Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Birthday on Kettle Creek

Birthday on Kettle Creek
April 20th and 21st, 2015

April 20th

 I never hit Kettle Creek in April but I wanted to be up that way on Wednesday, of the first week of trout opener, so I decided to head up Monday after work. Skip Hughes, the Regional Coordinator of Project Healing Waters, was taking a bus load of Veterans from Erie Pa. to the Rainbow Paradise Trout Farm on Wednesday, so I came up early before meeting up with them. Monday I worked till noon and by 1:00 I was headed north to God’s Country. It always seems to take forever on the 2 ½ to 3 hour drive. After stopping at the Kettle Creek Tackle Shop, in Hammersley Fork, I drove along route 144 looking for a place to park and fish.
 It was about 3:00 and I was wading in the cold water casting my 9’ 4 weight custom rod under the sun shine. The temperature was in the mid 60’s I’d say but the cool breeze let me know I was in the mountains.
 The first trout took the Woolly Bugger on a swing drift. It felt good to get the first trout out of the way within the first ten minutes of being in the water. It scampered about under the wavy current until I got it to the net.
 I fished until dark before heading back to the van and finding a place to spend the night. I caught a half dozen trout or so all underneath with nymphs and Buggers.

Birthday #58
April 21

 I felt the nudge and set the hook. The fish took off towards the middle of the creek. I could tell it was a heavier fish and gave it line as I was using 5x tippet and didn’t want to horse it in the current. It stayed down low like a brown trout and I thought for sure I had my birthday prize trout on the other end… 

 I had awoken early with good intentions of spending a full day of trout catching. A sliced egg and ham sandwich on wheat bread wasn’t a king’s breakfast but I was camping and it was good enough. With a cup of strong black coffee to start the day I was getting antsy to get to fishing. 

 I hit the project area early. The sun wasn’t even up above the mountain tops when I stepped into the water. The creek flowed in waves like a boat passing through a no wake zone. The air was chilled and when the wind blew down stream it rippled the surface water like a stadium flag in a soft breeze. At times I wish I brought gloves but I was fine otherwise.

 I relaxingly took my time casting and fishing my way down stream. There wasn’t a soul on the creek and I was in no hurry to get too excited. Slowly working my way down creek a trout grabbed the bugger with enough force I felt the take between my fingers. A quick jerk of my wrist set the hook and the trout was pulling away with the current on the other end. It was good to feel the first trout was on so soon.

  I fished the project area for almost 2 hours before heading to more open water in the all tackle section. The fish commission was to be stocking trout up creek near Ole Bull Campground and I figured I’d keep my distance and stay down creek away from those who chose to follow the truck.

 I passed three vehicles along the road where guys were fishing near a walk bridge that crossed the creek. I parked down creek from them and took out the 4 weight custom, put my vest on and took to the water. Down creek I could see no one was around and I was hoping it would be that way for some time. Long casts, with an Olive Bugger, through the shallows I made my way to the deeper choppy section where I planned on spending more time fishing.
 The cold chilled wind blew as if old man winter didn’t want spring to come anytime soon. The water waved in dark shadows under the overcast cloudy sky. Now and than the sun would peak through for about 15 minutes or so showing signs of warmth but clouds would gradually diminish the hopes that the rest of the day would stay sunny. Except for the calm of the riffling water it was quiet and relaxing.
 Once at the head of the deeper section stretch of water I lit up a Cohiba and looked the situation over.

 The main body of water, from the shallows, flowed against the far bank wall creating a heavy wave of current along this stretch tapering off down stream. It looked shallower against the bank, compared to the water mid creek, but it was sure deep enough to hold some trout below the quick surface current. Mid way between the far bank and the wavy current mid stream, was a break of calmer water that rippled with cross currents. This I was sure would hold trout. Down stream it opened up with a softer flow but still deep enough and enough undercurrent that extra weight would be needed to keep a nymph or streamer on or near the bottom. I always believe adjusting weight in heavy current makes for a better presentation in the strike zone.
 I would cast across creek and let some slack out, to let the Woolly Bugger drop deeper, before it started to sweep down towards midstream. I’d connect with a trout now and then that fought furiously in the fast currents.

I worked the 30 yards or so stretch to the tail out hooking up occasionally for about an hour or so.  I picked up some fine looking rainbows on the buggers that fought with lots of gusto and a couple smaller brown trout.

 I was at the head of the stretch again when an older gent, with a spinning rod, walked down the path behind me. After a greeting I asked him if he had seen the stocking truck. He mentioned that they were stocking up creek right now. He said he had been catching trout until they threw fresh trout in and the others quit biting. He came down creek and figured on waiting an hour before heading back up. He also commented that they wouldn’t be stocking this far down creek, which was fine with me.
 I wasn’t catching a lot of trout at the time but enough I was content with staying put. He kept his distance and fished towards the tail out. I watched him pick up a couple trout drifting something under an indicator. I decided to resort to nymph fishing.
 I knotted on a Picket Pin with a #16 glass bead Stonefly and started the routine of drop and drifting them in the fast current. I had one strike after a bit but it came loose. I knotted on a bigger stonefly and succeeded in netting a nice trout before another fellow showed up. In about a half hour they left and I was left alone again having the complete stretch to myself.
 With long casts and mends I caught one on the stone and one smacked the picket pin. I was letting the combination drift back to the shallow tail out and let it continue to drift towards my side of the bank. I was hoping there might be a trout or two searching for food in the shallows along the bank down creek from me.

Beadhead Stonefly

 My cast was about ¾ across creek just skirting the wavy water along the far bank. I let some slack out in front of me anticipating the slight current would drift my tandem set up to the tail out. I kept the rod out, level with the water, moving it down stream with the drift while watching the fly line. It arced across the tail out and I lifted the rod tip easy letting the bottom drifting nymphs head towards my side of the bank down stream from me. I felt the slightest nudge; I stripped line in taking in the slack as well as lifting the rod higher for a hook set. There was a hesitation when the line tightened. A swirl appeared upon the surface, of the shallow water, and then the line took off towards the deeper water with my rod flexed outward. I could tell by the weight and flex of the rod this might just be my birthday trout I was hoping for. I let out line as it continued to battle towards the far bank staying deep beneath like a brown trout. When it got to the wavier current near the far bank it turned up creek. I brought in line keeping side pressure on him waiting any second for him to give me a quick headshake. Upstream he met with quicker current incoming towards him so he turned back downstream, still no headshakes. He swam past me, mid creek, and than arced toward the bank. I had the rod high and when he touched the shallow bottom pebbles, with a tail swat, he started outward again. I tilted the rod towards the shore whereas he didn’t get too far and turned back towards me. This is where I got a good look at him and realized this wasn’t the kind of big birthday trout I expected. I brought him to the bank, and though he was the longest fish of the day, I’d just have to except him as my ’birthday fish!’

 After releasing him I lit up another stogie in celebration of my catch!

 The air never warmed much and the wind continued to come and go bringing with it strong gusts at times and chilled temperatures. Occasionally sprinkles fell but never amounting to big drops to scare me off the creek. Continuing to fish the section I caught trout on a variety of nymphs and wet flies. It seemed if I stuck with a fly long enough eventually I’d catch something on it.
Picket Pin

San Juan

Another exotic catch

 I suppose it was around 4:30 when I was finally feeling my 58 year old body starting to fatigue. I slowly started my way back to the van with another relaxing cigar between my lips. When I got around the corner I noticed no one was fishing up around the walk bridge upstream. I followed the path along the creek wanting to find out what was so special about this place. From the opposite side of the road I happen to cast into the riffling deep water from the bank. Wham! A trout grabbed the bugger like a kid grabs candy from a fire truck in a holiday parade. It wasn’t a big rainbow but a trout none-the-less.
 After I released him I looked across creek and it looked to be a better spot to fish from with a shallow area along the bank. I walked up the path and crossed the shallow riffling water to the roadside bank. Slowly I’d waded down along the bank where I could cast my Woolly Bugger up into the fast deep current and high stick it as it drifted down creek.
 I was getting strike after strike and bringing in rainbows almost one after another from the fast riffling current. There was times that if I didn’t get a strike within three casts I’d bring the bugger in and look at it to make sure it was still on and not tangled up. This went on far about a ½ hour before it finally slowed down. I had enough and waded out and walked down the road to my van. I was whipped!

I drove down the road to where I decided to change out of my fishing gear and get more relaxed. I drove up the dirt lane and pulled to the side. After changing clothes I grabbed a few things and relaxed on the walk bridge that span across Cross Fork Creek.
 A birthday shot, a beer and a stogie was a good appetizer before heading into Cross Fork for a birthday meal.


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