Sunday, February 9, 2020

Mountain Trout North Carolina Style

Mountain Trout NC. Style
2/01/2020

 The water flows in small waves over colorful submerged boulders, around bends and then narrows between laurel and cliff banks. From there it continues, splashing around exposed boulders and over rock ledges falling and gurgling into deeper pools. Along the banks the water eases with a calmer surface under overhanging laurel branches or against the rock ledges. The water is soupy clear and if I look long enough in one spot the waves will subside and I can distinguish objects on the creek bed though trout I can not.
  The air is cool and most likely from the cool vapors rising from the cold mountain stream water for the outside temperature is warmed by the sun as it slowly rises over the mountain's bare tree tops. Small midges appear here and there but I see no trout rising to the minuscule flying insects.
  Sand stone along the banks sparkle beneath the water like glitter that had fallen on a dance stage under a spot light performance. The steep gradient and changing undercurrent, from different levels, is strong enough that there is little sediment of loose dirt or silt. The granite boulders and rocks erode with the constant force of the current and leaves their loosened heavier granules spread out upon the stream bed.
  I've seen pictures and paintings of western wide open trout streams. Rivers that flow in gorgeous settings with the backdrop of rising mountains. Though Beautiful they can not compare to the beautiful quaint, serene, cold water mountain streams such as these in North Carolina. Pictures and painting can't truly do these streams justice without the murmuring and gurgling sounds as the water flows through the boulder and laurel strewn valleys.
  I fish the water swinging and stripping streamers without a strike. It wasn't until I cast upstream, with the streamers, and high stick them through like nymph fishing, that I finally started getting strikes and hook ups. I cautiously climb over big boulders to make my way along the stream. I wade foot by foot, feeling the stony rock bottom, making sure of steadying myself before each cast. I found with the constant changing of the surface current above and around boulders the seams on the surface weren't necessarily a feeding zone beneath. Therefore sometimes it took a few extra drifts through this undercurrent to find a trout. I could only imagine that the Woolly Buggers bouncing off of the boulders and rocks, in the erratic undercurrent, like a pinball bouncing off of bumpers and side rails.



 When I did hook up it could be just about anywhere, deep pools, tail outs, or along undercuts of extruding rock ledges or under overhanging laurel branches. I tried to cover as much as the water as possible on this account.



 I was standing thigh high deep with my back against laurel branches. I had already caught a nice rainbow here earlier in the deep wavy current I was now looking at. I felt pretty sure there were other trout either beneath the strong current or laying near the far rock wall in the calmer water.

  I switched to a white Woolly Bugger for no apparent reason except the olive color wasn't working. My first couple of casts followed the wavy fast current with no results. My next cast was upstream in the calmer water near the cliff. I held the rod over the faster current and watched the leader drift the bugger through the calmer current. After the drift passed me the leader and fly line dipped and stuck as if I snagged bottom. I gave a little chuckle under my breath and with a little force raised the rod and swept the rod tip upstream. The line not only tightened but pulled down stream. The 3 weight, 7 foot Hardy rod arced and wobbled with the tugging and struggling trout. I slowly waded downstream away from the laurel branches in more open water. The trout stayed deep thrashing at times aggressively. I slowly took in line under tension until the trout was within net reach. I took out my net, lifted the rod and netted the brown trout.

  It wasn't too long after that my boys showed up from fishing upstream. My youngest son, Jesse Pete, got hold of a handful rainbow upstream.
 Giddeon also showed me picture of a nice lengthy brown trout he had caught also.



 I hadn't caught anything near pound for pound what they caught but I had caught enough trout to keep me content. We fished for another 10 minutes or so and then called it a day.


~doubletaper


Friday, January 24, 2020

Birthday Trout 2019

5 days in Clinton and Potter County, Day 4

Birthday Trout 2019

4/21/2019


 Sunday, Sunday. I woke up 62 years old. Didn’t feel any older than the few days before but I was up for the challenge. I made myself a birthday breakfast worth feasting on. Green eggs and ham with potatoes and a cup of coffee. Not bad for camping food.

 Kettle Creek had come down considerably from Saturdays high water but we had already made plans to head towards Coudersport and fish some new streams in the area. After breakfast we checked out the map and headed North. 
  We found our way to the project waters on the Allegheny River. The weatherman called for some rain in the afternoon so we donned our rain gear and headed to the river. We split up as Jeff took a trail upstream and I crossed the field to the river.


 Now, when I think of the Allegheny River I’m imaging wide water with lots of room to cast out. I’m thinking boats and watercraft. Deep sections not wadable under any circumstances. Well, the head waters of the Allegheny River is a small narrow stream that my 7 years old grandson could throw a rock across in many of the areas. The section we were fishing meandered through forest and farmland. 

  When I got to the stream it had a chocolate color to it and it was hard to tell how deep it was from the bank. I could see bottom along the shoreline and it looked mostly silty and soft. I walked up the bank, on the grass, till I got to the wood line and started fishing my way downstream. Of course I started with a bugger controlling it to avoid hazards such as downed logs and submerged branches. When I got to a section where the water had split around a small island and converged together on the other end I thought sure I would get a hook up. That didn’t happen so I continued on.

  There was one thorny tree a dozen yards behind me in the open field. The river in front of me was wide, wide enough that I could cast to the other side without a problem. The sun was actually shining down and the murky surface water was becoming translucent. I added a little more weight and was casting out a variety of Woolly Bugger colors though that thorny tree behind me wasn’t allowing me at times. I’m not sure if it felt lonely and neglected or it just liked my Woolly Buggers. It grabbed the bugger on my back cast quite a few times that I had a good notion to somehow trim the branches or try to cut it down completely. I’m sure I looked silly from the road being seen in a field wrestling with the small bushy tree. I know I’d feel kind of embarrassed explaining to the officer that the tree was trying to rob me of my Woolly Buggers and I was just eliminating the threat by trimming it. I know the landowner might not appreciate it nor would the trout fishermen. Of coarse I wouldn’t do such a thing but at times, while untangling my line and tying on fresh tippet, I imagined it.

Downstream a bit there were a couple trees that their narrow trunks were submerged in the water. Their branches overhung the water with a few of their branches submerged in the murky deep water unseen. I had no doubt there had to be some trout hiding out under cover. I could of extended my rod out and dipped a few San Juan’s but hooking a trout in the tangles wasn’t a bright idea by any means. I was upstream enough that I would cast the bugger cross towards the far bank. I left slack in the line that it arced in the current, letting the bugger drop deeper, before the bugger began to swing beneath. I’d twitch the rod tip to give the bugger a little more action on the swing. Reaching the rod out, just before the bugger swung too close to the trees, I took in line quick enough not to get caught in the submerged branches.

  Now, just about anyone I talk to or read about claim that in murky water your best choice is a darker offering. This usually is good advice. My darker colors weren’t producing anything so I switched to a white bugger. I made a long cast in the same manner as before. The white bugger dropped deep and I watched the floating fly line as it arced downstream swinging the bugger. I let out a little more line to get the bugger to swing a little further downstream out from the couple of trees. I noticed the arc in the line start to narrow and the tip started to sink as if I had a snag. I took in line, while pulling back on the rod, and I felt a little give. I thought maybe I had snagged on a submerged branch twig and gave a little more of a tug on the rod to maybe get it to become undone. When the line started to move upstream I knew it wasn’t a twig. I jerked the rod back a little more heavier to make sure of a good hook set. The rod tip arced and the line started to run upstream a little more quickly. The fish stayed deep but wasn’t head shaking or aggressively fighting.

“What was the odds of hooking into a sucker with a Woolly Bugger in this small stream?” I thought. I mean there was no doubt there were probably suckers in the water but I wouldn’t think they would take a Woolly Bugger.

  I kept the rod up, while the fish swam around, waiting for it to tire some. I could tell it was a heavy fish by the force it was putting on the arced rod. I hadn’t caught anything as of yet and letting the fish play a little without horsing it was the most excitement I had all day. Though I was anxious to see the fish it stayed deep in the murky water and kept its distance. I looked along the shoreline and found a place that didn’t look too muddy that I would sink in. I carefully stepped off the bank and found myself in shin deep water, all the while the fish was effortlessly pulling on the tight line and swimming around like a lone goldfish in a water filled glass globe. I started reeling in the fish and he came my way quite handily. I got out my net and when I saw what was on the end of my line I quite surprised. So surprised I felt like a kid getting to the bottom of the stairs on Christmas and seeing his first skateboard under the Christmas tree! There was my birthday trout laying quietly in my net with the white Woolly Bugger hanging out of its mouth.



  Now, I’m not sure if the trout had been caught before and he figured it was just going to be released anyway so why exert much energy or it just wanted to end its life in someones frying pan instead of dying of old age. Whatever the reason the brown trout didn’t fight aggressively is beyond reason but it made my long standing birthday trout list and became my birthday trout for 2019. I tipped the net in the water and the brown trout swam away like he was proud to make my list!


 The rest of the day was almost fruitless only hooking into a couple of smaller trout. Jeff had found a honey hole and was catching trout sporadically with what else, a white Woolly Bugger. It started to rain off and on and when it began to down pour, without much reason to believe it was going to quit, we climbed in the truck and decided to head North East where the sun was shining. I always wanted to see and fish the Genesee River in Pennsylvania that I heard about.
 Jeff navigated the map while I drove. When we got to the Genesee River it actually looked narrower and shallower than the Allegheny River. We must of hit the headwaters that flowed through goat pastures and farm land. We followed the road towards New York and actually found a couple of fishermen. One young man was about waist deep in the skinny water looking as if he was nymph fishing. We decided to turn around and look for another trout stream. The rain caught up to us and we headed South East where the clouds weren’t so dark. Each time we got out of the rain it wasn’t long, if we stopped, before the rain would catch up to us. It was like that dark cloud in a cartoon show that would follow some Disney caricature in a funny wet story line. We ended up back to camp by early evening.



  Later on we toasted to my Birthday. While Jeff ate jelly beans and drank beer I sat back and enjoyed a Carolina Cigar Co. Cabinet Selection. The smooth Cameroon was a pleasure smoking to end the day while listening to the sounds of the Kettle.

Cheers!

~doubletaper


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Friday on the Kettle 4/19/19

5 Days in Clinton and Potter Country, Day2 and 3  (cont.)

Friday Mayflies on the Kettle

4/19/2019

 I woke up early along YWC before the sun rose above the mountain tree tops that added color to the blue and white cloudy sky. The sound of the rumbling water over the falls was quieter. I went over to the bank and saw the water had come down considerably according to the height gauge.

I drank a cold coffee and ate a few cinnamon doughnuts for an early quick breakfast. I put on my waders and planned on fishing for an hour before meeting up with Jeff on Kettle Creek. I walked down the path and got to the big pool I fished the day before. After knotting on a Moth pattern I took a little time looking over the water to see if anything was rising to the few midges dotting the water. I gave a few casts and watched the moth float and drift atop the surface. One cast I made was towards the far bank just creasing the slower water that edged the riffles made by the shallow incoming water. I kept bringing in slack line as I watched the moth bobble atop the surface. Just before it entered beneath the big pine bough limbs a trout rose and slurped it up with nearly a splash like an infielder fielding a ground ball right to him without kicking up dirt. I yanked back the long line and felt the resistance on the tight line. The fish struggled some in the large pool of water before I got him safely to hand. I gave a few more casts, trying for another, but I think they were still sleeping.



 I drove up to the bridge and swung buggers and nymph fished a bit. I came up empty and decided to head north.

  I followed the hard top to the gravel roadway. This turned into a packed dirt road that twisted and turned frequently through the mountain pass. Once I reached a major paved road I headed towards Oleona. From there I headed to Ole Bull campground. I was hoping the camp host would let me set up my tent and canopy before the rain and possible storm the weatherman had promised for the afternoon. When I got to the campground I drove over the cement bridge, that crosses over Kettle Creek, which connects the lower loop camping area to the free world. Beneath the bridge are a few big culvert pipes that the water flows through. Fishermen and kids fish from the bridge, which isn’t far above the water, so driving across one has to be careful of the people on the bridge. When I started to make the loop I saw Jeff already setting up his tent. It wasn’t even noon yet and check in time wasn’t till 3:00 but if no one is on the site, just do it!

  After setting up camp we traveled route 144 to check out the conditions of Kettle. Jeff came in the other direction and said downstream was pretty high so we concentrated on the upper section along the project waters. There were a few vehicles parked in the lot along the bridge and a few fishermen were both upstream and downstream. By the looks of it the water was a bit cloudy and on the high side but fishable. We decided to drive upstream and find a spot that was less occupied.

We parked along the guardrails and got our rain gear on. Jeff had already had his waders on and rod ready and headed down to the creek while I was still suiting up. When I got to the creek it was somewhat high but wasn’t as cloudy as it looked from the road. I was fishing a Woolly Bugger towards Jeff when I noticed his fly rod was arcing and flexing like a CB antenna on a truck drivers mirror rolling down the highway at 70 mph. He was pretty excited that it didn’t take him long to capture his first trout of this long weekend.
 
I joined him and we picked off a couple more before we decided to head downstream.

  We found the water was much higher than we expected downstream. Because of the fast current it was dangerous to navigate while wading. I took my time and crossed the creek in the shallowest water I found and made my way to the big pool around the bend. The deep pool usually holds trout during low water conditions. It wasn’t long before Jeff navigated his way down towards me. We spent a time fishing but our offerings weren’t producing any fish. A few Mayflies started to appear but there wasn’t any fish rising on the sparse hatch if you want to call it that. Jeff headed back upstream while I stuck around hoping for a heavy enough hatch to get trout to rise.

  I fished the rough water that rushed and waved over the submerged rocks before entering the deep pool with weighted nymphs and buggers. In the deep pool I added more weight to get my offering down and even used an indicator at times to identify soft strikes. There were a few Red Quills and small caddis about and what looked like a few brown stoneflies. Now and then I spotted a BWO or a Blue dun fluttering off. Looking over the pool I noticed one or two fish rising periodically in the shallow tail out. I knotted on a small caddis and pitched it out several times towards the rises without a take. While I was tying on a moth pattern I was studying the rises in the tail out. I believed it was only one trout that was changing positions or just continuously moving searching for food and not actually waiting for food to come to him in the same place. Kind of like buying peanuts from a walking vendor at a ball game. Soon you become thirsty and instead of waiting for the beer man to come around you go over where he is to get a beer. When you get back to your seat, well look, there’s the guy selling popcorn. Get it?

  Well my first cast was where the last rise was at. Without a take I casted the moth towards the further side of the tail out. The second cast was going to drift into the vicinity he should be if I guessed right. The rise was as quick as catching that overthrown bag of peanuts from the vendor 5 rows back! I reared back on the length of line and it tightened. The trout fought and swam in the wide tail out section like he was roaming the outfield. After letting him play for a bit I brought him in easily to the net and then let him go back to the field of play.

 I looked down in the tail out and there were no other rises. I fished for another 10 minutes or so and then headed upstream to see what Jeff was up to.

  I finally got through the heavy brush and saw Jeff nymph fishing the long straight stretch and watched him land a nice rainbow. We spent the rest of the morning fishing the stretch of water with nymphs and Woolly Buggers. It wasn’t one after another by any means but we did hook a few that gave us some nice fighting action.



 About 1:00 we waded out and up to the truck to eat lunch. After we reentered the creek Jeff stuck around fishing the long stretch of water we were fishing earlier while I decided to explore down creek once again.


  
 The water rushed along a wide stretch of the creek and funneled some around the bend and emptied into a deep pool of water. I fished a nymph deep and swung a Bugger in the fast tail out without a strike. I noticed a few midges about along with a few small Mayflies.

“Heck, why not give it a try.”

  I knotted on a Parachute Adams and tight looped my casts under overhanging branches and watched it glide atop the moving water. I fished the dry all the way to the fist block wall falls. I was down creek from the falls and casting up near the falling water letting my dry come back towards me. During my next cast, with line in the air, I noticed a rise on the far side of the falls. I dropped the fly in front of me, as I have been, near the falls and started to take in slack to tighten the line. When the line was straight I reared back for a back cast and at the same time took a step or two to my right. My forward cast put my dry near the far falls but not quite where the trout was rising. I took a couple of more steps to my right and my next cast was closer to the easy water to the right of the falls. With the quick current, if the fish seen it, he had to be quick on the take. My next cast was side arm with a powerful forward cast. The dry almost hit the blocks the trickling water was falling over. The dry sat on the easy water for a second or two like a gymnast, on a tumbling mat, getting ready for her next run and tumbling performance. The current caught my fly line and the fly line was starting to straighten to the fly. The dry started to move from it’s comfort zone when the trout slapped at the moving object. I wristed the line back and the line tightened with the trout coming my way. He kept his distance for a bit but it wasn’t long before I got him in the net.

 I casted the dry out a few more times without any takes before returning to where Jeff was fishing. When I got within ear shot I asked how he was doing. He was casting dries to sippers. He said trout had been rising now and then. He had seen a few Mayflies but couldn’t determine what they were. I plopped in the water downstream from him and noticed fish rising just dimpling on the surface. I looked in the air around me for one of the Mayflies. It took some time but I finally got a hold of one and determined they were Red Quills. There were a few bigger Mayflies that came within identity vision and I just passed them off as Hendricksons though their bodies were quite dark.

  The trout were mostly dimpling at the struggling Mayflies as they reached the surface though there were some meaningful splashes of takes. It was a challenge trying to deceive the trout with our imitations but we were up for the challenge and I had plenty of Red Quills and Henricksons in the bullpen should one get abused. 



 
 In the far tail out Jeff saw a few more trout dimpling. He told me to give it a try. I had a big March Brown on by then but didn’t feel like changing it. I cast it out a few times and sure enough there was one trout who wanted a full meal and grabbed it.
 
  It was challenging and fun while it lasted. It started to spit rain and the hatch subsided along with any risers. We waded upstream and up the bank to the truck. By the time we got back to camp it started raining pretty good. We discussed Saturdays fishing expedition. I was to drop off some flies to an outdoor shop and we were going to trout fish around Coudersport for the day. 
 
Saturday 4/20/19
 
 It had rained all night and pretty heavy at times. Saturday morning we were both up early. Jeff had gone down to take his morning shower while I was sipping on hot coffee and getting breakfast ready. A car pulled up to our campsite and told me the bridge was blocked so no one could leave.

(There are two loops in Ole Bull Campground. To get to the second loop, is where Jeff and I were camped out, you have to cross a bridge that crosses over Kettle Creek.)

  He proceeded to tell me the Kettle has risen so high and fast from the rainfall that the bridge was covered and the current was evidently too fast to cross with a vehicle so they Rangers barricaded it so no one would cross it. Jeff had just returned from his shower and the guy repeated the situation to Jeff. We could see the creek from our campsite and it was obvious the creek took a turn for the worse. We were stuck on this side of the bridge with no vehicle way out. Zilth, no fishing today, called because of rain.

  Jeff made some venison stew and cut up some vegetables to throw in the crock pot. Though we weren’t going to be able to fish we were still going to eat supper as planned. It’s not like we were going to be able to go out for dinner. Needless to say we weren’t too happy about our situation!!!



 The water did subside later in the evening that they removed the blockade but the water was still gushing and it was getting late to try and find somewhere to fish. We were hoping that Sunday, my birthday, we would find a creek to trout fish!

~doubletaper


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Early Spring 2020

Early Spring 2020
1/14-1/15/2020


  I couldn’t land all the wild brown trout on an #18 nymph in the fast current but it sure was fun trying.”

I put the last few items in the truck and headed for Spring Creek in central PA. It was 28 degrees when I left and as I drove East the sun was playing peek-a-boo through the gray cloud cover. The weathermen predicted high thirties for the day with cloud cover and possible rain in the afternoon. For Wednesday was to be in the 40’s and sunshine. I’ve been watching the water gauge and I saw the level was going down from the rain and snow run off from the past weekend. I was hoping to get some trout fishing in before the next freezing wintry weather came upon us.
1/14/2020
When I got to the Milesburg exit my truck thermometer read 38 degrees. When I got to Milesburg and Spring Creek the thermometer showed 32 degrees at 10:00. I tried relaxing in the truck to wait for the temperature to rise but that only lasted a couple of minutes before I started to get my gear on and ready to hit the stream. I bundled up warm and took to the water.
The water was running fast but wadeable. The overcast sky didn’t bring much light to the creek and you couldn’t see through the water with polarized glasses except for about a few yards around you. The subtle surface glare and darkness made it tough to determine how deep the water was otherwise.
I started off with a Flashback nymph and a San Juan worm as a dropper. With the fast current I decided an indicator would be more of a deterrence than a helper. After a half hour or so of different combinations of nymphs I decided to go small. I kept the flashback as the top fly to attract attention in the fast current and knotted on a #18 nymph as a dropper. I’m not sure how the trout even see that small of a nymph and be able to grab it in fast current but they find it.
It took 3 lost trout before I was able to land one wild brown. Not a big one but it broke the ice.
 
 By 2:00 a mist of rain fell. It felt like the mist from Niagara Falls. It left small wet spots on my coat and I could feel the misty moisture on my hands and face. I headed back to the truck for my rain gear. After getting my rain gear on I was back out at it again. 
 
 Now that I found the right combination a little more fun started to happen. Hooking into wild brown trout is something to experience. I’ve caught brown trout before. Through my experience usually a brown will stay deep and use its forceful strength to test your line and rod. It will head shake harshly and I’ve had them alligator roll getting the line tangled up over them. These wild browns act down right crazy once hooked. They’ll shoot out of the water once hooked like a rainbow. Unlike the grace of a rainbow that will show you acrobatic skill and fine form out of the water these slender wild browns don’t seam to give a crap about what they look like in the air. They shoot up out of the water more at an angle as if ready to hop over obstacles on their way. Their bodies twist, wiggle and squirm erratically trying to get loose as they are air bound. It’s almost like they have been caught before and are pissed off that they were faked out taking an imitation nymph and are embarrassed getting hooked again. In the water they act more like a brook trout with sudden darting turns in all directions. It’s a quick enjoyable, rod flexing, fight positive encounter.




Back at the truck I enjoyed a cold Guinness before heading out.

 

1/15/2020 Wednesday



 By the time I got to the creek Wednesday morning fog was burning off the surface. In the distance, with the suns rays shining upon the water, looked as if the creek was on fire. The water had dropped some and was much clearer with the sunlight and I could tell the depth and some rock hazards from some distance away. The air was a bit chilly but the sun did provide some warmth beneath my layers of clothes.
  I had lost a few nymphs the day before but still had plenty of the #18 nymphs that were successful. I decided to go with a bead head Hare’s ear for my top fly to maybe attract attention and drooped the #18 nymph below. The creek didn’t appear as fast as it was the day before and was a much even flow. For this reason I decided to use an indicator. I felt this would be much easier to control my drift especially on distant casts. The trout had been taking the nymphs pretty aggressively so I wasn’t using the indicator as a helpful aid to detect strikes but more to control my drifts. Other than the Olive nymphs I’ve been catching browns on I did catch one nice wild brown on a peeking caddis. The browns I caught, or lost, were just as aggressive and wild as the ones the day before, flipping and twisting in the air like a short slim wind sock holding in the breeze by a few strands of twine.





 Now, I could have ended this 2 day outing with talking about the biggest trout that got away. One I wouldn’t have a picture of since I wouldn’t have landed him. I had the opportunity to break the line and maybe he would get free or take the chance of untangling the line and possibly still landing him. I elected to do the latter.
 
 I was just a few feet upstream from a few blocks of cement, in knee deep water, that water overflowed making a falls and turbulent water to the tail out. I was only a couple of yards from the bank to my right. Reaching out over the blocks was a downed branch that some of its twigs were submerged along the right side of the turbulent water. I reached out over the falls with the rod and began drifting the nymphs, under the indicator, through the current. It’s one of those times I don’t think of if I do hook a fish how am I going to bring him to the net? On one drift through I caught a glance, at the corner of my eye a streak of silver, like a lightening bolt, come out from beneath the twigs towards my drifting nymphs. He took the nymph with a sweeping take that the indicator skirted the water surface like the barrel when the shark pulled it away in the movie Jaws. I wrist set the hook but not too aggressive on the take. The top fly was knotted to 4x tippet while I use 5x tippet for the dropper. I do this in case that the dropper snags up I may lose the dropper fly but not the upper fly do to it being knotted to a heavier tippet material. Since the trout have been taking the dropper I was afraid to set the hook too strongly and breaking off. The rainbow, I assumed being the silver streak I had quickly noticed, fought towards the tail out taking line. He turned upstream and started with the head shakes and pulls. I could tell it was a nice size trout by his fighting. While this was going on I had to figure out just how I was going to bring him in.
  To the right was the submerged branch so bringing him towards the bank was no option. Trying to net him below the falls while reaching over wasn’t very practical or considered safe. My choice was to swing him towards the middle of the creek and try bringing him through the less rougher current just left of the block wall of the falls. I turned the rod to my left and I had him fighting his way towards where I wanted him to follow. He must have seen the submerged branch as I was bringing him in and darted deep and towards the submerged branches for cover. Now I’m not sure if he was some master mind in line twisting or knot making but he accomplished getting the line twisted in one of the submerged twigs. My rod was arced towards the submerged twigs but I could no longer feel the trout tugging. I looked over the blocks and into the deep water and I saw the rainbow struggling, still attached to my tippet, about 3 to 4 feet away from the branch. I lowered the rod tip section into the water and tried to untangle the line but it didn’t work. I still couldn’t feel the fish tugging. Now, I could have ended the ordeal right then by breaking the line and hoping the rainbow can free itself. My other option was to some how carefully, cautiously and maybe dangerously try to grab the branch and break it off. (The danger part was falling in and hurting myself.) I chose to live dangerously and not have to worry if the trout ever got loose on its own.
  I carefully knelt on the moss covered blocks and felt secure. I grabbed the branch and raised it to see how far the tangle was. I got the branch raised enough that I could see the tangled mess the trout got us into. Meanwhile the rainbow would fight a bit with the line trying to break free. I was surprised that if he had taken the dropper that he would have broken it by know. I grabbed the branch a little further out and was able to reach the tangled twig. I twisted and bent the twig till it broke free of the branch. The trout pulled away with the piece of twig but I could tell he didn’t have much energy left. Luckily the twig came free of the line that I didn’t have to deal with. Since I was already secure on my knees I brought the trout close enough to the block dam and reached down and netted the rainbow. I got to my feet, behind the blocks, with the big rainbow in the net.



 I found that the rainbow had taken the bead head Hare’s ear that was knotted to the 4x tippet.
  Well, the biggest trout of the 2 day outing didn’t get away after all until I felt him forcefully slip out of my hand, over the brim of the net, and into the current.
I caught a couple of browns later on but by the time I fished my way to the truck I was satisfied and ready to head for home.

~doubletaper
 




Friday, January 10, 2020

Tight Lines

Tight Lines

9/15/2019

 The Clarion River was voted PA’s 2019 River of the Year. From swimming, kayaking, canoeing, float tubes and fishing are some of the water sports enjoyed on the river. Just relaxing under the sun in a beach chair in the river on a hot day enjoying a cold beverage and enjoying the scenery is enough to forget about time! From rte 36 at Cooksburg all the way to Hallton one can follow River Road along the river and enjoy the forest and scenic river on a well maintained blacktop road. I would say this is one of my top motorcycle rides to get away from the hustle and bustle of common day life and traffic.

Did I say fishing? I have caught smallmouth bass, walleye and trout in the river with both fly rod and spinning gear. There’s nothing like float tubing my way downstream with my fly rod in hand casting poppers along the shoreline for smallmouth bass. Catfishing is a lot of fun also. Whether I fish in waders or wet wade it is always enjoyable.


 I pulled onto the gravel area along the forest. I specifically bought my Winston 6wt Vapor rod for fishing the river. The 9 footer casts weighted streamers as well as foam/cork poppers. Also when I’m fishing for trout it will cast dry flies without any problems at all for some distance even under windy conditions.

I pieced together the Winston rod and fit it with an Orvis reel and weight forward line. I packed my vest with streamers and poppers for smallmouth as well as Caddis, terrestrials and some big Mayflies for trout. I never know what’s going to be active so I try to carry enough stuff for both.

 I walk down the path, through the forest, to the river. The water is flowing peacefully without a human in sight between the green forest hardwoods as far as the eye can see. The sun is shining brightly with puffs of clouds slowly floating under the bluish sky above. Uncontrolled currents develop, clear across the river, with the flowing water over rocks and submerged boulders. I light up my first stogie and take in the setting that surrounds me. The constant melody of the tumbling water and birds chirping in harmony makes for a serene place to spend the afternoon.

 I take my first step into the river and water flows around my boots and wading pants. The water is cool and not as warm as I would have expected in September. The chilly nights and occasional rain has kept the water at a nice temperature for fishing as far as I am concerned. I wade along the shoreline upstream to where the riffling water exits the more turbulent flow. My intentions are to trout fish up river in an area across stream where I have caught quite a few rising trout in the past. The water looks shallow enough in places above the faster current that I should be able to wet wade over towards the far bank without it being too risky. For now though I fasten a Woolly Bugger to my 4x tippet and cast out into the riffling tail out below the more aggressive flow. Within three cast I feel a hard grab and the line tightens. As I play the fish, through the riffling water towards me, I can almost bet it’s a trout by the way it fights. Well, I’ll never know as it gives a hard head shake and I’m left with a limp line and no fish.

 Within five more casts I watch as my floating line swings the bugger through the current. The floating line shows signs of slack in the cross currents. I look for any sign of a take. As the line finishes the swing downstream I start to take in slack and the line shoots towards the bank. It draws tight and I can feel a fish swimming aggressively with the bugger. I pull back on the rod to set the hook and play him in the shallower water below me. I can see it’s a nice size trout. He fights for his freedom in the shallows and somehow gets himself unattached from the hook. I watch as he darts back into the main flow of the river!

I stick around for another 10 minutes or so trying to coax any more fish but am unable to convince any. I wade out and look upstream. It’s about 50 yards to where I want to reenter the river to be able to cross to the other side. Between that point and me is a section of calmer water that rolls and waves over near surface boulders and rocks like wind rows of an ocean tide. Not the ideal place for trout but a better place where a bass might be holding. As I walk up the bank, on dry land, I stop now and then and cast a line out into the open water. I watch a small bass chase the bugger within a few feet of me but isn’t aggressive enough to grab it.

 Upstream I step into the calmer current and begin wadding across the river to get within casting distance of the far side shore. I have had good success with catching trout in the section of water and had some great dry fly action as well. I take my time and keep conscious mind to the river bottom beneath my felt wading boots. As I cross, the river water comes up to my thighs in spots though the undercurrent isn’t as noticeable as when I am in the shallower sections below my knees. I keep on the upstream side of the faster rumbling current as I cross. When I get to within casting distance I feel for a good foothold and contemplate how to fish the area.

 The smokey white clouds above move slowly beneath the blue sky letting the sun shine through without much shadowing upon the water. Upstream the water surface is calm and bright but ruffled like wrinkled satin bed sheets. 

 I start with a Woolly Bugger and add weight as needed to get my bugger down. My casts are across stream toward a downed log. They are overhand casts with a big loop. Someone watching would probably think I wasn’t very good at casting since I wasn’t throwing tight loops. The idea of large loops is that when the weighted streamers fall in faster current the weighted streamer will drop deeper before the current grabs a hold of the fly line and starts it in its swing. I add weight to the leader as I see fit to get the Woolly Bugger deeper yet. It takes some time off the clock before I finally get hold of a nice rainbow that takes the bugger. I carefully play him out of the faster run to my left and get him coming in on my right in the slower but deeper water. He is pretty frisky but the 6 weight keeps the pressure on him and he comes in quite calmly.

 For some time the trout don’t seam to be cooperating. I switch over to a Clouser Minnow pattern. To my right, looking downstream, is shallower but with faster current and deeper pocket waters behind boulders. I cast the Clouser into the shallower flow with rocks and riffling current keeping the rod tip up so the weighted barbell eyes won’t drag the bottom and snag. As the line and Clouser swing to the tail out I drop the rod tip and let the Clouser swing deeper to the end of the drift. From there I make a couple quick strips like the Clouser is getting away. About my forth cast the line tightens with a sweeping tug and the rod tip arcs towards the tight lining fish. I can feel the weighty fish pulling the tension line through my fingers and reel and hold on to the cork grip keeping the rod high and arced. The fish doesn’t change directions as quick as the rainbows but more of a forceful pull almost forecasting in which direction it is going to take the fight. I am pretty sure it is a smallmouth just the way it acts. I take some time playing the frisky fish and calming him down. Like most smallmouth once they tire out they don’t have much energy left for a forceful get-away escape once they see the net like a nice size trout has.
 
 As it gets long in the day and for the past couple of hours the air temperature is heating up with the glowing sun. I notice a few small caddis appearing now and then and it isn’t until I see my first rise that gets my brain telling me “it’s time to coax some fish on a dry fly!” I mean, this is why I came out today for and I’m not going to end the day without casting a few dries. I see one riser isn’t too far and easy casting distance from where I stand. It is rising along a seam on the far side of the faster wavy run about a foot or so this side of the fallen logs. I knot on a #14 caddis and loop the offering to him. The rises are so sporadic I’m not sure if he is all that hungry or just the temptation is too much at times he can’t resist. I spend about 20 minutes trying to coax the fish to take any of my caddis offerings to no avail. Down from the wavier current I catch sight of two other risers. They are pretty far downstream and it will take long and accurate casts to get to them. They also are rising sporadically. There still isn’t many caddis about so I’m really not sure what these trout are taking. I cast downstream and pull line out of the reel letting my fly line and dry caddis drift with the waves like a pinner would do just letting the spool spin free with the current. I try this a few times and observe just how the current will take the dry downstream in the flow. With enough line out I make a strong back cast and the line and leader springs free from the surface tension and into the air. I pull down on the line and single haul for more speed. I turn my head and look behind me as the fly line extends and starts to straighten with the tapered leader following. When the time is right I bring the rod high over my head and forwards and watch the weight forward line shoot through the air towards the sporadic rising trout. After a few more casts I come to the conclusion that the trout aren’t interested in my caddis dries.

The distant trout still keep rising on occasion more so than the one closer to me.
“Maybe a big ole hopper might get their attention?” I think.
 It is a hot September day and the grasshoppers have been coming out in the evening back home. The fish aren’t rising all that far from the bank and I am pretty sure they know what a grasshopper looks like and what they taste like. I open my hopper box and pick out one of my parachute hoppers. I knot it to my 4x tippet and douse the body with a good bit of liquid dry fly dope. I noticed with the caddis earlier that it would drift away from the wavy seam and into a slow eddy to the right. There it would drift slowly until a much stronger surface current would push it downstream without warning. Occasionally this was where one of the trout would rise.

 I first make a few casts near the down log not too far away. I have plenty of slack in the line so the hopper will drift in the slower current some before the wavy faster current grabs the fly line and push everything down river in a faster dragging pace. Nothing appears interested so I bring the hopper back to my hand. I dry it as best I can with my handkerchief and dab a little more ointment onto the body. With a couple of lengthy false casts, and a single haul, I watch the weight forward fly line take the leader and offering down river through the air. The hopper lands on this side of the wavy seam and I watch the hopper surf the waves like a kid on a boogie board surfing the low tide. Instead of the hopper turning into the slower moving swirl it continues on some and starts to drag. I lift the line out of the water and proceeded with another lengthy cast more towards the slow eddy. This time the hopper touches down with a plop into the eddy. I can’t hear the plop from where I stand but fishing these hoppers often I know it plopped with a little sound effect. It is nerve racking watching the hopper sit on the surface as it drifts ever so slightly until a wave pushes it beyond and start to drag on the surface. I move my rod tip towards the faster run on my left before bringing the hopper back into my back cast. I don’t want to drag the hopper and fly line across the eddy where the fish are occasionally rising and spook them. Time and again I attempt to tempt the fish with the hopper. Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results or something like that. I don’t think he ever fished.

 I watch the hopper get pushed away from the wavy current and lazily drift into the eddy. The splash is a noticeable gulp on the surface. I rear back the rod high in the air as far back as my arm can reach. The long length of fly line rises instantly and I feel it tighten at the tip of the rod. The fish dives deep and rattles the rod with head shakes. I can feel right away this isn’t an average size trout. He keeps deep and battles beneath swimming with force in different directions at will. Line peels off the spool at times as I grip the cork trying to keep it steady and arced. The trout takes a turn into the wavy current and then turns and shoots across stream into the slower deeper water. I move the rod in opposite directions trying to keep side pressure on the fish to tire him out more quickly. He finally stops straight down from me and gives a few head shakes trying to dislodge the hopper. I start to reel in some line and he slowly moves in my direction. I have him coming to me reluctantly so I reach back for my net with my left hand holding the line tight against the cork grip with my other hand. As I drop the net into the water the trout shoots away from the net and speeds by me like a Daytona 500 race car. I see the silver sides of the trout zoom pass me and the pink lateral line is a quick blur like the sponsor logos on the Daytona cars as they speed by right in front of you. He moves into the slow moving water upstream. I’m not sure when he’s going to stop so I keep the rod up and let line slip through the reel letting him fight the drag and pressure of the arcing fast action rod. He holds up and I’m sure I got him now. I slowly reel in some line until I get about an inch or two of the fly line exposed from the tip top. I grab the net out of the water and figure I’d just back him into the net as I raise the rod. As I get him closer to the net he turn swiftly and with force swims pass the net avoided it. The leader rubs against the wooden sides of the net. Upon seeing that I reach the rod outward hoping that it didn’t do any damage to the tapered leader. I can feel my arms getting tired from the long day casting and fishing and my wrist is weakening under the pressure. I drop the net again and grab the rod with two hands.

  
 There’s always a time when fighting a good fish for a lengthy time that you wonder if you’ll get him to hand. Even if you are going to release the fish unharmed back into the water. There are times that success is achieved in just fooling the fish and hooking him. At times a satisfying reward comes just having a good battling fish fight before it becomes unhooked and swims away. At other times the ultimate success is landing the fish!

   
 The trout doesn’t swim too far downstream before turning around facing me. The tugging has virtually stopped and it is as if I can feel the fish swaying its tail side to side in the oncoming current. I hold tight to the cork grip with one hand while I reel in line bringing the trout towards me. I keep the rod about level with the surface water until I have about an inch or two of fly line exposed out of the tip top. I grab the net with my left hand and hold it underwater to my side. As I raise the rod tip up and behind me the rainbow rises from its depth and I’m able to successfully get him into the net. He splashes a bit in the net then settles for a picture.

 
 I carefully unhook the hopper from his mouth and make sure he is strong enough to swim from my firm grip on his tail before letting him swim free.

  Well that is worth a rewarding cigar. Relaxed now I notice the warmth of the sun. I reach into my vest and pull out a cigar and lighter. I take a few puffs and enjoy the aroma. I flex my arms and arc my back and look downstream.

 I use the hopper, casting it out, a few more times before tying on a weighted Woolly Bugger. I make one long cast of the bugger and my fly rod folds. I’m not talking bowed or arced, it folds like a collapsible wading staff. When I get everything within sight and in my grips I notice that the male ferrule of the tip section is still intact. As I look at the female ferrule of the next section it is split down the side. The only conclusion I can come up with is the two joining parts were loosening from casting the weighted buggers and fighting that big trout. Finally the loose fitting sections couldn’t handle the load of the cast and instead of the top section slipping out on the forward cast it flexed the shaft, causing the split. I’m done!!! I have no way of patching the rod to keep using it. I grab the rod pieces and wade back across the river current to the bank.

 When I get on dry land I stand for a long moment puffing on the stogie. From being in the water for hours with the current constantly pushing against my legs, I feel as if I am still moving. Even while walking through the forest and up to my truck my legs feel wobbly.

At the truck, under the sunshine, I drop the tailgate and pop open a much wanting cold beer. I change clothes while enjoying the cold brew while finishing off the stogie. The Winston Vapor rod has a lifetime warranty and I’m hoping it can be fixed. I sure am going to miss it if it can’t be and a replacement isn’t the same!


~doubletaper