorter in length but with good girth. The color just wasn’t right as I looked on from a distance as I struggled with the fish. I got him around the first boulder and within better sight. As I was trying to get him between the two boulders he shot up creek and I could picture my leader rubbing on the second boulder and possibly snapping being I was only using 5x tippet. I raised the rod and the fish turned suddenly and it appeared the leader may have dragged the boulder. The line went limp; the fish splashed the surface water and disappeared. I quickly brought in the line and was surprised that my bugger was still on the other end. I didn’t see any marring on my leader or tippet. Hmm, I was beginning to think this wasn’t a trout at all.
  I let out line and roll cast into the center of the big pool a couple of times before deciding to shoot the line across creek. I heaved the line off the water and single hauled a cast that put the bugger cross creek where I could see the discoloration where the sandy shallows met with the darker deeper water. The bugger plopped into the water and I watched the fly line lay atop the surface waiting for the slow current to start the drift. Within seconds the line slowly pulled away and the fly line tip started to dip. I raised the rod tip for the hook set and felt the heavyweight on the other end. When he took off down below I gave a quick wrist jerk to make sure I had a good hook set before I let him take line. I had the drag set light for trout but this big boy was too strong for that. I tightened the drag some as the fish continued to take line off the spool. By the way it was pulling I thought maybe a big sucker but as I tightened my fingers for more pressure on the fly line, I felt him headshaking trying to release the hook just before he turned my way. My right hand tried to hold the rod steady but he had the power and force to continue to flex the rod towards him. We struggled a bit in the deep water until I felt he was tiring. I started to reel him in with caution but gave him a little line when the struggle got to strenuous. When I got him between the boulders and me I could see his red eyes and yellowish olive scales. He turned and shown me his opened round mouth than rose above the water and belly flopped right before my eyes. Without a net I struggled to get him turned around and finally lipped him out of the water. My biggest Tionesta smallmouth was now within my grasp.

 After releasing the big boy I continued to work over the pool from a distance. It wasn’t long before I felt another grab as I was stripping the bugger towards me. Another battle yielded another red eye.

  After two smaller red eyes I cast down creek at the end of the deeper pool and let the bugger drift some before stripping it in. I didn’t have to strip it very far before I felt the swipe and set the hook. The fish immediately went skyward showing me his lateral line. After a good lively battle I finally got a rainbow back in my hands.

  The wind started to pick up again and my belly started to growl for food as the rest of my cold body was wanting some warmth. I stuck it out a little bit longer and was rewarded with another red eye that put up a real good battle before I brought him to hand.

 With a smile on my face I waded out of the water and walked up to my van. I changed clothes and headed to the Kelly for wings and a cold Killians Irish Red draft…or two.
 What started out as a trout expedition in the most inclement weather conditions I ever experienced trout fishing, turned into a good ‘red eye’ fishing experience. Something I didn’t expect this early in the season. I have a new used 6 weight fiberglass rod I’ve wanted to try out for bass. Maybe I’ll have to return soon, in better conditions of course!!!



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Quiet Brookie Stream


Quiet Brookie Stream
Every once in a while I get an urge to fish my fiberglass rod. Overcast cloudy day, quiet brookie stream, why not?

  After an unsuccessful early morning turkey hunt I parked along a quiet trout stream and took a short nap. I was getting my gear on, after my nap, and a vehicle pulled up behind me and three guys got out of their vehicle dressed in posh outerwear from head to wading boot. They grabbed their modern 9 foot graphite fly rods and headed to the water. I put on my old faded fedora with the Harley hat band and donned my well worn fishing vest. I assembled my two piece Wonderod fiberglass fly rod and discovered I forgot my Martin Classic fly reel. I mounted on an England made Orvis Battenkill with DT5F doubletaper line and grabbed a few stogies. (Next to these guys I probably looked like an out of date bum without much skill.) At the van I watched as the three fished the deep hole. It wasn’t long before they started to fish their way down creek. I walked down to the water and looked over the situation.

The overnight storm put some color in the water and it was running at a good depth, better than usual. I knotted on a Woolly Bugger and twisted a lead strip a foot and a half above the bugger on my 5X tippet. I took my time, to put some distance between me and the three amigos, and lit a 10th Aniversario Sinclair Robusto.
As the three disappeared around the bend I started to wade fish my way down creek. Standing in the middle of the creek I’d toss the bugger near the banks and let it drift through. In a section of shin deep water I made long down and across casts. I wasn’t sure how deep my dark bugger was getting so I switched to a yellow body, white marabou for more visibility. After a couple of casts it appeared to be sinking a few inches below the surface deep enough under the wavy current. I made a long cast down creek shy of the bank and let the bugger drift towards mid creek below me. I slowly stripped in the bugger with short methodical strips and not to my surprise a weighty pull was felt on the end of my line. I reared back and the fiberglass bowed into the midsection. As the trout darted and fought about in the shallow undercurrent the Wonderod flexed and rebounded as if keeping tempo of the dancing brook trout. Nearer to me I was surprised to see the silvery yellow spotted brook trout was much bigger than I expected.

 After the release I stuck with the yellow bugger and consciously fished my way down creek. I caught one more brook trout before I came upon the three amigos fishing in a deep long pool of water where dead falls laid and extended over the bank. The far side was a sloped bank that deepened quite quickly. Pine limbs overhung from the far bank trees making an over hand cast pretty difficult. They were doing their best with their long rods but I didn’t hear any excitement as if they were catching fish. I fished before them in the deep riffles of the mouth. I seen the flash of a trout as it swept after my bugger but it didn’t grab it hard enough for me to set the hook. I teased it some more but couldn’t get it to take. It wasn’t very long before the three gave up. In conversation I had told them I caught two brook trout on the way down and they asked me what I was using. I told them a popcorn Woolly Bugger, yellow chenille body and white marabou tale. (Sometimes I make up my own names for my flies!)

 After they left I had the deeper stretch of water to myself. Two brook trout fell for my popcorn bugger and I was only able to bring one to hand. I also caught another on a triple threat. After an hour there I decided to make my way down creek a little further.
  I passed a good hour away down creek without a strike before returning to the deep section I fished earlier. Without any strikes on a few casts of streamers, as a last resort, I elected to nymph fish. I knotted on one of my trusty Latex Caddis.
  With a loop cast, of my Wonderod, the caddis larva imitation plopped up creek. With a mend up creek I let the caddis drop deeper as the fly line flowed behind. I kept a good eye on the tip of my fly line watching for any drop or slight pull. Just in front of me my fly line dipped downward and I lifted to the hook set. The line tightened as the rod tip arced downward and soon the fiberglass rod was flexing with action. The trout rose with a flash and turned down creek with reckless abandon. I held the porous cork handle tightly in my grasp and felt every jerk and sudden movement of the battling trout. I got the brook trout near and the fiberglass rod arced deep as the trout flopped on the water surface before me.
 I continued to nymph fish in the same manner and was rewarded occasionally with a good quick skirmish of a hooked brook trout. After the last puffs of a Triple Corojo cigar I called it quits. I penetrated the point of the hook into the cork handle and made my way to the bank. Following the trail, between trees and brush, I made my way back to the van.

It was near 3:00pm. I had a commitment and had to get back home. I took my time though, enjoying a cold Grolsch, as I changed into street cloth. I drove up the windy road till I got to route 66. There I turned right and headed south whistling to a country song on the radio. What more could a trout bum ask for?



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Frisky Rainbows


Frisky Rainbows
There’s nothing like the experience of fighting trout in a fast current flow. When it’s a frisky rainbow, with acrobatic ability, it amounts to enjoyable fun.

 I had to work Saturday till noon. Every once in awhile a customer would come in and comment how nice it was outside, how sunshiny and beautiful. Every time I heard this, in the front of my mind I conjured up caddis fluttering about on Tionesta Creek and trout rising. I should have been turkey hunting in the early morn and be in the creek by now casting to trout.

I had everything ready to go fishing except to pack a cooler. When I got home I changed into fishing underclothes and packed the cooler. I ate a quick lunch, put my gear in the van, and headed north. The sun was shining and it was almost T-shirt weather outside. Driving by the Kelly Hotel and Bar I seen my friends Harley and stopped in just long enough to drop off some parts he had ordered. I didn’t even sit for a beer; I had trout fishing on my mind as if it was a scheduled event I just couldn’t miss.

 I was in the mood for big water fishing and already decided on fishing Tionesta Creek. The state just stocked the smaller National Forest creeks and I was hoping that would put less pressure on the Tionesta. I knew there would still be plenty of fishermen about with the warmer weather and figured a few that were coming in from turkey hunting would also hit the streams.

  I turned left on Blue Jay road and passed parked vehicles and fisher people along my way. As I crossed Lynch Bridge both sides of the creek were plenty of fishermen. I turned right onto route 666 and figured I’d just take my time and hoped to find somewhere not so crowded along the way. Again I passed vehicles pulled to the side and fisher people in waist high water casting lines. I came around a bend and started down the grade and was surprised to see only one truck at the streamside camp sight. I pulled into the next empty parking place and noticed no one was fishing one of my favorite fishing areas. It appeared I was going to have the whole area to myself for the time being.
  I put on my waist high waders and fitted my two piece SAS Scott rod together. I attached my Allen large arbor reel with WF5F line. I made sure I had plenty of cigars, put on my vest and was ready to hit the stream. I knotted on a Woolly Bugger and added a lead strip. I slowly waded my way towards the spot I wanted to make my stand. In the shallows I practiced making long casts to get a feel for rod and line. When I got to where I wanted to be in the over-the-knee water I lit up a Victor Sinclair Primeros.

 My first cast was long across creek and I mended upstream to let the bugger drop some before the current started to sweep my fly line down creek. Wham! The line pulled sharply narrowing the arc and I swung the rod back while pulling on the fly line to set the hook. The rainbow was frisky as it erratically fought within the fast wavy current. It zipped out and away before turning down creek with the undercurrent. The rod tip pointed towards the rainbow as I let him have some line while getting a feel for his strength and measuring him up for how I wanted to play him in the fast current. The trout darted left and right shaking his head trying to shake the hook loose. There were no major obstacles to get in the way; I just had to keep the trout below the surface so as not to let him get pushed by the top surface current. It wasn’t long before I had my first rainbow to hand, a nice chunky one at that.

Within three casts I had another grab and within seconds of the hook set the rainbow skyrocketed out of the water at least 2 feet above the surface. His twisting air-born body was wiry and wild. He slapped down into the water with a cannonball splash. He took off down creek away with speed but with the pressure of the bending rod tip section he turned my direction and swept just below me. Playing him in the current got too strenuous on him and as his energy weakened I brought him to hand.
 After another caught rainbow I had a light strike when the bugger got to the end of the swing. I missed the hook set but mentally made note of the location. On my second cast outward I let the bugger swing into that same location. A couple of twitches of the rod tip were too much temptation and I set the hook as soon as I felt the strike. The fight wasn’t as aggressive or erratic as the previous rainbows but was still a good playful battle in the current. Closer I was able to see a nice brook trout hooked on the end of my line. A few casts later, in the general area, I caught another brookie.

 It was almost too easy within the first hour of fishing. I was having fun and forgot all about not getting out till about 2:30pm. With rainbows and brook trout already caught my challenge was now to catch a brown trout. It’s not like I had some secrete weapon to target browns but just the thought would be challenge enough.
 For the next couple of hours I concentrated swinging buggers in the general area with quite a few more caught. After a couple of other guys started to fish the same area I decided to head down creek.
  In a shallow riffle I fooled another rainbow and it ejected it’s self out of the water like it was shot out of a cannon. It shook it’s snout from the time it went air born till it slapped back into the water. Within seconds it bounced out of the water its full length as if rebounding from a trampoline. It looked evident he was pissed as if he was caught before and didn’t think he’d be fooled again.
  After that release I continued on down stream enjoying another stogie. I concentrated my placement of the bugger near partially exposed boulders in the foot or so of riffles or in slightly deeper pockets. From a good distant I dropped the bugger on the far side of a rippling run behind a boulder. The bugger drifted and I missed the first strike. I tried a couple more passes but he gave up on trying to grab it. I moved directly across from the run for a different approach. I cast out in other directions to give him time to relax. From the side I cast up into the run and let the bugger drift along the seam as if nymph fishing. The fly line arced forward as if it got caught on the creek bed, but I knew better. With a quick down creek tug I watched a trout come out, from under the wavy current, and dart down creek to get away. He jerked and maneuvered about as I kept him under control. Closer to me it took a couple of attempts before I got my fingers on the bugger and released it from his lips.

 The sun was dropping slowly below the tree line and cast shadows across half the width of the creek. I moved towards the sunny side and worked the bugger near a downed tree trunk without success. I then moved to the shaded side and cast towards the bank beneath the bank hugging pines. After a bit, without a strike, I decided I had enough for the day. I was hungry so I waded out of the water and hiked my way back to the van.

 At the Kelly Hotel I had a dozen wings, a few beers and watched the hockey game. After the game I traveled north again back towards Tionesta Creek. That night I pulled my van along rte 666 near Mayburg and went to sleep for the night anticipating a good fishing day for Sunday.