Sunday, March 23, 2014

Old Style Brookie Fishing

Old Style Brookie Fishing

 I fitted the ferrules together of the two piece Wonderod. I attached the old Martin Classic MC78 reel to the down locking seat and tightened the two locking rings. After threading the Cortland Sylk line through the small rod eyes I checked the leader and tippet for strength or abrasions. Seeing the leader/tippet was quite long for casting Woolly Buggers I trimmed a bit off to my desired length. I knotted on a white Woolly Bugger and added a little weight about a foot and a half up on the tippet. I grabbed an old baseball cap, a couple of cigars, vest and I was ready for some old school trout fishing.

The brook creek was running clear and cold. The water waved atop the surface as it flowed over rocks and around boulders. The flow banked off exposed tree trunks and rippled along the shallower pebbled sections. The sun filtered through the pine trees and glistened off the water. It was quiet, except for the soft sound of the flowing water, and a bit chilly but I was where I wanted to be, away from ‘it all.”

I lit up my first stogie and headed up creek to start my adventure. As I walked the bank I peered into the water to see if I could notice any brook trout holding near the bottom. When I got far enough I stepped off the bank and carefully stepped into the water not wanting to kick up much silt or dirt. With the clear water I knew my casts will have to be long, down and across so the trout won’t see me. I knew it would take a little time to get used to casting the soft action fiberglass rod so I took a few practice casts outward. I looked down creek, puffed on my cigar and began fishing the bugger down stream.
  It took awhile for my first strike. I was able to see my white Woolly Bugger as it swung from the far bank towards the middle of the creek. I let it waver there a bit and than twitched it now and than as I stripped it in slowly. I seen the light colored trout following it but wasn’t interested enough to grab it. My next cast I let it take the same course. I twitched it a bit more often as I stripped it in. Letting it ‘swim’ within my vision I saw the trout draw up and mouth it. I whipped the rod tip back with my wrist and the fiberglass rod arced downward. The lively brook trout scurried around in the shallow riffle splashing water about as he rose to the surface. I got him played toward the bank and admired his beautiful colors before letting it go.

 Continuing on I got better at casting the rod and was able to sidearm the bugger underneath pine boughs or drop the bugger, down creek, spot on near fallen deadwood. Most of the takes were light but the soft tip reacted with a twitch with each strike. Playing the trout was fun as the rod flexed with every jolt or dart that the brook trout took.
 I made my way, easy like, casting about as I slowly waded the creek. I changed weight often on the line due to the many water levels I was fishing in. At times, in slower current, I had no weight at all on and just let the bugger skirt just below the surface. In the shallower water I held the rod tip up but used enough weight, up from the bugger, so the bugger would waver just under the surface mid depth.
  Stripping the bugger through the shallower water towards me the rod flexed instantly downward and, out of natural reaction, my wrist jerked the rod up to set the hook. The brook trout scurried beneath the wavy riffles trying to loosen the hook. I waded towards the bank and coaxed him nearer me, the ’glass’ rod arcing effortlessly. Another fine colorful brook trout came to hand.

Coaxing a trout out from under a downed tree is always a challenge. It’s better to see your offering so you can read the current flow towards the hideaway. Positioning the rod at the right angle to let it drift into the trout sight without a hang up takes patience and usually a few tries to get it right. When you get it right you can see the trout dart out and take your offering and if the timing is right the line will tighten and a rewarding battle will result!

 As evening comes to a close I get to a section I’m sure I can pull my last trout out. With an overhand cast I shoot the bugger towards the far bank. It plops just before the steep far bank. As the bugger starts to swing I let more line out of the reel so the bugger drifts further down creek before it completes its arc. The drift takes the Woolly Bugger under the extending pine tree branches into the deeper hole. As it drifts towards the shallower waters, still under a long overhanging branch, a trout appears following my offering. One small twitch towards the bank and the trout maybe thinks the minnow like imitation is trying to get away. He darts quickly forward to eat it and with a backward rise of the rod I set the hook. The trout tries to scurry for cover into the deeper water beneath the limbs but the arc force of the ‘glass’ rod holds him back from going too far. He shoots down creek and I give him just enough line for a quick run to use up more of his energy. I move the rod towards the bank and he follows with quick, short, jerking tugs. My last brook trout comes to hand.

I change into street clothe and take the last puff of the Cohiba before pulling onto the roadway. The two hours spent on the brookie stream, old school style, was quite rewarding!!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Bugger Kind of Day

A Bugger Kind of Day

 We stood randomly spaced in a line like participants at a turkey shoot only we were knee deep in 39 degree water and our weapons were fly rods! 
 When I stepped out of the van, within sight of the creek, there was a guy already with a bent rod playing a trout. Nearer the shop door I saw three other fishermen testing their luck. The fly shop owner said fishermen did well catching trout yesterday on a variety of nymphs. After talking a bit and spending 30 some dollars I went back to the van to suit up. I noticed the creek water had dropped from the week before with just a tinch of color. Enough to hide the bottom but clear enough that the trout should be able to see stoneflies atop the surface should they hatch under the cloudy sky.

 So there I stood, with 4 other fly fishermen, casting nymphs and drifting them under an indicator. I was glad I put the extra fleece pull over on as it kept the chilling breeze from penetrating through my otherwise clothed body. The darken gray sky gave an uneasy feeling of rain. There was dampness in the air that might be a hint that a rain shower was coming our way or just the moisture in the air from the melting ice and saturated ground. A couple of gentlemen hooked up now and then within long intervals. Another fly fisherman showed up and positioned himself to my right. Within about 15 minutes he hooked up and continued occasionally for the next hour. I noticed that some of the fish, suckers and trout, were swimming sideways as he brought them in. He was using a tandem set up with at least 11 feet of leader/tippet under his indicator so I wasn’t too impressed.
  As the morning wore on I had seen 3 different rises to some unseen midges on the surface. I couldn’t resist and tried for them with a dry stonefly and an Adam midge without success. I went back to bottom dropping with a Picket Pin and a Hares Ear.
  I caught my first trout, a rainbow, on the Picket Pin. This got me thinking. The rainbows might start to be getting active as noon draws near. Taking the Picket Pin gives me the idea that they might not be just lying on the bottom or at least willing to rise for a passing meal below the surface. The rainbow I caught fought aggressively in the 39 degree water so they are quite active with a hook in their mouth. When the guy to my left decided to leave this gave me room to cast a Woolly Bugger and I didn’t think twice about giving it a try. On my third cast I felt a swipe. On my fifth cast I was playing a frisky rainbow towards me with a white bugger in its lip. He flipped out of the water three times, showing his size and acrobatic ability, before getting him to my net.

 The nymph fishermen kept nymphing, I kept with Woolly Buggers and the guy beside me brought a fish or two in sideways at times.
  Some of the strikes I got I could tell were short strikes. Others were swipes at the bugger as if to play with it like a cat swats at a wounded mouse. Occasionally I’d hook up and bring a trout in or lose it to an aggressive fight. During the third passing of a light shower it didn’t look as if it wasn’t going to stop. I waded out and went up to the van for a rain coat and a couple more cigars. I had a feeling, rain or not, the catching was only going to get better.

 Back on the water I started up from the big hole everyone had been fishing. I added a little more weight to the leader and worked the shallower riffles fishing my way down creek. A couple of kids showed up and filled the gaps between the other fishermen at the deeper hole even though it continued to sprinkle. I waded around them and continued casting buggers in the tail out and the quicker current beyond. I hooked up just after the tail out; landed a nice brown I caught near the far bank and lost another just before the bridge.

 The rain started to come down a little harder so I waded under the bridge to relight my stogie.
  Once I got down from the bridge you would of thought I was throwing bird seed to a bunch of cooped up chickens. I was getting fierce strikes, holding grabs and tailing swipes at my Woolly Buggers. The ones I did get a hook into put up fierce battles in the quicker current. I found trying to bring them towards me in the quickened current ended in lost fish. When I felt I had a good sized trout on I waded near the bank and brought them towards me in the slower and shallower current. Most of the fish I landed were only lip skin hooked which is why I figured I lost some in the faster current.
  The action didn’t let up for some time. I was happily alone and hooking into aggressive fish despite the rain shower under the dark sky. My stogie burned out and was too wet to relight so I doused it in the water and put it in my vest pocket. When the strikes finally stopped I decided to head back to the big hole.
  When I got within sight of the hole there was only one lone fly fisherman still standing. He was fishing the inlet current towards the big deeper hole. It was time for me to see if those trout wanted some meat instead of the small morsels of a nymph.
  It didn’t take long to land a rainbow out of the hole. Within 10 minutes the other fisherman left. I had the whole creek to myself. I worked the big hole and the tail out riffles pretty thoroughly with buggers picking up a few more trout. It wasn’t until I broke off on a back cast that I started to wonder what time it was. I checked my watch and it was about 5:15. I leaned my Scott rod against a slab of ice, that hadn’t melted yet, lying along the bank and proceeded to try and add a section of tippet to the leader I had left.
  The bifocals, on my polarized glasses, were wet and made my vision through them distorted. I looked at my Spuds lens cleaner cloth, hanging from my vest, and it was pretty wet. The front of my shirt was wet also. I wrung out the cleaning cloth as best I could and wiped the lenses in hopes not to impair my vision. I found, at the right angle, I’d be able to see the knots without much problem. I pulled out a section of 4X tippet and began the procedure in tying a double uni knot connecting the 4x to the leader. My finger tips were wet and chapped from the cold air from fishing in it all day. I didn’t have much feeling in my finger tips so being able to see the tag ends was very necessary. After making the first knot around the leader I started to wet the knot with saliva and kind of chuckled to myself as the leader/tippet was already wet. I pulled it tight and tied the leader knot to the tippet. I pulled both lines in opposite directions to clinch the knots and they came together in the form of two big rain drops.  
 I reached back into my back pocket and pulled out my big Perrine fly box that held my Woolly Buggers. I selected an olive bugger and used an improved clinch knot to tie it on the end of the tippet. With a short strip of lead matchstick I twisted this on the leader just above the double uni knot. I picked up the Scott rod and grabbed the wet cork handle. I was back in business and ready to go.

“Just one more trout” I thought, “maybe two!”




Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Slow Day in March


A Slow Day in March

 With a few warmer days in early March and the stocking of trout in some of the project areas I decided to go fishing on Tuesday. In Pennsylvania there is no fishing in approved trout waters from the 1st of March until the first day of trout season in April except for special regulated waters. I headed to Volant, early Tuesday, to meet up with a few friends and fish the Neshannock Creek.

 Arriving in the parking area I found blocks of ice lining the creek banks from the recent heavy winter freeze and thaw. The creek was flowing high and cloudy but fishable. The water was around 37 degrees in the morning though the air temperature was above forty and would rise above 50 in the afternoon. There were already fishermen out and about in the off color water when I strolled down to the creek just to take a look at conditions. Back at the van I took my dry fly boxes out of my vest, grabbed my 5wt and headed down to the creek to join the fellow fishermen. The most answered reply to anyone asking the question “How’s the fishing?” was “It’s a slow day!”
 The nymph fishermen were in the ‘cast, drift, follow, recast, drift, follow’ routine as I expected. A couple of guys with spinning outfits were throwing hardware out and about taking notice of the indicators the nymph guys were using. Though the water was cloudy and the trout possibly being in a lethargic state, I attached a Woolly Bugger and began to swing and dead drift it without an indicator. I figured, until I see the nymph fishermen starting to catch fish, I’ll stick with the buggers and streamers.
 A guy up creek caught a couple of suckers on sucker spawn. The first trout I seen caught, in some time, was a guy fishing a run with a stonefly nymph. I switched to nymph fishing briefly and without any success went back to buggers.
  I was down creek when I had my first strike. The trout hit the bugger so hard it busted off the 5x tippet just below the knot. And I thought the trout were lethargic! I knotted on a length of 4x tippet and continued with a white bugger. I noticed the two spin fishermen, throwing hardware, hooked into a couple trout which gave me a little more confidence to keep using streamers.
  Nearing noon the outside temperature warmed with the sun and I was hoping the water was warming also. The water didn’t appear to be clearing up any but it was pleasant enough outside that it didn’t appear anyone was leaving.

 It was a long cast towards the far bank. As soon as the bugger hit the water I mended the fly line up creek in order to let the bugger drop deeper before the current swept the fly line down creek. The slower current, where my bugger dropped, pushed my bugger towards a stronger wavy current between two near surface boulders. As the bugger started to move into the seam, between the boulders, I felt the hurried grab and set the hook with a sharp upward lift of the rod. I felt the heavy fish swim into the stronger current behind the nearest submerged boulder and continued into the rougher water down creek. I had a good grip on the rod and let some line slip off the reel as I waded back towards the bank. I was trying to get him into the slower current near my side of the bank but he was putting up a good fight in the stronger current. Once nearer to me I saw the white bugger on his lip. I scooped him up and finally had my first fish of the day.

 For about the next half hour I fished the white Woolly Bugger without a strike. I didn’t notice any of the nymph fishermen doing any better. I broke for lunch and met up with my friends. We enjoyed wine, cheese, crackers as well as pepperoni and peperoncini’s in the parking lot.

 After lunch I lit up a Romeo y Julieta cigar and headed back to the water. It was still slow going as I began a little up creek from where I started in the morning. After about a half hour I waded to the bank and started down creek. You know it’s a good cigar when a guy, just down creek, asked what I’m smoking because it sure smelled good!!
The water had risen some and more slabs of ice were floating down creek so I had to be careful wading. I continued with an assortment of streamer trying to cover as much water as I could. It wasn’t till a guy next to me was hooking up time and again on nymphs that I decided to change to the dark side. I tied on a weighted black stonefly nymph and a beaded black stonefly as a dropper. I ended catching two more browns before calling it quits, one brown I caught using an indicator and one without.

I wasn’t out of the parking lot before lighting up a Montecristo Classic for the drive home!