Thursday, November 30, 2017

Roughen it For an 8 Point

Roughen It For an 8 Point
11/26 thru 11/28/2017

 Not having a conversion van anymore I decided to rough it out for buck season out of my pickup. I bought one of those truck tents that fit over top of the truck bed. I bought the one without a floor. I figured in this way I would have plenty of air flow when I use my small propane heater to keep it warm inside. With an air mattress, heavy sleeping bag, a couple of blankets on top I was warm enough during the night in 27 degree weather. Of course I only lit the heater while I was awake but that was mostly because I had to get up a couple of times to relieve myself. 

 I set up camp along East Hickory Creek. Jeff stopped by Sunday and helped me out arranging stuff and after that we headed up over the hill to scout around. We marked out a trail with orange ribbons and both of us picked good spots to make a stand for the first day of buck. 

 Monday morning I woke up to that 27 degrees the weatherman called for. I Changed clothes in my sleeping quarters and went outside to make breakfast and a hot cup of coffee. Jeff was staying at his camp 25 minutes away and pulled into my camp about 5:40am. We started our journey to our hunting spots about 6:00am through the morning darkness with flashlights. I over shot my expected spot, I was suppose to find, a little higher on the mountainside than I intended. When I decided to pick a tree to rest beside I put on a sleeveless sweatshirt and bundled up in the morning chill. At first daylight I looked down the slope and seen the orange tape I had put around the tree the day before. It was about 100 yards away so I was at least in the general area and felt a little better about my choice.
 It was quiet in the morning with maybe a slight breeze now and then that rattled the beech leaves still on the saplings. Now and than I would hear a vehicle in the distance along the roadway in front of camp. Besides that I kept my eyes open looking for any sign of movement and my ears tuned to any crisp crunching on the dried leaf forest floor.
 About 10:30am the only thing I seen was a black squirrel foraging for food. I slowly moved down to my intended place to sit and sat there till 11:30am, still without seeing a thing. It was time to go find a deer.
 I spent the next few hours roaming the mountain side. I saw 2 young doe up on top of the mountain running and caught a glimpse of a deer moving at a good pace through the forest but couldn’t tell what it was. It had its nose to the ground and from about 100 or so yards away it passed by so quickly I didn’t have a chance to scope it out.
 I met up with Jeff around 2:30pm. He hadn’t seen hide nor hair of a deer yet. We decided to drop down to the flats about 4:00 and see if the deer were hanging lower. When we scouted Sunday there were a lot of sign of turkey scratching and maybe the deer would drop down to feed also because they sure weren’t running the ridges around us. I slowly made my way along the ridge towards where I sat in the morning which was a good piece off.   Being I didn’t see any deer there all morning I decided if I found a good spot to stand it out till 4, I’d sit there for awhile. I came to a tall pine that split two shallow ravines that ran up the mountainside. It was if the land came out to a peninsula between the ravines. From there I was able to see down hill a good piece besides to my left. To my right, facing down hill, there was a bunch of beech saplings so visibility wasn’t very far but I should hear anything sneaking thru.
 I sat against the tree with my 300 Savage cradled on my lap. I had taken the sweatshirt off while I was walking so I didn’t have the warmth it gave me in the morning. The evening air was still cold. The breeze had picket up considerably and brought with it that wind chill factor that made it feel a few degrees colder. I had my scarf wrapped up to my ear lobes and my collar up on my zipped up parka. 

  I heard the crunching of deer trotting down below before I got an eyeball on the deer. A doe crossed below me about 130 yards or so and than continued up hill to my left staying about the same distance. I easily was able to see it was a young doe but lifted the rifle anyway to be on the ready. I got a glimpse of another young deer following and when it stopped I quickly got it in my scope. It too was a baldy. When it turned its head to look behind it down hill I got a silly smirk on my face. I just had a feeling it wasn’t a person they were trotting away from. Holding the rifle up I took my eyes from the scope and looked down hill. There he was following the doe with his muzzle down to the ground and looking up now and then searching for the fleeing does. Its rack looked as white as the ivory tusks of a bull elephant in the forest background. There was no doubt the buck was legal. That second doe gave his position away!!
  Quickly my thoughts were on the situation at hand. I figured the buck would follow the doe up hill at the same distance and give me a broadside shot at some time. It may be a moving shot in between the trees but I felt good that I would get a shot off so I wasn’t too anxious to make a bad hurried unpredictable shot at the moment. Directly below me the buck turned towards me, about 130 yards or so. I grinned a little and knew this would be the time. I had the crosshairs on his nose with no interference from any branches whatsoever. As soon as he turned his head to his right, my crosshairs were on the base of his outstretched neck and, I pulled the trigger. The 300 Savage boomed breaking the peacefulness of the forest.
 Somewhere in heaven I imagined my Grandfather hearing that familiar sound of the 300. I suppose my father in heaven could almost taste that delicious venison shoulder roast he loved so much.
 The buck stumbled backwards in an instant. It turned away and I watched it stumble between the trees, trying to keep its balance, trying to escape his unfortunate circumstances. In about 30 yards I saw him fall for the last time. His white belly hair was easily seen from my point of view.
 I stood and clipped my hot seat and water bottle to my belt. I fastened my fanny pack around my waste and checked to see if I had chambered another round in the rifle. Sure enough there was a live round in the chamber. It’s like instinct any more. As soon as I shoot I work the lever action for another round without even thinking about it. After making sure the safe was on I slung the rifle sling over my shoulder and headed for my kill.
 Upon arriving to the buck I glanced at my watch and it was 3:15pm. The body of the deer looked pretty heavy for a mountain buck and I worried about the drag back to camp. He sported a nice symmetrical bone color rack with 8 points to its total. I leaned my rifle against a tree and put my orange parka over the barrel for all to see. It was time to go to work and gut the deer.
 Though the drag was mostly down hill I came to the conclusion I was out of shape. I also realized my body has caught up to my age though my brain hasn’t accepted how old I am. Once I got to the road I was pretty whipped with sweat running down my spine. I was only about 40 yard from camp but since Jeff had a deer hauler hitched to the back of his truck I decided to just wait till he came down from the mountain.
 After Jeff and I hung the buck from a tree branch we enjoyed a celebration beer. He took off to his camp soon after.

  After I got a fire going to warm up I changed into dry clothes for the evening. For dinner I cooked up some venison butterfly steaks and ate by the fire. For dessert I sipped on bourbon and another beer. 

   I fed wood to keep the fire hot and burning brightly. I sat in solitude thinking about the days events. Listened to an owl hoot at the three quarter moon high above the pines that surround me. The creek water flowed and tumbled nearby and on occasion a gentle wind whispered through the pines. It was a long day so I didn’t stay up very late. The 300 Savage came through again this year, one shot one kill.
 Tuesday morning I took my time breaking camp in the morning coldness. By 10am I had the buck in the bed of the truck and everything packed ready to go. I poured water from my 5 gallon jug over the fire pit and looked around to make sure I didn’t leave anything.
 Just before taking off I took out an Alec Bradley Sanctum and carefully nipped off a portion of the cap. I made sure the foot of the cigar was evenly lit and climbed in the driver seat for the drive home. The aroma filled the inside of the cab as gray smoke got whisked away through the partially open window.
 When I got to route 666 I turned left and headed toward Whig Hill taking the more scenic view way home!
Another successful buck season in the books.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Project Healing Waters Steelhead Slam 2017

2017 Steelhead Slam
Project Healing Waters
Nov. 4th, 2017

Project Healing Waters; Guiding Veterans for steelhead
Gathering Sight; Folly’s End Campground, Girard PA.
Waters fished; Elk Creek, Tributary of Lake Erie
Hosted by; Skip Hughes PHW Regional Coordinator with Co-hosts Debi Hughes.

 The morning was dark but was full of conversation and excitement. Here, some of the Veterans picking flies for the steelhead fishing.  Many of the flies were donated by the facebook group Fly Tiers Anonymous.

  Once daylight came Veterans and volunteering guides gathered together in groups and headed out to their steelhead fishing destination. Three private landowners opened their private waters on Elk Creek for the Veterans the day of the event.
  The water conditions were just about perfect. The rain the previous days raised the water level and there was no doubt fresh fish moved upstream.
 Among the participating veterans were three veterans from Oklahoma who drove to Erie Pennsylvania to participate in our Project Healing Water steelhead event. There were about 30 Veterans in all which a bunch of us experienced fishermen volunteered to guide these Vets to help them catch steelhead in the Erie Tributaries. One of those Oklahoma Veterans was assigned to me. It took quite a few hookups throughout the day and lost fish before he finally got one to the net. It felt good when he came up to me after dinner and thanked me and for teaching him a few pointers of fly fishing and fishing for steelhead. Really genuine!

Duane with his first steelhead.

 Here are some other pictures that were taken of Veterans, their guides and the fishing experience.

 We left no Veteran that wanted to wet a line behind!

 Afterward dinner was served at 2:00pm
 Thereafter awards were given and all Veterans received many donated gifts. New friendships were made and camaraderie was shared by all!

Skip Hughes Regional Coordinator and master of ceremony.

Donated by one of our master fly tiers. Tom Herr

 Randy receiving Volunteer of the Year from Skip Hughes.

 A special thanks to Jim, owner of Folly’s End Campground, for letting us have the event headquarters on the premises.
 Thanks to the private land owners for giving these Veterans an opportunity to fish for steelhead without interference from crowds of other fishermen.
 Thanks to those who donated gifts and food dishes.
 Special thanks for the volunteers who took time out of their day to guide these Veterans for an experience of a lifetime.
 Thanks to all the Veterans for serving our country!!
 And last but not least, thanks to Skip Hughes and his helpers who took the time and commitment to put this all together to make the Steelhead Slam 2017 a big success.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Hexagon Fish'n

Hexagon Fish’n

  I took the vintage glass Wonderod out last week. It was like a guy taken his old big Buick or old heavy Thunderbird for a cruise through the neighborhood. This past weekend I decided to dust off the ole’ hexagon bamboo and take it for a stroll. This would be like taken an old Model A or Model T out just to keep it from rotting away in a dark corner of the garage. Sure the rod itself has been refurbished but than again you don’t find many old Model A or T’s that haven’t been reconditioned to road worthy. Slow, fragile and a bit harder to control compared to today’s modern trout rods but none the less it looked to be a good dry day to give it a whirl.
 When I got to the park, of the fly fishing only project waters, a guy was getting ready to leave. In conversation he mentioned he caught only one trout on a nymph. He also mentioned that he had seen a few risers up creek and pointed at the location near the bank under the autumn trees.
 Back at the truck I took out the cardboard tube and unveiled the 5 weight bamboo fly rod. After assembling it I got my gear on and headed down to the creek. Leaves were scattered about the surface water like stale potato chips around a morning camping site. The tail water was low but cold from the cool mountain streams that fed the stream above the dam. I decided to start with nymphs in the deeper water midstream. Nymph fishing in the slow flow was like trying to be patient as your wife and her mom are looking around in a craft tent at a fall festival. Getting bored I decided to knot on a Woolly Bugger and try to tempt the trout with a little more action as I worked my way downstream.

 My cast was three quarters the way cross creek into the shallow riffles. I felt a tug as my line was being swept through the oncoming current. I lifted the rod up and back in hopes of dislodging the hook from the object I thought could be a snag. The line tightened and than took off down creek with the current with jerking and in erratic directions. It wasn’t that difficult swinging the trout around through the slower water down creek with the bamboo rod shaking like a lone twig in a wing gust. 

 I continued to work the bugger in the riffles and slower current. I got a good feel for the rod and pretty soon my casting was second nature with the lightly weighted streamers I was using.

 After noon there were gusts of wind that happen by now and then. The wind rattled the tree branches along the creek and the autumn leaves rustled together. Loose leaves glided upon thin air and landed on the surface water. Watching closely I could see dimples on the slower surface that developed into open water rings. I moved up creek into casting distance and clipped off the Wooly Bugger. I added a bit of 5 x tippet and looked in my fly box for a nice size beetle imitation. I juiced up the dubbed body of the closed cell shell beetle and looked out into the water. Just in front of me I noticed a couple of trout holding near the bottom. There’s no use spoiling the water before me trying to make long casts to a trout feeding on the far side. I stripped out some line and high stick the beetle not too far in front of me as if nymph fishing. One trout rose to the beetle but didn’t decide to take the free meal; even so, I knew I was on the right track.

 One of my casts was in a split between the oncoming current that was cut from a big exposed boulder up creek. I watched as the beetle drifted gently upon the slower current. A trout rose and inspected the beetle like one checking out a home made cookie trying to distinguish what’s inside. As he slurped it I reared back on the bamboo rod and it flexed into the midsection with the hook set. The trout scurried about as the bamboo stick wavered with a tight line drawing the trout in my direction.

 I lifted the rod for my next cast out to mid creek. The bamboo felt light compared to the fiberglass rod I had used the week before with the dry fly on the end of the tippet instead of the weighted streamer. I had to wait a little longer on the back cast as I felt the length of rod load with the weight forward line. My forward cast was gentle and the line floated through the air in an open loop. The beetle landed in the riffling water but stayed afloat as it entered the calmer flow. I watched a trout rise and without hesitation nab the beetle from the surface. I had another trout scurrying about on a tight line.

  I played around tossing the beetle out to no apparent risers. As the afternoon wore on I started to notice trout moving into the shallower riffles from the deeper slow water to my right. I’m sure they were moving in for an evening snack and maybe nymph fishing would have been more productive but I decided to stick with the dry beetle and make’m rise.
 I noticed one such rise three quarters across creek in a dead zone pool behind the forward break of rocks that started a small riffle and submerged rocks that may have caused a break in the undercurrent making the water above very slow going. I pulled more line from the reel and made an accurate cast that put the beetle in the small circular pool. I watched the beetle drift by and began to hastily drift with the quicker current. Another cast I again put the beetle in the same area but again no takers. My next cast was a bit more sidearm and with a bit more authority as I directed my fly towards the incoming riffles. The beetle dropped just inches from a small exposed rock where water was diverted and waved to each side. A quick splash made it obvious someone wasn’t going to let this meal get away. I reared back on the long length of line and a trout skirted the surface with my fly line in tow. I took in line quickly as he swam downstream towards the deeper water but turned out in front of me in the knee deep depth. A little physical combat with the bamboo stick tired the trout out enough he became easily tamed and I netted him without any attempt by him to escape.

 For about the next hour I continued to tease a few more trout to rise. I missed a couple and lost one which I may have been just a bit too early with the hook set. I did manage a couple more on the dry beetle before calling it a day.

 Back at the truck I changed into street clothes and lit up a stogie for my short drive home. All in all it had been a good day with the ole’ bamboo fly rod and even turned out better than I thought with a few trout caught on the dry.



Sunday, July 23, 2017

July on Tionesta Creek

July on Tionesta Creek

  I stand here in water up to my shins taking a moment to reflect of the past few days. The stogie I hold in my hand spirals a layer of light gray smoke from the lit end. It feathers as it rises than disappears with the slight breeze that travels over the creek. I take a deep breath and inhale the fresh clean forest air filled with summer aromas you can only appreciate in a forest away from crowded civilization. The thick forest trees, with the fullness of their green leaf branches and tall grass muffle the sound of any motorists traveling down the distant roadway that twists and turns through the valleys of the hilly terrain.

 I look skyward and clouds move slowly like puzzle pieces set on a blue table cloth waiting to be connected. The afternoon is humid and I have felt the dampness upon my button down Columbia shirt for some time now.

 I take a puff of the stogie and reminisce.

When I arrived Thursday evening to set up my tent and camping equipment Tionesta Creek was flowing high and muddy. With the forecast of only an occasional shower on Friday and clear weather for the rest of the weekend, I knew the water would recede and clear up. After setting up camp I relaxed in the quietness with a couple of cold brews before going to bed.

  Friday morning my friend Wil showed up as planned. Because the creek was still on the muddy side we decided to kayak and fish Lake Chapman in Chapman State Park. Though we failed to take any bass or trout it was a relaxing outing upon the small lake.
 Friday evening we feasted on Venison Chops, a few more beers and topped off the evening sipping Eagle Rare Bourbon while talking of memories from our early years in the ANF.

 Saturday morning I cooked up venison breakfast sausage patties, two eggs a piece and black coffee to start the day. The early birds chirped and a few frogs croaked in the stagnate water back behind camp. The water level dropped some and though still a bit stained the boulders beneath were now visible in the sunlight.
 From the bank we watched a mother merganser and her young feeding along the far bank. I also noticed two rises as I was pointing out a good spot for Wil to try for bass and trout. He put together his spinning rod, grabbed his live bait and lures and headed upstream along the path. I strung up the fly rod and stepped off the bank into the cool water.
 Out from the bank, within casting distance of the two earlier rises, I looked about for any bug activity. I didn’t see any mayflies or caddis about or any signs of floating insects upon the water. I knotted on a caddis imitation and tried to make the fish rise again. I must have spent a half hour, and a half dozen dries, trying to get a fish to rise without success. Meanwhile Wil was having some fun hoisting caught trout and smallmouth on his smorgasbord of bait.
 When I finally decided to switch to buggers I caught a couple of small trout.
 We fished till 10:30am and decided to head down creek. We were planning on kayaking the stream but the wind got fierce at times so we decided to just drive and stop-and-go fish the rest of the day in hot spots I’ve caught trout before.

   Wil was doing quite well again with bait at the one section we stopped. 

 The trout weren’t all that interested in my streamers or the dry flies I was trying to feed them. I did end up catching a nice smallmouth in some slow moving water. He put up a good fight and had the 9’ 5 weight flexing like an early morning exercise guru.

  No matter where we stopped and fished if I seen a trout rise, on riffling water that might hold a hungry trout, I’d cast and float a dry fly. I suppose it was later in the afternoon Wil called down creek that there was a fish rising up where he was fishing. I didn’t hesitate too long before heading his way. Even though I hadn’t made anything rise to any of my dries yet I was still determined to at least catch one.
 I looked the riffles over and Wil mentioned that the trout rose a couple of times just downstream from a ledge beneath the surface. There was a slower pool of water that almost whirl pooled behind the ledge before running with the faster current. I threw out a caddis first but decided a big Wulff pattern might get more attention. I showed the trout a few Wulff patterns before knotting on an Ausable Wulff. The big dry fell in the riffling water just this side of the ledge. It drifted and wobbled upon the small waves keeping the white wing visible above the water. The trout rose with a splash at it and I quickly set the hook calling out “got him”! The rainbow gave me a good battle in the fast current and I got him to the net safely. That would be the only fish I had caught thus far on a dry fly during my camping outing.

 Saturday evening I cooked up some sausage patty burgers and corn. We sat around enjoying the evening before heading to Marienville for some entertainment.
 Sunday morning, after breakfast, we fished in front of the camp while waiting for Randy to show up. The water had a nice color to it and the level seamed to still be dropping. Once Randy showed we took off to another spot I had caught trout in the Tionesta.
 The sun was blazing hot but luckily the Tionesta stays cooler than most open rivers. With the canopy over a large part of the stream along with the many mountain creeks entering and cool nights keeps the temperature cool enough to hold trout all year. There wasn’t much of a breeze as I recall so getting my flies where I wanted them was pretty much spot on.
 It appeared to be my turn to shine. Each stop we made along the creek I caught one or two trout. There was nothing spectacular about any of the catches. I didn’t catch any on dry flies so buggers were the preferred choice of the hungry trout. I swung the bugger after a long cast and strip it in slowly against the current. Where I seen underwater boulders or downed logs I made a few extra sweeps with a little jerking finesse with the rod tip. A few times the coaxing worked and a trout would be tugging on the tight line. 

We continued fishing a few miles downstream from the camp till about 3:30pm. 

  By then I figured campers along the creek would be packed up and heading on there way home. After a beer break we headed upstream from our camp to a section of water along other campsites. I didn’t figure there would be many trout around, being it gets hit hard during the season, but there are always a few that avoid the onslaught of trout fishermen.
 Well, after fishing the main deeper water in front of the few campsites Wil and I decided to take our time and fish our way downstream. The water level was still a little high and with the brush and tree limbs behind us on the bank it was tough reaching the far side of the creek with the fly rod. The far side usually holds trout along the banks where it is shaded from the mountainside. Also there are a few places where cool mountain runoff water enters the creek in areas keeping the run along the bank cooler.
 The creek itself, when it has some color to it, is deceiving in its depth. You’ll wade to a section that shallows almost shin deep and looking down creek you swear it won’t get much deeper. If you wade far enough you’ll find there are many deeper pools that will hold trout, deep enough that it will come up to your waste in a hurry if your not paying attention. Again, we didn’t catch many trout but the few we did catch made for some entertainment and along with a good cigar to pass the time.

 After my friends left I was on my own again. I grilled some semi-thick venison chip steaks and with some diced new potatoes simmered in beer. It made for a tasty sandwich with BBQ sauce and a shot of hot sauce.

   I ended the day looking out over the water by the creek bank sipping on bourbon on the rocks and toking on a sun grown stogie.

  Monday I woke pretty early. I made myself a quick breakfast finishing off the breakfast sausage and hard boiled eggs. My plan was to fish till about 3:00 and than head back to camp and pack up.
 I had caught a nice smallmouth and trout where I started fishing this morning. After spending a little more time there I took a drive a few more miles downstream past Mayburg.

 The dirt lane I drove down was pretty rough going. I wanted to go further down the lane towards the creek but the mud was getting pretty thick. I seen the tread of the tire tracks, in the muddy lane, shown an aggressive pattern. There was no doubt 4 wheel drive pulled them through the mud bog. I didn’t have any fear that my own 4x4 Ram could make it but why get the white truck all muddied up? I knew it would be quite a walk to the creek but I had lots of time. I gathered my gear, lit a cigar and took the stroll along the lane and through the tall brush to where I wanted to fish.
 The water flowed over an abundance of rocks and boulders. The current was moving pretty quick along the wide section of stream. My casts were outward letting the bugger swing and stripping it in with hesitation. I slowly and carefully made my way further towards the middle of the creek. There was a shaded area up from a downed log against the far bank that looked like a good spot to drop my bugger. I added a little more weight to make sure I was going to get deep enough not knowing the depth. I waded out as far as I could without going over my waste waders. I let line out as the bugger pulled with the current down creek below me. When I figured I had enough line out I swept the bugger up out of the water, with force, over my head and left shoulder and waited for the line to load the rod. I then swung the rod tip around directly over my head and made my cast forward pointing my rod tip towards my target area. The line swung around in the air above me and quickly shot towards the far bank carrying my bugger. The Woolly Bugger fell upstream from the log and into the shadows. I had just enough slack in the line so the bugger would drop deeper before entering the water near the log. The take was quick, pronounced and forceful. I yanked back the rod immediately tightening the long length of line that shot up from the surface water into the air. The trout on the other end fought vigorously through the cross currents. I maneuvered the rod higher when he was near boulders but kept the rod nearer to the water surface most of the time trying to keep him submerged below the surface avoiding the obstacals. I coaxed him up creek when he was near and guided him into the net successfully. He was maybe the most memorable catch, besides the dry fly catch, of the camping trip. The long cast, the expectation of the take, the enjoyable struggle to get him to the net safely made it quite satisfying. 

   I had caught another trout and a small smallmouth before heading back up stream to fish the incoming current that entered a very long strait stretch of the creek. 

  So now here I stand enjoying the quietness of the afternoon. The sun shining behind transparent clouds that drifts ever so slowly across the sky. I hear a motor vehicle grunting its way down the muddy lane I was reluctant to take. The engine getting louder at times when more power is needed to make its way through the soft spots. I hear a splash upstream and turn and see what looks like a black lab swimming the shallower water near the bank heading midstream. In deeper water I can only see the black head and brown nose from the distance. I know it’s not a black lab but a bear which was evidently spooked by the noisy vehicle. The bear traveled through the high weedy grassy terrain making it to the creek bank for its escape. The same high weedy, grassy terrain I had walked through earlier without fear. I take out my camera hoping to get a good picture of the bear when it arrives on the distant shore. Seeing it angling for a cluster of big boulders and a shady area to exit I decide to take a picture of it swimming. Making a notation of the boulders, when I see the water disturbance and nose of the bear in my camera I snap a picture hoping for a noticeable shot.

 I watch as the bear exit’s the water in the darkness of the bank and I hear it climb the mountainside.
 I fish another half hour before calling it quits and head back to clean up camp. Another fine long weekend camping and enjoying what I love to do!