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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.