Saturday, July 5, 2014

Unprepared on the Clarion River

Unprepared on the Clarion River

  I hadn’t been out fishing for awhile being I had a couple of Cycle rides planned for overnight stays. The dry fly trout fishing hasn’t been the best this year being the heavy rain during the weeks made for high water and unfavorable conditions. I’ve had been tying smallmouth patterns for a friend the past couple of weeks after work and this has been getting me anxious to fish the river for smallmouth. For myself I tied up some popular poppers and sliders I’ve used with great success in the past. The green frog poppers are a killer.
Along with these I tied up some Clouser patterns also. I don’t use Clousers as often than I probably should in the river but I splurged for some painted barbell eyes and decided to give the tying a try on my own. I didn’t think they came out too bad. With a few crawfish patterns and Hellgrammite pattern I was ready for some smallies.

With that I was anxious to get out on the river over the 4th of July.

Friday morning I got my smallmouth patterns together with my last year stuff and combined them in a few fly boxes. I put some extra dry clothes in the sack and threw them in the van. I was planning on wet wading so I didn’t need any waders and left them at home. Usually the river is wadable for the most part and where it is not a weight forward line on a fast action fly rod will get to 98% of the river. I packed a cooler for the day and just in case the river would be higher than expected I threw in my float tube.
  Well, when I got down to the river it was high and brown stained. The further I drove upriver the cloudy it appeared to be. My first thought was to keep on driving and spend the next 45 minutes or so driving due north and trout fish the tail water of a dam. The problem was I didn’t bring any waders and I knew the tail water was going to be quite cold. At least I brought my float tube and not wanting to give up decided to give it a go anyway.
  I stopped at my favorite smallmouth fishing section and pumped up my float tube. I had discovered that I forgot my short flippers that help in the deeper sections. Not only that, with the stronger current it’s going to be difficult to ’steer’ the tube in the direction I may want to go! I loaded up the tube, put a fresh 3X tapered leader on my 6 weight Winston and headed down the bank.
  The water was colder than I expected as I stepped into the knee deep water. The late morning was overcast and the cool breeze didn’t help warm my upper body very much. I didn’t bring a warm long sleeve shirt so I was hoping the sun would stay out and keep me a little warmer than without it.
I started fish before the first set of fast riffles that was usually calm rolling waves. After that I sat in the float tube and away I went. I constantly searched to the river bed with an extended foot so I could stop and fish now and then. Occasionally this happened but I was never able to get to fish the opposite rocky slope. The cross wind didn’t help any when I cast across creek either. The only thing that was pleasant so far about the day was the stogie I was puffing on the whole time and even that was burning quickly in the windy conditions. It got to the point, even though my lower half got used to the water temperature, I was actually shivering at times.
  I got stopped, mid-river, just to the side of tumbling water over an uprising boulder. I planted my feet firmly on the river bed and let the float tube, roped and clasped to my belt, float down a few feet from where I stood. I attached a Clouser to my fast-snap and started to cast into the pocket water behind the boulder and slower current that followed. This looked like a nice spot to fish a weighted Hellgrammite pattern so I attached the heaviest barbell eye pattern I had. The second cast, upriver, behind the boulder the pattern didn’t tumble very far before I got a hard bump. I though maybe I had a snag but to my surprise I felt a fish fighting the line in the heavy tumbling brown stained water. I got it circled around and was surprised of the brown trout I had hooked.
This got my confidence up for sure. I continued fishing this section for some time with the current beating against my thighs and shivering half the time before I decided to continue down river. I did manage one more brown trout before I vacated the area.

 Later in the afternoon I drove down river for a place I could actually wade and fish without the float tube. Being the forth of July there were many fishermen out so the pickings were slim for a fly guy that wanted some room to cast. I came upon a milder section and parked before someone else showed up to swim or fish.
 Down in the river I started fishing Clousers, bugger and the Hellgrammite patterns. There were occasional canoes and kayaks that passed by but they kept their distance in the wide area so they weren’t a problem or a hazard. I spent a couple of hours and only caught 1 small smallmouth for my time spent with one of my Clouser patterns.
The day wasn’t the most pleasurable adventure but I did manage a few fish. Next time I’m sure I’ll be prepared for conditions or at least bring extra fishing gear for a plan C!


  1. Been there for sure.... Sometimes things don't work out like we anticipate and you have to have a backup plan or two. Still sounds like you had a good time and you obviously caught a few fish to boot.

  2. it was rough going in the float tube but yes, the couple of trout sure made it worth it. never know what to expect with this weather anymore.