Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Early Christmas Steelhead

Early Christmas Steelhead


 The fly rod arced like a candy cane as I got the steelhead nearing me. Then all of a sudden she turned and dashed away like a deer on the run. My wrists were locked and I had a death grip on the cork handle like the grip one would have on the cross bar of a roller coaster car ready to descend down the fist steep hill and into the first banked turn…

  I usually go up to Erie on Christmas for some steelhead fishing. It’s usually void of crowds and being I’m alone on Christmas it passes the time. Since I’ve been unemployed for the past month and haven’t got out to fish I needed to and decided to take my Christmas steelhead fishing a couple days early.

  I parked along the side of the road behind the only other truck there. It was already 39 degrees at 7:30am when I arrived. The weatherman projected in the 50’s later in the day but I still dressed as if it was going to be a foggy cold winters day. I assembled the 7 weight 9 footer and threaded the fly line and leader through the guides. I attached a Triple Threat to the 6 lb fluorocarbon tippet and attached the hook to the hook keeper. I made sure I had plenty cigars for the days journey and slung the sling pack of fly gear over my shoulder. It was going to be a long walk through the woods just to get to the creek but I was wide awake and excited to go fishing.

Snow crunched and small sticks kringled under my wading boots as I traveled down the path. A fox squirrel hurriedly climbed down a tree, along the ridge, and scurried away upon my approach. I continued on down the snowy trail following a posse of old boot tracks that had melted some and bulged at the outer imprint. There was a slight breeze that whisked through the trees now and then which caused weakened limbs to creak and groan under the circumstances. The closer I got to the unseen creek the greater the sounds of the rolling water over rocks became and the more excited I was getting.

  I got to the bank and looked up and down the creek. There were shelves of surface ice that hugged bank side objects and laid upon dead pools of water. Within the water small chunks of ice clung to surface protruding boulders and on the shallow stones along the banks. The water was pretty much crystal clear and any oblong fishy looking object beneath would be quite noticeable even in the riffling ankle to knee deep wavy water. I crossed the creek carefully and my cleated boot soles kept me steady upon the stony creek bed. It wasn’t long before my feet up to my knees began to feel the coldness of the water. I slowly, where I could, waded down the bank side peering into the water looking for those oblong fish shapes. It took some time and a long walk before I came across a couple of steelhead, as if cooling off, looking upstream in the middle of a run. Upon seeing me they darted under an ice shelf that was frozen to a downed tree branch and the cliff side shale. I tried to coax them out by showing them an assortment of streamers and sucker spawn to no avail. I waded down creek a bit and crossed over to the far bank. In conscious effort I began to break the ice along the edge and up to the tree branches as far as I could reach in hopes of diminishing the steelheads hide out. After that I recrossed the creek and saw the two steelhead in the middle of the creek facing into the current. I was behind them now and they didn’t appear to be spooked or at least I was hoping not. I made a few casts, with the Triple Threart, into the current way ahead of them and swam it back towards me. On one of the casts one of the steelhead evidently liked what was coming towards him and took the minnow imitation. Upon the hook set I immediately pulled the rod towards the bank putting pressure on the fish so it wouldn’t turn towards and under the tree branch. It instantly turned down stream and passed me by rapidly heading down creek with the current. I lifted the rod high keeping tension on the steelhead. Down creek he gave a couple of head shakes as I seen him clearly from my position. He turned towards the cliff side with force and for some unknown reason he freed himself of the hook as the line went limp. Oh well! The other steelhead disappeared and I figured it took shelter under the ice that clung to the branches.

  I turned downstream and continued my journey, peering into the water, slowly and cautiously where I was able. In the flat steady water I couldn’t see any steelhead for some time. Pretty far down creek I was slowly moving along the stony bank when all of a sudden I saw a dark shadow, within the water, disperse like a group of friends all of a sudden disperse the area from an unknown, silent but deadly fart. I backed up and stood still watching to see if they would return. Sure enough they came back. Apparently the chunk of ice that flowed over them caused them scare as I noticed this on occasion. I began to show them sparkling sucker spawn in different colors like displaying fashion jewelry while trying to get any young women in the group to pick one out for Christmas. To no avail, but still present, I backed up and walked up the bank a bit but within casting distance. I knotted on a Triple Threat and swung the streamer in front of them trying to coax one to take the attracting offering. Swimming the Triple in front of them it was too much of a temptation for one to bear and one moved forward from the group. She took it with a subtle but noticeable grab and I set the hook hard with confidence. The rod arced towards the fish, with a tight line, and momentarily we were as if waiting to take a still picture, before the steelhead knew it was hooked. It took off down into the middle of the stream of water and at the same time the other fish took off as if there was an explosion of some kind beneath them. My steelhead took to the far side and skirted the cliff edge before turning upstream and trying to hold steady in the current. I moved the rod towards the bank putting on some side pressure and she decided to battle it out in the deeper water with tugs and quick moving maneuvers like a downhill slalom skier. The hook up held tight and the pressure of the rod flex and reel drag finally tired the fish out and I got her close to the bank to land her.

 Well, after that first landed steelhead it was time for a light up. I took an Undercrown Maduro from my coat pocket and unwrapped the cellophane wrapper. I took a good whiff of the outer wrapper and the dark tobacco had a nice mild/bold air to it. A bit smokey on the light up but the draw was smooth and tasteful. I had been so concerned with looking for steelhead that I didn’t take the time to really look around and enjoy my surroundings. As I puffed on the stogie I relaxed some and did just that.

 By now the sun was casting it’s rays over the cliff on the far side of the creek. Dark shadows covered half the water surface before me and sparkled the wavy current like tiny lights blinking on a Christmas tree. Clusters of snow and icicles hung from the cliff shale like frozen fallen streams of water from the last thaw. Scraggly bare branches reached out over the edge as hazards to any high faulty casts. The sky was bright and a shade of cool blue with long streaks of clouds reminding me of the white cotton looking fabric attached to the bottom of Santa’s jacket and cuffs. A hawk screeched just above the tree tops maybe looking for a partridge in a bare tree. Smoke rose from my cigar and encircled my head like a wreath. I could feel the warmth from the sun now on my body as I stood on the bank but I also felt the chill, as if cold blood ran up through my veins and bones from my ice cold feet.
  I peered into the water and the steelhead were no longer visible. I didn’t think they would go too far and thought maybe they had moved upstream in the faster current. I slowly walked up the stony bank and discovered the dark gray mass beneath the faster wavy current. Getting the streamers down in front of them, and keeping it there, was going to take a few extra split shots. I moved upstream and swung the Triple Threat in front of them. It took time to get enough weight on the leader to get the right depth in front of the steelhead. The problem was no fish were interested. I switched tactics and started to drift sucker spawn. This appeared to enrage them and they swam away in all directions like the aftermath of a brawl when the authorities show up. It was now going to appear we were going to play hide and seek. I took a few extra puffs on the stogie and counted to 10 before my search.

  I slowly waded down creek, upon the stony bank, trying to discover where the steelhead disappeared to. As I went I casted out and let the streamers swing along the rock ledges underneath the water surface. After getting so far down creek, where the waterway widened and the shallower water began, I headed back up creek. The steelhead still hadn’t returned and I couldn’t find them anywhere. I walked upstream further to where I was able to cross the stream. There was a shallow ledge that water, on the far side of the deeper water break of water I had been fishing in. I slowly waded across the creek until I was just ahead of the small waterfalls. Looking downstream a steelhead spooked and darted off. I stood motionless and focused my vision where the shadow on the cliff met with the sun rays. There were steelhead just along the edge of the shadow as I was able to see their tails gently swaying behind. The water couldn’t have been more than calf deep but they were holding in a tight line within the juncture of the clear and shadowed waters.

  I already had a Triple Threat on the end of the tippet. I took off a couple of split shots because of the shallower water I would be dealing with. An easy cast into the shadow near the cliff, I let the bait fish imitation swing into the seam. A couple of twitches to liven up my offering and I saw the line twitch and felt a hard tug. I reared the rod handle back, the rod arced good, the fish jerked the line, turned and the skirmish was on.

She bolted downstream with the current. I had the drag set a little on the lighter side so the spool spun wildly spitting line out towards the fleeing fish. I palmed the spool to put a little more drag on the line trying to slow the fish down. She turned eventually down creek and held up, with tugs, in the deeper bright water. The water was much calmer towards the cliff and it looked as if I could wade the water below the cliff without much problem. I was able to tighten the spool drag and then I carefully waded to my right towards the cliff bottom ledge. The steelhead was busy trying to figure out just how to undo himself struggling with head shakes and other antics fish just do. I continued down along the bank, holding the cork grip tight and rod high, feeling my way along the submerged ledges. The steelhead hadn’t moved much out of the position it was holding in so I slowly continued wading down along the ledge towards shallower water. Whether the steelhead finally saw me or decided she had rested long enough but she all of a sudden bolted upstream through the deeper water run. The rod arced in her direction and she finally gave in to the pressure and more calmly swam down creek. I reeled in some line and had her coming towards me. The fly rod arced like a candy cane as I got the steelhead nearing me. All of a sudden she turned and dashed away, dashed away, like a deer on the run. My wrists were locked and I had a death grip on the cork handle like the grip one would have on the cross bar of a roller coaster car ready to descend down the fist steep hill and around the first banked turn. She didn’t get too far before the pressure was too much and started to flop around in the water in front of me. I had enough room to swing the rod closer to the angling cliff side and reached down and tailed her with my glove net.

What a battle and nice looking steelhead.

   I caught one more steelhead when I was back on the stony bank with another Triple Threat. The sun now was in full view and casting glare upon the crystal clear water. I spent a little more time fishing the area, without catching, before heading back upstream.

   During the long walk up the creek I still looked for fish but none were visible. When I got to the downed tree, where I broke ice off earlier, I didn’t see any steelhead present. I offered a few of my streamers and sucker spawn in the deep water but it became useless. It got to be as boring as trying to find that one burnt out Christmas light that was making the whole set not to light up. I gave up after a few minutes or so and continued upstream.

  Following the long path, through the woods up towards the truck, I came across some huge deer prints. They were so big I thought maybe some reindeer may have been in the area. I took my time as I went along and felt the strain I had put on my aging body. Walking up hill the rest of the way wasn’t any relief. I wasn’t complaining to myself as I knew this was going to come with age. My love of fishing still gets me excited and my body still can endure the physical aspects of each encounter. I’m love’n it and can’t wait to enjoy my next outing when such occasion arises.

 Back at the truck I changed into more comfortable attire as the heater warmed the inside. I so much wanted a beer but I had over an hour and a half drive home. Getting up at 5:30 am, this morning, I wasn’t sure how the beer was going to effect me in the long run. Instead of taking the interstate I took a much unhurried way home. It was a bit longer in time but I relaxed with a dark Odyssey Maduro between my teeth and lips.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Walk Softly and Carry a 300

Walk Softly and Carry a 300
Nov. 30th, 2019

 Jeff dropped off at the gas line where he had seen doe the day before while hunting turkey. I continued a bit further and then turned right heading up the hill. Walking on the crisp morning leaves was as noisy as walking on corn flakes 3 fold. I swear the forest animals could hear me a ½ mile away in the darkness. I continued on until I found the orange ribbon marker around a tree trunk. From there I took a compass reading and followed the direction I had hoped to bring me to the spot I wanted to stand that I checked out the day before. Even if I didn’t find the couple of trees I’ve hunted this area before so I knew I’d be in the vicinity.

  I supposed I was on the second bench from the top when I decided to find a place to make a stand for the morning. It was getting light enough that I was able to see clearings in the forest so I found a tree, scraped the fallen leaves from the base, and made my stand. This is when I realized I had lost my belt hanging bottle holder. I still had another bottle in my fanny pack but I was sure going to miss the holder.

  The woods was deathly quiet with no wind to speak of. There was just enough light to make out tree formations and unknown objects. It reminded me of a Thursday evening just before Stations of the Cross. There would be enough moonlight filtering through the stained glass windows into the dark empty church that the pews and statues were obstacles to avoid walking into though no defined features were visible. The only thing missing was the scent of the burning waxed candles.

  The sun was to come up on the backside of the mountain. When it did get light enough to see any distance, the already chill in the morning air got colder. After searching my surroundings I took off my orange parka and brown button down and put on a sweat shirt. I buttoned up the brown shirt over top and wrapped the scarf around my neck and zippered up my parka. I felt as snug as a bug in the upright position.

  Until ten o’clock I hadn’t seen or heard anything near by to get me too excited. I saw one hunter moving up the mountain side and heard some rustling in the distance but nothing I could get an eyeball on. I had heard a couple of shots that seamed to come from Jeff’s direction that I was thinking maybe Jeff got a buck.

  A little after 10 I felt as if the deer weren’t going to find me so I’ll have to search for them, crunchy, noisy forest floor or not. I made a semi-circle on the hillside and then dropped down to the gas line to see if Jeff got a buck. He said it wasn’t him who shot and the only deer he had seen was a few that were sneaking through some brush quite a distance away. He couldn’t get any good looks at them. I told him I was going to retrace my steps in the morning and see if I could locate my water bottle. From there I was going to probably still hunt the hillside and maybe end up down to the road near the bridge at the end of the fire trail that ran across the top of the mountain.

  I hadn’t found my water bottle by the time I got to where I was standing in the morning. From there I climbed to the next bench, still hunting, moving as softly as possible. I’d stop for 10 to 15 minute intervals to search in front of me before moving on. The dried leaves that covered the forest floor were still crunchy and the hidden sticks beneath sounded like a half empty plastic water bottle crinkling and snapping when you grip it in your hands. I kept my ears tuned to any changes in the natural quietness of the forest and my eyes open for any sudden movement.

  While still hunting across the mountain side I caught glimpses of a couple of gray squirrels and a deer running too far off to get a good view of. I watched chipmunks appear and disappear under the leaves and fallen timber about. Pine squirrels were most abundant as they scurried up and down trees, along pine boughs and tree branches giving some lively activity to the calm day around me.

  It took some time but I finally came to the fire trail a bench down from the top. It was a bit quieter on the fire trail being it was well used and softer underfoot. I still took my time a few feet at a time, stopping and peering into the forest as my ears stayed tuned to the noises around me. There was a bit of a breeze now and again that fluttered and rustled the tan colored beech leaves that still clung to their young trees.

  For the past three years I had spotted a buck in the vicinity I was now in while turkey and squirrel hunting. I hunted pretty hard in this area last season but never came across him. I wondered whether he would be still around this year but I’ll never know….or would I?

  Looking down the left side of the fire trail was thick with downed trees and brush. A batch of young beech trees, with leaves, were clustered together before opening up further on into open forest of scattered trees and pines. There was only about 50 yards of visibility to my left of flat land before the forest dropped down the mountainside. It was a steep drop and I wanted to avoid that at all costs.

  I slowly made my way a few yards to my right, off the fire trail, and leaned against a half rotten, weathered standing tree trunk. I could see well over 200 yards in spots. If I should get a buck on this side of the mountain would be fine because this side drops down to the road eventually and it’s all down hill.

  There’s always a dull quietness in the woods just after you stop walking and stand still for about 5 minutes or so. It’s as if the wildlife heard you coming and appear to be nonexistent till you pass by or are quiet for a period on time.

  Soon chipmunks started to appear and disappear. Pine squirrels scurried along branches and chirped noisily on occasion. Small Chickadee's soon flew about as if on a scavenger hunt for seeds and edibles among the small bushes, saplings and on the forest floor. As I always said, and most hunters would agree, it’s just not all about the deer!

  While standing there I heard a little commotion on the other side of the fire trail but didn’t get too excited. The forest seemed to come to life with the few small four leggers scurrying about and with the Chickadees and slight breeze rattling the beech leaves it didn’t sound like any deer walking through. I did glance over to the other side now and then just to make sure.

  Woodpeckers started to knock at hollow standing trees in rapid succession like a scared teenager, in a horror flick, slamming the door knocker repeatedly on a vacant house for help. I'm sure the sound carried for miles.

  I suppose it was about 15 minutes or so when I decided to head down the fire trail a little further to where I came across a buck a year ago while hunting turkeys. As quiet as I could I made my way to the fire trail and only took a couple of soft steps down the trail when I heard rustling within the cluster of the leafy beech trees on the far side of the trail. I had a good feeling this wasn’t any anxious squirrel! I raised my 300 Savage on the ready and stood motionless waiting. A deer popped out of the beech trees broadside and began that wary gait. Not quite a run or a walk. Almost like a slow trot knowing something is wrong but not knowing where. It was immediately that I saw his white tines above his head and I brought the rifle up easily against my shoulder. My right eye moved behind the scope and I moved the rifle till the cross hairs were behind the moving bucks shoulder. I whispered “goodbye” under my breath and pulled the trigger. The 300 Savage boomed breaking the tranquil calm forest. The buck flinched in a crouched bent knee position but didn’t fall. He stood momentarily as if he had a sudden stomach ache or sudden abdominal pain. Unconsciously I had already chambered another round in the lever action should I need it as I stood and stared at the buck. I knew I couldn’t of missed being only about 35 yards tops. He turned away from me and walked crippled legged before falling to his belly, head up, motionless. A doe popped out of the beech trees in the same manner and stopped just short of the fallen buck with her ears searching for another sound. The buck was frozen as if in a daze wondering what just happened. Now I made a mistake.

  The hillside was only about 20 yards from where the buck laid on its belly. I took a few steps off the trail into the woods towards him. The doe turned its head and took off over the crest of the hill. I figured the buck was down for good and not going to get up. Wrong! He raised up on all fours and unsteadily headed for the hillside. In no way I wanted him to reach the crest of the hill and drop down the other side. I raised the 300, targeted his left shoulder and again the 300 broke the silence. The buck fell and shimmied its way to the crest only being stopped by a 6” in diameter tree limb that ran parallel with the crest of the hill. I stood motionless not wanting him to get spooked and go any further. He laid with his head half raised for a few seconds and then managed enough energy to kick his rear legs which toppled him over the limb. I could hear the rustling of leaves on the other side as he descended down the slope.

  Quietly but hurriedly I moved to where I last seen the buck but didn’t get close enough to the edge to look down over the hill. I could still hear some rustling in the leaves below. I was hoping he didn’t continue on to the bottom. The slope is quite steep and getting out from the bottom was going to be questionable.

  After hearing a few gasping grunts I quietly moved to the edge and looked down the hill. He had came to rest against 2 tall trees keeping him from rolling down the hill any further. The rustled, upturned blood stained leaves told the story of the path that lead to him. I cautiously made my way down to the buck. I took off my orange parka and put it over the muzzle of the rifle that I then leaned up against a tree. I took off my brown button down and put that in the back pouch of the Parka. My orange HD t-shirt and orange Jones cap would keep me identified as a hunter for all to see. I looked at my watch and it was 2:15.  I unsheathed my knife and the working part of the hunt begins. 

  Field dressing a deer on a slope isn’t an easy or neat task. Not that field dressing a deer is easy to begin with but on a slope it is much more time consuming and awkward.

  They say the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That might be true but it’s not always going to be the quickest or easiest way. I looked up the slope of about 15 yards or so. I grabbed the buck by the antler with one hand and dug the side of my boots into the slope and tugged upwards on the deer. With all my strength I took another try or two and advanced up the slope. My heart was now racing and my face felt beat red. I looked back and the tail end of the deer was only about 5 feet from the gut pile. This wasn’t going to work going straight up the slope.

  I never considered myself one of the strongest 62 year olds or even in the top 50%. I'm not in the greatest of shape to speak of but I can hold my own when needed. I’m not very much overweight, meaning my belly doesn’t hang over my belt, but trying to tug this deer straight up the slope isn’t something I should attempt to do even if I thought I could.

  Still keeping a good hold on the antlers, for fear it might roll down the slope, I looked for another way of getting the buck to the top. I spotted a downward narrow path that angled its way to the top. I dug my boots in the earth and again started dragging the deer to the crest. Each boot digging foot hold, each knee straightening, leg forcing tug was a chore. Each tensed arm pulling muscling the buck upwards was strenuous and aching. By the time I got the buck over the crest of the slope and on flat ground I was pretty much tuckered out. My heart was pounding through my 3 layers of sweat dampened shirts. My knees were weak and ready to collapse. I put my hands on my knees gasping for breath. I could feel a cool breeze swipe across my sweated forehead. My head was pounding and I ached to relax. Maybe 5 minutes or so I rested before I overcame the strenuous chore.

  I walked back down the hill and removed the liver from the gut pile and placed it in an over-sized zip lock bag. I clipped my fanny pack around my waist, grabbed my rifle and coat and climbed up the slope for the last time. The drag to the fire trail was only about 15 yards or so. Once I made it to the fire trail it was mostly all down hill. It was a long way to the bottom but I had lots of time before dark and being down hill shouldn't be that strenuous. I put the rope around Clyde’s rack, the buck, and I descended down the hill with him in tow.
Once at the bottom it was another 100 yards of mostly flat, muddy, stony, branch ridden old ATV trail that lead to the road. I could have left Clyde along the trail and waited for Jeff to help me along but once I start something I aim to finish the job and I considered it wasn’t finished till I got Clyde to the road.

  It was just about dark when Jeff showed up with the truck. We lifted the buck on the cargo carrier and headed to camp. Jeff hadn’t seen anything to shoot at. 
 I stuck around till Wednesday morning trying to push a buck to Jeff on Monday and Tuesday but it didn’t happen. Wednesday I loaded up my gear and got Clyde in the bed of the truck.It was time to take him home.

  So what if it was 8:00 in the morning. A rewarding cigar was in order for the ride home.


Thursday, November 7, 2019

Winston Boron III Plus 9' 6wt. Review

  First off let me tell you that this was a replacement for my 6wt. Winston Vapor rod that broke at the top ferrule while fishing. I had got the Vapor rod many many moons ago for river fishing and pond fishing. I can only compare the Boron III to my Vapor rod in the 6wt. range. I don’t want anyone thinking I buy high priced rods to impress anyone or any group of elite fly fishermen. Winston discontinued my Vapor rod and gave me an option of fly rods at a discount price. After further review and specs of their line up the Boron III Plus appeared to fit my purpose of river fishing casting poppers, big dries and streamers for smallmouth bass and trout. My Vapor rod did all of these very well and satisfying. I found high end rods, to the extent, are lighter than the less expensive rods. If you are a decent caster a high end rod isn’t going to improve your casting without your own consciousness to improve yourself. The expensive rods are lighter so it is more comfortable fishing all day without the arm fatigue. Also I find they cast with less energy applied. This is all in my opinion of course.

Winston Boron III Plus 9’ 6wt. Review

The quality of the built is pure Winston. Material and looks are A1. The translucent Winston green blank is beautiful. The over sized guides and tip top I’m sure makes casting for distance a breeze. Also, in freezing weather, will be helpful and less likely to freeze up so quickly. The rod is considered a fast action, like my Vapor, so I imagined it would cast poppers, streamers and big dry flies adequately. I was surprised that, for the price of over $800.00, there was no alignment dots nor hook keeper. Hey, maybe the alignment dot guy and the hook keeper person was on vacation? I can do without the dots but I really like the hook keeper idea. The 6wt. Boron III Plus is the fresh water type without the fighting butt and I chose the wooden, Maple, insert reel seat. I would of liked a cigar shaped cork grip also but this model only comes with a full well cork grip. There’s just something about a wooden insert that tickles my fancy!

As I said earlier the rod is light. It has a soft flexible tip that I consider that ‘Winston feel’. On the water I have to admit it was very noticeable to feel the rod load. Most fast action rods I have used appear to be much stiffer and therefore not as noticeable loading the back cast.

I took it out on the river on a beautiful fall day. A few cigars made the whole experience quite enjoyable.

  I first was casting weighted Woolly Buggers with added split shots and Clouser Minnows. The casting action was great with less energy to get the distance and accuracy needed.

Next I tested the rod casting foam and cork poppers. Again, excellent results with the wind and cross winds. The tip top shot the poppers out as well as expected. I did cast a few of my Hoppers and the seemingly weightless hoppers, casting with the 6wt., was as smooth and effortless as casting a #14 dry with a 4 weight rod. Fighting the fish, trout, was no different than any other rod of mine.

Now for the cons. The Winston Boron III Plus doesn’t roll cast weighted Woolly Buggers or Clouser Minnows worth diddly squat! Yea, that’s my experience. Not sure if it’s the soft tip of the Boron but that’s the only conclusion I could come up with. I had no problem roll casting anything weighted that I can recall with the Vapor rod. I guess that’s one discouraging thing I’ll have to deal with. Other than that, as long as I’m catching fish and not getting arm/shoulder fatigue after a day’s use, I’ll be satisfied and won’t feel any bad omens. I would consider this rod of a more medium/fast action than pure fast action.

 On 8/07/2020 I was float tubing down the Clarion River after smallmouth bass. With minimal use, I set the hook on a smallie that gulped down my popper. The Winston Boron III Plus folded like an open book in a wind storm. The rod broke at the first eye at the butt section. I ended up bringing the small mouth to the apron hand over hand. I was not happy. I floated the last mile to my extraction point without fishing. You can see the broken rod in the background.

 I called Winston and the guy I talked to was very kind and helpful. They agreed to replace the broken rod, free of all charges, with an upgrade to the Alpha Plus. I hope it lasts longer than a few outings.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Bass'n in the Heatwave

Bass’n in the Heatwave

 My intentions were to cool off in the 90+ weather by float tubing and smallmouth fishing in the Clarion River. The heat index was to get to 105 degrees and I figured I might as well cool off floating in the river than just wading. When I got down to the river it was high, muddy and flowing fast from the overnight storm. With the heatwave, trout fishing was out of the question but I still wanted to fish and not sweating my butt off doing it. A friend has a pond I have bass fished many times that wasn’t too far away. It is fed by underground springs so that meant cool water.
It was about 9:30 am when I got to the pond in the woods. The gray morning clouds were soon to be taken over by the rising sun. I could see in the distance that streaks of white clouds were already heading my way. The temperature was about 69 degrees already. There was nearly a breeze felt so I knew once the day wore on the temperature would rise. Hopefully I could keep my body temperature cool and stay comfortable with my body half submerged in the water in my float tube.
I looked over the pond from the truck. The trees of green encircled the pond except from where I parked. Mike kept the grass cut from the field down to the pond for easy access for a vehicle. The water was high enough that it drained through the pipe at the far side of the pond. The shallow areas now had a foot or so of water so the bass would be visiting these areas often in search of food. There were slight wrinkles that moved across the water surface from a slight warm breeze now and then. The whole pond was in the shape of a large doughnut with a grassy island near the center. For now the trees on the far side shaded most of the pond but it wouldn’t last for long with the rising of the sun.
  My right shoulder and bicep was aching so I went to the dark side and broke out my conventional rod. ( Don’t be alarmed, within an hour and a half I was fly fishing.) I had taken an Aleve back and muscle pain relief pill but it hadn’t kicked in yet. I didn’t have my big bass lures with me just the smallmouth Rebel lures I use for river fishing. I had some frog poppers that I had made out of champagne corks and I was pretty sure I'd be able to cast those heavy corks with my bass rod.
  Down at the pond I put on my flippers and gently stepped into the water. Instantly the coolness circled my legs. I plopped into the float tube seat and the cool water hugged me as my wading pants and sleeveless shirt absorbed the water. I had a good feeling the heat of the day wasn’t going to be too much of a problem!
  In short I fished with the conventional bass rod for about an hour and a half until the pain relief started to work and my shoulder was feeling quite better. I had caught a couple bass on the champagne frog popper and even a blue gill on one of my Rebel crawdad lures before I decided to get my fly rod.
  I didn’t have any intentions on fishing for largemouth so I didn’t have my usual bass fly rod with me. I did have my 6 weight vapor rod and I was sure it would do fine. I knew I already had at least an 8lb tapered leader on it for fishing smallies so I added a short length of 8lb tippet to the end. I grabbed my popper and streamer boxes and headed back to the pond.
I started with frog poppers casting near the banks as I slowly circled the pond area. Within the first hour I lost one bass trying to retrieve it but did successfully hook into and land a small one on a frog popper.
As the sun rose the temperature rose. Even so I kept cool enough half submerged that I was comfortable. The hooking up wasn’t all that plentiful in the next couple of hours. I always had a hard time hooking largemouth, or keeping them hooked, and getting them to hand. I think, being a trout fishermen mostly, I don’t set the hook hard enough. Either that or I set the hook on the first sign of the take and not letting the bass clamp down on the popper. Though it’s nerve racking sometimes when I miss a take every once in a while I get the hook set and the fight begins. Like catching a trout on the dry, it’s just as exciting watch a bass engulf a popper upon the surface water.
Come the early evening the bass didn’t appear to be that hungry for a hearty meal. Sure I caught a few small ones and missed a few more but there was long pauses in between. More damselflies and dragon flies appeared as the day grew long. They would dart here and there flying just above the surface and onto the bladed grass that surrounded the pond. At times they would dive onto the surface water and fly upward just as fast. Every once in a while I would hear a soft popping gulp as a bluegill would be taking a bug off the surface. I decided to knot on a dry fly I had in my popper box and fish for the gills.

 Sure they weren’t bass but I was having some fun trying to hook these fish on that big dry fly. Well, it wasn’t long before I found out that these big bass like the dry fly also. Those small gulps I’ve been hearing, that I thought were gills, might have been largemouth snacking on the flies landing on the surface.

 My cast was long as the orange body dry fly was very visible as it followed the looped fly line. It touched down with a small splash and dimpled the water surface. It’s tall moose wing rose up from the surface and I watched and waited for the next bluegill to take a swipe at it. A soft breeze pushed my dry slowly across the water surface. From the distance I saw the dimple around my fly on the surface disappear in a gulp. I yanked back and the line tightened but didn’t give like it had hooking the bluegills. I thought maybe I had a good size gill until the fight was more aggressive and the fish wasn’t giving up so easy. A large mouth appeared briefly just below the surface before it turned and fought its way deeper. I knew it was a bass then so I gripped the rod a little tighter as the fish tugged and struggled with the line. It wasn’t all that big of a bass but it surprisingly took that dry fly!

 Now things were getting more interesting. Those small gulps I missed and thought were bluegills might have been bass. I didn’t nonchalantly pull back on a hook set any more. I’d give a good yanking hook set instead like I was hooking a steelhead. 

 I was casting near the center island when I saw more dragonflies around there. They would dart about as if chasing each other then eventually rest on a blade of high grass on the island. There was no doubt in my mind that bass were watching them from below just waiting for one to get near enough to snag it.
  I let a long cast cut threw the soft breeze and the dry fly landed just short of the island. The soft breeze slowly pushed the dry away from the bank and my fly disappeared in a vacuum like opening the drain of a filled kitchen sink. I yanked back and the top rod sections bowed downward. He pulled away towards the deeper water and I felt the float tube circle towards him. He exploded out of the water wiggling and waggling his entire body, mouth agape, trying to throw the hook. He plunged back into the pond splashing water in every direction. I held on tight feeling every thwarting tug. It was a short struggling skirmish before I got him close enough to handle.
  I was circling the pond casting towards the bank. I saw a few blades of grass move that were rising out of the water along the bank. Easily I finned my way out towards that direction trying not to disturb the water but close enough to make a long cast. My first couple of drops were close enough he should have seen the dry but he didn’t grab it. I made a couple of casts nearer to the grass but still nothing. I shot a cast more to the left and within a second or two he vacuumed it up like a loose feather being sucked into fan blade. I yanked back and the hook stuck. He darted out away from the shallower bank side and a wake followed. In turn my float tube turned with him and I gripped the rod tighter as if gripping a hammer ready to strike a blow. When the arced rod got into the mid section the pressure was too much and he swung around and splashed his way along the surface just out from me. I seen the fly just showing from his top lip and I was afraid playing too long I was going to lose him. I forced him to circle to my left where I could grab a hold of him while he was still submerged in the water. I was afraid to lift him too much with the rod that the fly would release. When he opened his mouth wide enough I reached down and snagged him trying to make sure I didn’t get too close to the hook.
 Maybe I fished another half hour without another bass that I called it quits. I took my time taking my gear to the truck and putting everything away. I changed out of my wet clothes and it felt good to be in dry clothes again. That’s when I realized how hot and humid it was outside. The cool pond water was a big relief to the outside temperature.
I finished off a Tight Line brew from Peter Straub brewery and grabbed a Prensado Lost Art cigar for the drive home. What turned out to be a depressing moment seeing the river high and muddy turned out for the best in my own opinion.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Alone in the Dark Waters

Alone in the Dark Water!

  Sunday morning looked gloomy as I drove East on I80 and then South East on route 322. The clouds above was a sheet of pewter gray with streaks of blue that distinguished the cloud cover from the blue sky in the background. The weatherman claimed a cool day with a good chance of rain in the morning and just cloudy in the afternoon. Though I hadn’t hit any rain yet I always said the weatherman and the president could be wrong most of the time and still keep their job. The weatherman is usually a % right most of the time though. They learned if they throw in a 10% chance of rain or a 10% chance of sunshine or a 5% chance of snow before the day begins they’ll be right more often than not.
When I got to the dirt road towards the project section a turkey was standing in the middle of the road as if confused. The hen waddled nervously in front of me down the dirt road side to side as if it was leading me to a place to park. It didn’t want to go to the left towards the creek and the high bank to the right may have been to steep for it to climb. I followed her till we got to a flatter area to our right. She hopped onto the forest floor and disappeared through the open brush like the white rabbit hurriedly going to a very important date. I had brought my shotgun and camos to hunt spring gobbler Monday morning and this gave me encouragement that turkeys were in the area.
After parking it started to sprinkle. I put my fly boxes and stuff in my rain jacket and got my gear on. When I got to the creek the brown tea stained water flowed with just a ripple effect below the rougher water above. The pool was wide all the way to the tail out where it tumbled over exposed boulders and rocks. The far side was a combination of pines and laurel that overhung from the bank. The water beneath was as black as ink. The main flow was visible to the bottom of rocks and stones but because of the tea brown stain there wasn’t any fish to be identified anywhere. There wasn’t any fish rising but I wanted to dry fly fish so I offered a couple of different dries with no effect before I went to streamer fishing. I’ve fished this creek many time before so I was kind of prepared how to fish it as I waded down creek.
I made long casts downstream keeping my distance from my offering hoping the trout wouldn’t notice me. I always wondered, with the dark water, if the fish could see me through it though I wouldn’t be able to see them. I would wade slowly foot by foot over the stony bottom not to stir up dirt. Sometimes I was ankle deep and other times I got thigh deep in deeper pockets. I would hold the rod out towards the bank to get my Woolly Bugger in the darker water underneath the pine boughs and laurel where the trout would most likely be.

  Letting the bugger settle in the current and maybe a twitch or two was successful if there was a trout curious or just hungry for a meal. Sometimes the tug on the line was forceful and others were as if the trout was just sampling a little bit to taste whether it was to their satisfaction before gobbling it up.

 Slowly I moved trying to cover as much of the water as possible as I waded down creek. Now and than I’d catch a trout here or there but nothing to get too excited about

   The water started to get deeper than I remembered along the way. I heard a loud waterfalls ahead of me. When I turned the bend I noticed there was a beaver dam holding back the water. It was swampy to my right where the beaver cleared the trees leaving just stumps all the way to the road.
I casted out towards the banks and let the bugger swing trying to coax a trout out from cover into the open water. There was a slow deep looking bay to my left with laurel branches protruding half way around the pool. I made a long cast as far as I could into the slow bay. I was letting the current take my floating line which caused my Woolly Bugger to swing towards the open water. I felt just a slight bump and seen the line pull to my left. I yanked back the rod and felt a heavy fish on the tightened line. It gave a good fight in the open water with tugs and quick jerks. After a good skirmish I had to get it towards me in the stronger current I was thigh high deep in. I kept the rod low and played him towards my left as he tussled with the line and rod. Once near me I raised the rod and he swam past me upstream. I brought in line and kept the rod high as I grabbed my net and guided him into the basket.

 A fine brightly colored rainbow was a surprise to see.
  Just about in the middle of the dammed up water I seen my first rise. I wasn’t sure what he was after but I was going for him. I had lots of room for my back cast being the beaver cleared a lot of the trees to my right. I knotted on an extra piece of 5x tippet and to this I knotted on a Spruce Moth. I made a couple of long casts with ‘S’ bends in my line to make sure the moth got to the rising trout without drag. I watched the moth slowly drift down creek . The fish rose with authority and I yanked back the long length of line for the score. He scurried about in the open water and I got him to the net safely.
 I spent a little more time trying to find another hungry trout but didn’t find any. I walked out along the swampy area and made my way through the laurel and branches back to the creek below the dam.

 The creek narrowed in most places and thus deepened. Where the creek got wider it was usually shallow water. I kept with the same routine letting the bugger drift down creek from me twitching it every so often. Again I would catch or miss a few trout or maybe lose him trying to get him towards me in the rough water.

 After I got so far down creek I decided to go back to the truck and head down creek to an area where it widens to another big pool.
  The weather started to clear up some about 1:00. The sun actually peered out briefly just enough to hope for better fishing conditions and maybe a spring hatch or two. Before going down to the pool I lit up a stogie and decided to work the pool over for the time being.
 Down at the big pool I looked it over. There wasn’t anything going on as far as any rises. There were a few tiny midges flying about and a few tiny caddis appeared fluttering high above the water. I tied on a Spruce Moth and decided to give it a whirl.
I made one cast upstream from a big overhanging pine. The water darkened beneath the pine boughs and I figured this to be a good place for a trout to be hanging out. The Moth imitation landed softly on the water surface and drifted gingerly on the slow moving surface current. A trout snapped at the moth and I twitched back the long length of line. I could tell the trout wasn’t anything big but it darted and wrestled fiercely all the way to me.
 Well, if I can make one trout rise I didn’t see why I couldn’t make another. For an hour or so I casted out a few different dries. I have to admit I missed a couple that surprised me when I was ready to give up. I tried nymph fishing the slow water at times but mostly got snagged on the bottom and got frustrated with that. I knotted on a Para Adams and just started flinging it out with hope. Wouldn’t you know it? Back towards the tail out near the far bank a trout slapped at my Adams and this time the hook set. The trout scampered about before I got him to hand.

 After some time of going fishless I called it a day and went back and made some supper quick and easy. Kind of tailgating.

 After dinner I sat back and enjoyed a smooth cigar and my favorite Scotch Ale I had brought back from North Carolina some time ago.

 Cheers to a fine day fishing alone in the quietness of a small mountain creek. No phone, no internet not a single interruption!

Alone in the Dark Water
  I was up early just as the morning sky started to brighten. I didn’t hesitate much and put on my heavy camo coat and stepped out in the brisk chilly outdoors. The sky was opening up to be looking like a nice calm day. White clouds floated softly above and reflecting light from the rising sun still hidden behind the mountain tops. I stepped out on the dirt road and gave a few yelps with my turkey call listening for any sounds of a gobbler. All I heard was morning tweety birds and the flow of the creek. Back in the truck I let the insides warm a bit. The truck thermometer read 28*. For the next hour or so I drove and stopped here or there and gave a couple of yelps with the turkey call. At times I’d walk up the road and again give a few calls and wait for an answer. I even crossed a bridge and drove almost to the top of the hill overlooking the valley below. I waited a few minutes and gave a few more yelps. Any gobbler in the valley that was interested would have very easily been able to hear me. Likewise, if he gobbled I should have been able to hear him. With no responses it was time to go back where I was camping and have some breakfast.
I started water to boil in my tea kettle while I exchanged fly boxes and stuff from my rain jacket to my fishing vest. After the water boiled I made an instant cup of coffee and made myself some oatmeal. After breakfast I put together my 4 weight Hardy fly rod and my waders and was ready to catch some trout. I walked down the path that lead to the slow moving pool of water. I didn’t expect anything flying about in the cold morning chill but I decided to spend some time trying to get a trout to rise anyhow.
I threw out an assortment of small flies covering the section pretty thoroughly. One cast, upstream into the wavy current entering the slow pool, I dropped my Picket Pin offering with a small Hare’s Ear as a dropper. The water looked maybe knee high at the deepest. I was able too see the bottom with the sun rays penetrating the brown tea stained water. The Picket Pin was riding atop the waves for some reason with the Hares Ear below. I watched a trout swim to the surface and quickly snatch up the Picket Pin before it passed by. I wristed the rod downstream and the line tightened as I watched the trout turn with the hook set. It scampered about in the rolling current but wasn’t much trouble getting him to hand. 

 I know I spent the next 3 hours casting dry flies and wet flies into the pool of water. I watched the sun rise over the mountain tops, over the trees and partially exposing the pool I was fishing in with bright sunshine. A few small caddis fluttered about and I seen a few midge type mayflies rise from the surface water. I offered a few of my own midge ties and small caddis but wasn’t getting anything interested. Finally I saw a fish rise just about mid creek in a deeper section I couldn’t see the bottom. I tied on an Elk Hair Caddis and let it drift to the riser. He rose to inspect it but refused it and dropped deep. After a few more casts he finally gave in and took the surface drifting caddis without much investigating. I've been known to throw enough dry flies of the same kind to look like there’s a hatch going on. Maybe I convinced this trout as such. I got a good hook set and he gave me a good fighting battle before bringing him to the net.
 After a dry spell of no action I decided to drive up creek and stroll along downstream bugger fishing as I did the day before. If I seen a fish rise I would definitely try for him with a dry fly but I didn’t get my hopes up.
Wading down creek I covered the same areas in the same manner I did the day before. I didn’t catch as many trout but I did come across a few more that were anxious to take a swimming Woolly Bugger. 

 One cast I was working the Woolly Bugger under a long set of overhanging pine bows. it’s one of those times where I knew there had to be a trout lurking in the in stained water in the shadows of the boughs. I twitched the bugger and stripped it in slowly like a bait fish just swimming nonchalantly up through the current. At times I raised the rod and let the bugger drag the top of the surface current. I reached my fly rod out towards the far bank as far a possible and let the bugger hold in the current beneath beneath the boughs for sometime before skirting it towards the midsection of the creek as if swimming away from danger. Wham, a trout grabs the bugger with a forceful sweeping grab that moves the fly line swiftly to my right. I give a little more of a tug back to make sure the hook is set good and let the trout play his game. He takes off down creek with a surge of a sports car in seconds flat. Line pulls from the spool and I quickly put tension on the line trying to keep the trout from venturing too far downstream into the shallower wavy current. It feels the pressure and turned back under the overhanging pine boughs. I’m not sure what hazards lie beneath so I swing the rod to my right level with the water trying to coax him away from the left side of the bank. He gives a jolting tug that arcs the rod deeper towards the midsection as if he doesn’t want to follow but reluctantly gives in a comes out from below the pines. Mid current I got him pretty much under control though he’s still putting up with short tugs. I slowly step towards the right bank to get clear of the pine boughs above me. Lifting the rod clear of the pines the trout swims towards me and I’m able to net him without much of a problem. His big head and large fan tail seamed out of proportion to the rest of his slim body. 

 As I fish downstream the wind picks up kind of fierce at times shaking the flexible pine boughs and laurel that line the creek. Along with it comes a chill in the air that makes me think a storm is approaching. All of a sudden the wind quits and sun rays shoots through the canopy of limbs and laurel like lightening bolt frozen in time upon the water.
I caught a hungry chub on one cast and my last trout of the day was a wild brook trout who looked like it took more than it could of chewed of my #10 4x long Woolly Bugger.

 It was a long somber drive home with the reality that work was approaching tomorrow and the rest of the week.