Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Spring in February

Spring in February
Weekend of 2/22/14

It’s been a harsh winter in Pennsylvania. An abundance of snow and freezing weather kept the back roads impassable and the creeks and rivers frozen over here in the northwestern part of the state. I got a lot of tying done but hadn’t wet a line since some time in December. I heard that Spring Creek had open water in central PA. Over the past weekend there was a break in the weather with warmer temps and even sunshine. I loaded up the van and headed to Spring Creek for the weekend.

Arriving Friday evening I had a couple of hours of daylight so I grabbed the readied Powel fly rod to loosen up the casting shoulder and test the waters. The creek was flowing in about perfect condition as far as I was concerned. There was enough color to not be able to see the creek bed except along the shallows, but clear enough that a passing nymph should be noticed by any nearby trout.
  Snow covered the banks of the creek and it was nice to see no floating ice upon the water. Though the sun was out, the dampness and coldness of the ground snow, kept a chill in the air. I dressed warm, and with my neoprene chest waders on, I was pretty sure the cold breeze wouldn’t penetrate through my covered body. There was no need for gloves which made it nice.
 I crunched through the snow and was careful walking down to the water from the slight drop from the roadway to the creek. With an Oliva Master Blend Cigar gracing my lips, my pleasant quiet surroundings, wild trout waters and casting a fly rod put a genuine smile on my face.
  It didn’t take long to experience the expected. Not fishing for awhile I got my tippet/leader tangled up often casting the tandem nymph combination. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth just snipping the mess off and starting over or taking the time to untangle the mess. I was pretty relaxed and not in a hurry so I took my time, on each occasion, to untangle mating nymphs with the teardrop indicator. Then there was getting used to knowing my limitations of casting mobility. I had to get my sixth sense back. Knowing how far I can back-cast due to obstacles behind me without looking back with each cast. Knowing when I needed to sidearm cast to get my presentation under the overhanging branches. And taking time to ’feel’ the rod and cutting the breeze to get my offering near enough to my designated target on the first cast. Reading the current correctly to know when and in which direction to mend when needed. It took some time to get the feel, and a little frustration with hang ups, but it did come back to me and it all felt good.
  By the time the light faded I had only brought 1 small brown trout to the net. I had two others on but lost them and rolled at least one I got to see. I was a bit frustrated that I only netted the one but I got an inkling what nymphs might work for tomorrow and what to expect as far as water conditions.
  Supper was just a half of a sub sandwich, a small bag of chips and a 16oz can of domestic beer. There isn’t much to do in my van once darkness arrives but I took the time to add some of my new ties to my existing fly boxes and organize my vest, knowing which pockets everything was from last year. Once I got it toasty inside I crawled underneath the sleeping back, added an extra cover blanket and closed my eyes hoping for a better tomorrow.
Brrr… There was a chill in the morning. I opened my eyes and there was frost on the windshield. The sun was already on the rise but I wasn’t in any hurry to fish in freezing temperatures. While the van warmed up I made myself a cup of hot tea and started breakfast of a few sausage links and a biscuit. (I forgot the eggs!) After that I put on my fishing wear and strung up my Scott SAS 5 weight. It was a bit windy and I felt the stiffer medium fast action rod will do me well for the day. I put a bottle of water in my back pouch and took a couple cigars to last a bit. I figured I’d fish an hour and once it warms up a bit more return to drop off some clothes being that it was to maybe get to 50 degrees by this afternoon.
  I started fishing where I started the evening before. Usually I’m able to pull something out of the narrow stretch but failed to before I got to the bridge. I took my time nymphing down stream, casting into pocket waters and seams, along the way. I don’t have much patience to stand in one place very long and nymph fish. I’m usually a streamer guy when there are no bugs on the water. I’m used to covering a lot of water and keep on moving. Nymph fishing takes more patience and prayers as far as I am concerned. Not ever catching a trout in Spring Creek on a streamer and because of the colder conditions I decided to resort to nymphing!
  After an hour things were warming up but it wasn’t the fly rod. I only caught one trout and had to add ’the big one got away’ to my short list. I returned to the van and discarded my fleece pullover. I filled my water bottle and grabbed a few more cigars. I wasn’t sure when I would return but I planned on making it down stream quite a ways.
 From my vest pocket I took out a Punch cigar as I stood before the tumbling water that flowed over and between visible rock formations. The flame, of the Zippo lighter, wavered with the swirling breeze as I concentrated on lighting the barrel of the Churchill. Puffs of smoke circled within my cupped palm before being whisked away by a gust of wind. Once lit, I put the lighter into my wader chest pocket as the sweet natural outer tobacco leaf sensed my lips. I looked the water over directly, picked out a slower seam in between the rougher water and dropped the indicator into the oncoming flow. A subtle mend put my offering downstream and away from my indicator and I followed the drift with my rod tip horizontal with the surface. As the drift got nearer to the tail-out a shift in the indicator gave me the warning. A quick lift and hook set and the line tightened and rod flexed downward. The trout pulled with a good jerk and than swam towards the far side with hesitating tugs. I let some line slip through my fingers until he turned upstream. There he glided into the current with tensioned line. As I moved the rod upstream and back to my left he grudgingly followed with resistance. Circling, he darted down creek with the current back into the tail-out. I kept the rod tip horizontal with the surface water not wanting him to come to the surface fearing the oncoming current would put excessive strain on the #16 hook that might just have just pierced his lip. With my left hand I pulled out my net and let it dangle from my belt. A little maneuvering of the rod I got the wild brown nearer enough and scooped him up into the net.

 Within minutes of the release I caught another before moving on down stream.
 I waded down for some time without a strike before making a stand in a deeper flow. I added a little more weight to my leader and concentrated drifting the tandem rig through the deep current flow. This time the line pulled outward with a sweeping take. The smaller brown jerked profusely while I brought him to hand.
 I continued to drift the nymphs in the same general area. Next hook up the indicator dipped beneath and I raised the rod. A heavy trout turned down creek as the rod bent in an arc. I knew I had on a big one and I let him swim down creek with the drag tension. Line slowly peeled off the spool as I palmed the reel not wanting him to get too comfortable with his escape. He took line down creek and it was if there was no stopping him. I tried to turn him but the force was more than what I expected and for some unexplained reason the line went limp. After bringing in the limp line I discovered the 5x tippet snapped somewhere between the San Juan worm and the lost Hares Ear. The big one got away. I stood there frustrated for a second or two. I puffed on the Churchill before tying on another.
  I waded and fished my way further down creek and was rewarded now and then with hook ups. The flies I have selected appeared to be the right combination for what the trout were interested in. I missed a few hook ups, lost a few trying to bring them in in the current but was happily satisfied with the ones I did bring to the net.

T he sun shined brightly and the catching slowed down some as I continued on. I spooked a few trout in the shallows as I waded the middle of the creek. I was just around the bend, in a slow wide section of the creek, when I looked behind me against the bank nearer the trail. A narrow stream of current waved into, what looked like a deeper hole, beneath an overhanging bush. The water shallowed quickly after the bush and than tumbled over the very shallow stony riffles that extended across the creek. I’ve been getting some of my hook ups in tail-outs and thought, just maybe, a trout might be sunning himself in the shallower tail out. Turning towards the bank I looped the line, indicator and offerings towards the bank. The indicator landed up stream from the bush with my offerings plopping nearer to the bank. A slight mend gave me a good drift and I watched as the indicator rolled with the wavy current. The indicator started to drift outward after passing the bush with the shift in the current. I swear I felt the strike before the indicator gave me an indication of the strike. I reared back and a trout came to the surface with a tight line and flexed rod. The fish hassled with the tight line on the surface and, fear the current push was too much, I brought the rod tip to the surface water and tried to get the fish to fight beneath the surface. He did just that and I was able to guide him to the deeper water midstream. There he wrestled with line and leader trying to unhook himself from the bottom nymph. After a few more tugs he took off toward the open waters and swam up creek to my right. I continued to play the lively brown trout until I successfully got him within netting distance. A fine brown trout was not going to escape this time.

 After that fish I was pretty far down stream. I came across a couple of other anglers and waded to the bank behind them. Within a half hour I reached my furthest destination and decided to walk the road back to the van.

  At the van I took off my coat and vest and let the cold breeze cool my overheated body. It was nearing 3:30pm. I ate the rest of the sub and a couple of pieces of venison jerky. After resting a while I was recharged and ready to continue till dark. First and foremost a good cigar was in order. There was a hefty looking dark Antano Corojo cigar in my traveling humidor. The dark wrapper and fat ring size looked intimidating but I was ready for this one. Upon the light up a dark smoky cloud rose up from the end of the barrel. The taste of the inner tobacco was bold and flavorful. I held the big stogie between my teeth, grabbed my fly rod and headed back to the creek!

I fished my way back to where I missed the big fish. I didn’t hook up with him again but did manage a nice wide tailed brown that put up a good spirited fight.

 This time when I got back to the van it was 6:45pm. I was pretty much whipped. I changed clothes, while quenching my thirst with a 16 ounce, and was more in wanting a nap than eating.

 Now many of my friends always questioned me of why I didn’t buy a truck instead of my van. They would tell me about how it is more durable and useful. How I can sleep in it just like my van. I simply would say to them that I don’t have to take the time and blow up an air mattress or reorganize things every time I want to go to sleep. If it rains or snows I don’t have to go outside, from the driver’s seat, get wet to get to my bed. If it gets cold at night I only have to start the engine to warm the insides. I don’t have to bring along a heater. Everything I need is in the confines of my van within reach and don’t need to go outside unless absolutely necessary in bad weather. The conversation usually ends after my reply.

  With the van warmed by now, I shut off the engine and crawled under my sleeping bag on the reclining back cushioned bench seat.
I’m not sure if it was that my ears got cold or the sounds my belly was making that woke me up. Anyhow, I slept longer than I expected and woke up around 9:45pm with my stomach growling at me. While the heater warmed the inside of the van I took out my single burner Coleman stove and prepared supper. Nothing like hot chicken and biscuits after a long day of fishing. Oh, and a good lager before turning in for the night!

 I only spent a half a day on Sunday fishing the same area. The brisk morning felt a bit chillier than the day before but I didn’t mind nor did the ducks.

 Clouds overshadowed the sun briefly now and than but it were just as peaceful as the days before. I ended catching a couple of nice wild browns that ended this weekend in good spirits.

 Another Punch Churchill was my rewarding smoke for the long drive home. A break in the cold weather well taking advantage of!!


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