Better Late than Never
I hadn’t got to Potter County as I usually do in May. I had a feeling I missed a bunch of good hatches during that time. I figured it would be a little more of a challenge dry fly fishing in June, but as they say, “Better Late than Never!”
There’s something about being a couple hundred miles from home on a mountain stream that I can relax. No phone, no calamity, no fuss, just doing what I love to do. Though I hope everything is safe back at the home front, it is here I am at peace.
This morning I select my 7’ 6” Powell rod for the small creek fishing early on. The overcast sky doesn’t promise anything better as the day will wear on, but it doesn’t matter at this point. In my rain coat and top hat I’m embarking in what I came here for.
Sporadically a couple of trout slap at the surface while I see others sip. There is nothing apparent I can see flying about or on the water. I got here late Friday evening and instead of fishing I took the time to check out both Kettle Creek and Cross Fork Creek for any hatches. There was a major Black Caddis hatch with a few tiny sulphurs and light Cahills mixed in. This morning I decide to use a Grannom pattern I use back home. It is a size smaller than the big caddis I seen yesterday but just maybe.
Without much room to back-cast I keep my line hand out from my stomach as I raise the rod upward to cast. This creates less line out on my back cast. As I cast forward, with the flow of the creek, I let excess line slide through the guides. After my last back cast I swing the rod tip behind me and sharply forward pointing the rod tip to where I want the fly to go. The caddis imitation falls short of its mark but I let it drift out of the trout’s eye sight before a recast. I false cast once and let a little more line out. With the same motion the caddis drops a little bit further upstream and I watch it drift within the trout’s zone while bringing in slack line with my left hand. I see the flash of a trout towards my imitation as it rises for it after it had passed him. He snaps at it and the calm water becomes a battlefield after I set the hook.
The water is now turbulent with life with swirls of water and a small wake follows the path of an exuberant trout. The fly line cuts through the water as if trying to keep up as the fly rod flexes towards the commotion.
I turn the trout and draw in line as he gets closer. The trout rises out of the water with twists and turns in excitement. Its body shimmers in wetness and its maroon lateral line looks like a streak of lightning against its silvery sides. He reenters the water with a splash, creating a new sound in the morning calmness. The trout sweeps in a semi-circle away from me and swims upstream. The action below causes riffles upon the surface as he heads towards the far bank. I let him fight the rod resistance and give him some line. He then turns towards me with tugging pulls. I land my first trout of the day in the morning quietness of my forest surroundings.
With the commotion caused by the fight I now concentrate on the few fish sipping upstream to let the water settle.
After a few casts up creek I find the sippers aren’t interested in my dry fly. Being that they are sipping I decide to knot on a smaller imitation. I look on my wool fly patch and see a small neatly tied Dark Cahill.
My sidearm cast is smooth and arcs outward. Swinging the rod tip up creek I stop it abruptly and watch the fly line loop parallel to the water carrying the fly in tow. Just before my Cahill gets to the end of its flight, and wants to fall, I move the rod tip slightly towards my side of the creek bank. This lets the fly drop upon the surface with the tippet falling to the left side of my dry before arcing towards me. This way the fly, up creek, drifts towards me over the fish strike zone without the tippet directly above the trout. The plan works as a trout rises to take my Dark Cahill. It is a frisky small trout and it doesn’t take long to bring him to hand.
I fished Kettle before in June when the water was in this condition. Mostly terrestrials like ants and beetles were the choice of the pickiest trout. I’d just have to wait and see.
I finally come across the section I want to take some time to fish. The flat water pool iss deep and I am sure trout would be lurking about out of the shallows from under the warmth of the noon day sun. I study the water and watch a few downed leafs drift atop the slow current. Out to my left a long log lay beneath the surface with tangled branches hidden deeper below. Behind this, way back towards the opposite bank, a lone trout rises and sucks unseen midges on the surface. I spend some time casting into the long stretch of the slow current pool without any success. I decide to move up creek to the shallower water that ripples along the far bank.
Slowly I walk along the sandy stoned bank watching for any surface interruptions. The rising sun is finding its way through the forest and the rippling water glistens with brightness where the rays of sun filters through. I knot on a Light Cahill Para-dun and work it along the stretch of riffles. I was sure there would be a hungry trout somewhere who was unaware of my presence and would take the chance of a mid morning meal drifting by. It takes some time but when the quickness of a rising trout takes my drifting Cahill my reaction time is automatic in the hook set and soon I am bringing a small energetic trout towards me. He isn’t much but a pretty trout at that.
In the couple feet of water I see a nice size trout nosing the bottom. It’s pushing small pebbles about looking for food. It’s in no hurry and apparently not disturbed by my presence. I slowly, with the least amount of movement, reel in line. I spot another decent size trout following the first in the same manner. When my dry fly is just beyond them I flip it upward and back not wanting to disturb the water above them.
I grab the leader and tippet and put the fly rod under my arm pit. As if I am a ghost, invisible to the trout, I begin to exchange the dry fly for a nymph in conscious unhurried movement not to spook the feeding trout. I knot on a small Hare’s Ear Flash Back to the 6x tippet. Taking the fly rod, from under my arm, I pull the leader out the length of my rod. One trout if directly in front of me about 15 feet as the other is a foot or so upstream. They are suspended just above the creek bed as if relaxing after a meal or watching for the next food morsel to drift be. With a slow back-cast and a forward snap of my wrist forward I let the nymph, line and leader, fall upstream from the two. I keep the rod shaft and tip horizontal with the water with my right hand. I use my left hand and try to guide the nymph towards the trout by manipulating the line in the slow current towards the bank.
On the first cast the nymph drops to the bottom sooner than I expect and too far out from the trout. I bring the rod tip up and let the nymph pass them before my next upstream cast. The second and third cast I’m able to get the nymph closer to them and getting to read the underwater current flow. I am pretty sure my 4th drift through should put it nearer to them. As I’m preparing my next cast the trout start to nose the bottom again.
As the Hare’s Ear drifts near the bottom I drop the rod tip and watch the nymph touch bottom, roll and stop upon the pebbled creek bed. The closest trout is nosing the bottom nearing my offering. Within sight I gently twitch the rod tip upward. The nymph rises off the pebbles slightly, falls, rolls and rests upon the pebbles. This catches the attention of the feeding trout. He takes his time drawing nearer to my nymph. His nose…..
It’s June. Somewhere there’s someone on an airplane talking about their fishing excursion in Alaska. Somewhere someone is bringing up their bad experience fishing the flats off of Nassau Island. I’m sure someone out there is throwing Cleo’s to fish off Presque Isle in Lake Erie… In my world right now….
He noses the nymph and as soon as I see it disappear I raise the rod with authority. The rod tip dips, the line pulls and I feel the strength of the trout rushing up creek through the tensioned line between my fingers. The Medium action G2 flexes and arcs with the escaping trout as it takes line off the spool. It turns in an instant, towards the far wall, and darts with shooting speed. I angle the rod, opposite his path, trying to slow him down. He reaches his limit and than scurries down creek into the deepness of the pool. I take in some line and keep tension between my fingers as the rod bounces with his underwater antics. We wrestle, for what seems like eternity, until he finally weakens under the pressure. I reel him nearer and I have a feeling I caught my biggest trout for the day.
After I released the fine brown I reel in and take a few seconds to capture the moment. I feel my body absorbing the noon day sun. I feel a cool breeze across my bare skin. I feel the peacefulness being a part of nature. I reach into my shirt pocket and feel a fine rolled cigar at my finger tips.
The rest of the day I don’t remember much. It’s always that way when I catch the big one. I’ll remember the details of that catch but not much detail afterwards. I know I continued on with dry flies casting about. I did catch a few more. I remember smoking a few more stogies out in the wilds and remember not coming across another fisherman as far back from civilization where I was. Afterwards I remember eating at the small restaurant in Cross Forks in the evening and talking to a fellow who remembered me from a years ago. He told me how the hatch in May was great and the many fish he caught on dries. I remember drinking a beer where I had parked for the night and smoking my last stogie of the day.
As I rest upon my sleeping bag, in the warm June evening, under the star lit night, I think about my big catch earlier in the day. I think about how I was late this year for the great hatches. I was glad I made up my mind to come up this way in June anyhow. The peacefulness, the quietness is always worth it. As they say “better late than never!”