Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Birthday Monday

Birthday Monday

  I awoke to daylight. Sunbeams filtered through the bare branched trees across the way and lightened the inside of my van where I lay. It wasn’t this that woke me up though. It was the sound of a few vehicles motoring along the roadway, it’s Monday and the early souls were on their way to work. I, on the other hand, lay within my sleeping bag with a smile. It’s my birthday and this Monday I have all day to fish, hopefully alone in the Allegheny National Forest.

I got up and started the van for warmth and peered out the windshield down towards the creek. The quiet water looked tempting but I wasn’t in any hurry. The Coleman stove was on the table outside just as I left it the night before. I filled the tea kettle with water, put a coat on and met the outside chill with a grin. After putting the kettle on I walked down to the creek and observed the conditions. It was the same creek I fished the day before but this section the flow was quite slower.

Back at the van I decided to make myself some breakfast. Getting out a pan I laid strips of bacon in it and placed two eggs on the table. The kettle whistled and I poured myself a cup of tea. While the bacon was sizzling I checked my vest and knotted a fresh piece of tippet to my existing tapered leader. After a filling breakfast I got my gear on and headed upstream along the path.

 To my surprise the two other camping spots, along the creek, were occupied and there was a lone soul fisherman already casting spinners toward the far bank into the deeper water. I stopped short, giving him lots of room, and knotted on a Woolly Bugger. The third cast I felt a swiping nudge but missed the hook set. Within the next hour I fished buggers and nymphs without a bump. I didn’t figure I’d have as good of a day as the day before but I was expecting some action this morning. I knotted on a Woolly Bugger and decided to slowly fish my way back to where I parked.
The long cast plopped my Bugger straight across creek under an overhanging tree. I mended line slightly to let my offering sink further before the current took my line down creek followed by me bugger along the far side. The take was a hard hit and my wrist reacted in quickness. The line tightened and the fly rod bowed under the pressure. The first trout on was aggressive with pulling tugs and short quick darts trying to free himself. I played him well, across stream, and was able to sweep him up in my net. My first birthday catch was a nice size brook trout, firm and frisky.
I took a few more casts near the tree before moving on.

 Slowly fishing my way down creek, in the slow moving current, the hook ups and bumps were spotty. It was like trying to find Easter eggs in an open field while blindfolded. I knew the trout were there somewhere, i just had to find them by feel, knowing which bumps were the real thing or rocks ar snags. Most strikes were subtle and if I didn’t hook them they didn’t give me another chance. A good area that I caught many trout before produced nothing. The sun hadn’t spilled its rays onto the shaded water yet so I thought maybe the trout were still lethargic in the morning chill. I lit a cigar and waited a bit for the sun to beam down upon the water. Resuming, the bumps were becoming more frequent and I was able to tussle with a couple more.

  It wasn’t long after this, down creek, I found the honey hole. It was a bit by accident. I cast out three quarters of the way across creek. The white Woolly Bugger sank a little deeper as I mended line up creek. There was a stretch of submerged rocks and boulders that ran in a jagged line out towards midstream. When my bugger reached the end of the stretch of rocks I felt a swipe and reared back to set the hook. I felt the hook set and the fish turned down creek. I’m not sure what exactly happened but the hook let loose and I was left with a limp line. After a couple of more drifts through the same area I came to a conclusion it may be deeper than what I had thought. I added a slit shot to my leader and cast out again. The bugger sank deeper and I seen my line dip down just as I felt the bump. With a quick upward yank of the fly rod it flexed with a tight line. This time I had a good hook set and the trout tugged and thwarted a bit before trying to head down creek like the other. I had the rod swung down creek and than put some pressure on him as I moved the rod toward my side of the bank. This made him swim down creek almost directly below me before he turned upstream. I brought in line as he aimed mid creek directly away. With the rod tip up, he surfaced, splashed top water and than tried to dive deep. He didn’t get very far before I had him turned again heading my way. I led him into the net and he squabbled a bit before calming down.
With slow drifts through I’d get a bump now and than. I continued to cast and work the bugger in the general area and was rewarded with fighting fish which of coarse deserved another cigar.


When the bite slowed to a stop I decided to take a drive down creek. I had a spot picked out that usually holds lots of trout. I wasn’t sure how fast the water conditions were but I decided to drive down and take a look.   It was near 1:30pm when I got to where I wanted to fish. The water was a lot faster and higher. I couldn’t wade too far away from the bank as the water deepened quickly with a pretty strong current pull. I knew the trout usually hugged the upside of the long stretch of rocks and boulders that extended across the wide section of creek before the water poured or found its way seeping through their crevices. I added another split shot and worked a dark bugger, letting it swing towards the submerged rocky formation. The black bugger got the first strike and I had the trout coming in before the hook let loose in the strong current. It was the brown Woolly Bugger that I found the trout hit harder and more often. The trout appeared to be holding in the far end, where it shallowed a bit, before the water dropped deeper and than spilled over the submerged rocks. The wrestling matches were good struggles with trying to get the trout towards me across the strong current. Some of the fighting rainbows got free but others made it to the net!!

 The sun shined down on me as I continued to cast out while smoke’n a stogie on my birthday afternoon. The sun felt good as it penetrated my shirt and chest waders. I was enjoying myself.

  As strikes came to a halt I made my way down below in the more wavy shallower current. Casting here and there I couldn’t get a strike anywhere. I even took the chance and waded the current across creek and cast towards the far bank without success. I finally had enough and headed to the van. I kept my waders on hoping to maybe see some risers where the road came close to the creek as I drove. After I turned right and crossed the creek, one last time, I stopped the van on the bridge and overlooked the water for some kind of rise. It wasn’t going to happen today so I drove off.

  I came to a small brook trout creek and pulled down the dirt lane that led to the creek. Just for giggles, in my chest waders, I decided to give it one more try to maybe pick off a brook trout in the no more than knee deep water. I grabbed the shorter Powell rod and made my way to the creek.

 It started out a little frustrating. For the past day and a half I’ve been fishing a river sized creek without worrying about bank side or much overhanging hazards. Here I was trying to cast my way within the narrow passage that the water flowed. My back casts were getting caught up in overgrown thickets along the creeks edge or over hanging limbs. It took a different kind of concentration to get used to my immediate surroundings.
  I knew this creek gets fished pretty hard with the line of camps along its banks and being so close to the road in many areas. I wasn’t sure if I was going to catch a trout or not but it was relaxing once I got a feel for knowing my limitations of casting and aware of the hazards around me. I was down creek from my van when I came to a deep pool. I made my way around a big tree blow down. I stooped down along the bank to get a better line of a cast below the pine boughs and also keeping a low profile near the clear water.

  My Woolly Bugger fell way short of the far bank but I let it drift down creek. As it started to swing towards my side of the bank a fish, from out of nowhere, darted out to investigate. It was as if he was hungry enough to take a bite but just wasn’t sure if it was edible or a fake. I had to keep the rod tip up as I was slowly stripping the bugger towards me so it wouldn’t fall to the creek bed. I didn’t want to get the trout too close to me so within a short distance I twitched the rod tip and let it fall. The trout gave up and turned away.
 I didn’t cast right off but let a minute or so pass by as I puffed on my cigar before my next cast. The bugger fell, this time, just short of the far bank. I gave a small twitch, for some action, and let it drift down creek. Just before it started to swing I pulled line towards me with a short jolt, let the line go and let the current pull the bugger down creek again before tightening the line in my hand again. I felt the trout swipe hard at the bugger as if he wasn’t going to let it get away! Well, I got a good hook set that led to a good frisky battle with my last birthday trout of the day. 

 A cold beer quenched my thirst as I changed clothes before heading homeward… with a Rocky Patel Toro.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

With a Demon in my Hands

With a Demon in my Hands
  My plan was to head to Potter County and dry fly fish Kettle Creek and surrounding creeks. For the 4th weekend in a row the rain during the week left the streams high and running fast. On Friday the water gauge spiked upward on both Kettle Creek and Young Womans Creek. Only getting about 14 mpg on my van I decided it wasn’t worth taking a chance driving all that way and find it wasn’t worth fishing. Instead I opted and took my chance on heading to the Black Moshannon State Park.
  I wasn’t in a hurry and arrived at the creek around 11:30 in the morning. The air was cold between the mountains in the valley so I dressed warm both top and bottom. I’m sure in town there were people wearing ‘T’ shirts but the overcast sky and the cool breeze that swept through the forest would be unpredictable down along the creek.
  I selected and pieced together my Hardy Demon 3 weight 7’ fly rod for the narrow laurel and hemlock lined creek. I grabbed my vest with an assortment of offerings and headed to the creek between the branchy young bare trees and shrubs. The tea stained water was flowing high and fast but along the banks it slowed some and slowed enough before log jams to get a well weighted streamer or nymph near the bottom. I knotted on a Woolly Bugger and proceeded to try and coax some wild trout to take my offerings.
  It wasn’t long before a sharp tug flexed the 3 weight and the fight was on. I forgot all about the price of gas and the minimal gas mileage on my conversion van. I forgot all about those ‘T’ shirt clad town folks enjoying the warmth given off by the blacktop streets by the occasional sun rays that seeped through the moving cloud cover. As I played the trout, towards me, in the on coming current I was in my own little world with no worries.
The brook trout showed its wildness with the darting and lively fight beneath the water and showed off its fancy colorful body in the net out of the water.
 It wasn’t long that another wild brook flexed the 3 weight and I gained confidence that there would be more to follow.
With the overshadowing clouds I didn’t stray too far down creek from the van fearing it may rain. Within the next hour I was right and returned for my rain coat. After a brief shower the sky opened to sunshine and the warmth soaked through my clothes. I returned to the van to drop off my raincoat and lit up a Churchill. I was figuring on taking my time making my way between the tree lined creek down stream till I got tired or darkness arrived.

 I slowly waded my way down creek. My casts were sharp avoiding the overhanging branches and laurel. I let the Woolly Bugger drop as nearer to the far banks as possible with enough slack in the line so the bugger would drop deeper before being carried down creek. I adjusted the weight I used, adding or removing, lead strips or split shot depending on the swiftness of the current or deepness of the run. Some areas I felt looked better lies for trout I’d stick around a little longer before moving on. I was rewarded occasionally with yanking tugs or just kept entertained by the swiping misses.

 My cast, from the right bank toward the far bank, was spot on and dropped the bugger just before the over hanging laurel leaves. The bugger dropped deeper and began to swing down stream beneath the branchy leaves. The current pushed my fly line down creek and the bugger, on the end of the tippet, began to curve towards the middle of the creek. Once it reached its limit I twitched the rod tip and began a slow retrieve. Wham! A quick tug tightened the line and flexed the rod in a big arc, I had another trout on. The swift current made for a hairy struggle trying to get the fish nearer to me. I could tell by the weight and fight this wasn’t an average trout for this small stream. I decided to swing him towards my side of the bank towards the slower current than to fight him towards me in the swifter water. He surfaced a couple of times so I tilted my rod towards the surface water trying to keep him below the faster force of the surface water. Holding the 7’ rod high enough I got the nice brown trout netted. His dark spotted sides resembled a leopard with the addition of a few red spots towards the rear end.

 Within two more casts, a bit down creek, I had another. The weight of the fish felt the same as the last and as the fish surfaced I could see I had another nice brown trout. This trout was more reluctant to enter the net as the last. After a bit of struggling to get him to enter, the hook let loose and I lost him. I grumbled under my breath but knew that’s the way it goes sometimes. It wasn’t long after that I felt a cold breeze blow down from the mountain tops. The clouds covered any sun rays that bled through and I smelled the moisture before it even started to sprinkle rain drops. I slowly waded my way down creek looking for a path along the creek to escape should it rain harder.
  It didn’t take too long and the sprinkles became big drops of rain. I exited the creek and stood beneath the dense pine limbs that all but blocked the sky above. The rain fell with more abundance and the darkening of the forest around me told me this rain shower wasn’t going to just ’pass over.’ By the time I reached the road the rain drops had turned to hail. Yes, there I was walking up the road, without a coat or rain gear, being pelted by small stone sized hail. By the time I got to the van, which was maybe 300 yards away, I was pretty well soaked. I took off my outer clothes, started the van and warmed myself up till the hail storm blew over.
Putting on some dryer clothes I loaded my fishing raincoat with my fly fishing boxes and stuff and went back out hoping for some evening hatch. Well the hatch never came but I did manage a few more trout and caught a couple of unexpected chubs when I nymph fished for a short time before calling it quits.

 Sunday I awoke to sunshine and a bit warmer weather…and a cold. I dressed warm and decided to drive down creek a ways for newer territory. With the Demon in my hands and a good cigar between my teeth I managed a few more trout. Standing under the sun felt good as I watched for any mayflies or rises upon the small pool before me. I did try a couple of mayfly dries but it was more for casting practice than to really expect to catch a fish.


 Just another day enjoying the outdoors, spite the weather!