Sunday, June 19, 2022

Brookies In the Wilds


Brookies In the Wilds



 My son Giddeon wanted to dry fly fish for native brook trout in the Allegheny National Forest. He didn’t have to ask me twice.

  It was a chilly misty morning. I waited outside with my gear ready to put in his Yukon when he arrives. Besides being chilly, in the 40° range, it was a little breezy also. As with me, if my son has a plan on trout fishing, it would have to be outrageous weather to stop us. He pulled onto the driveway, I loaded my gear, and we were off to the Allegheny National Forest to dry fly fish for native brook trout. Neither of us had fished the creek we were going to visit so it was going to be a new adventure for both of us.

  We arrived at a place to park around 9:30am. The misty rain had stopped but there was still a chill in the air. I assembled my 4 section 7’ 2 weight fly rod while Giddeon pieced together his 7’ 3 weight. We put on warm clothes, got our gear and headed down the path to the creek. 


 Around 3 tenth of a mile, I’d say, we came to a water falls. Water gushed over ledges of rock shelves and boulders plunging into a pool creating turbulent water below. From there it tumbled and flowed over more boulders and then narrowing downstream through the tranquil forest over rocks, down timber and under fallen branches till somewhere it emptied into Tionesta Creek miles down to the mouth. Near the falls the sound of the tumbling water was deafening. Away from the falls the water continued to flow over ledges but with a more pleasant sound as it meandered through the serene forest of hardwoods, ferns and grassy brush.

  I’m not sure you can call fishing this creek real technical but to fish it you had to be pretty precise in casting both back casts and forward casts to avoid the stream side hazards. You also had to position yourself at the right angle to cast your dry fly in hard to reach places at times, against downed lumber, along the creek banks and up against the outcropping of bank side boulders where the trout were sure to be hiding. 


 With the clear water conditions your approach had to be slow and inconspicuous. It wasn’t always accessible to approach the longer pools from behind but when there was room to cast into them upstream the better chance of fooling the wild trout without seeing you. 


  If you were quick enough when the trout strikes your dry fly you were rewarded with a colorful specimen of a native brook trout that scurried about flexing the light weight fly rod. 



  We didn’t follow each other closely as we fished downstream. Giddeon moved along more quickly than I. When we did catch up with each other he had hooked up more often than I had. It was fun watching his approach to different pools and his slingshot casts from the bank were uncanny and most of the time precise.


  When the sun cleared the mountain tops and filtered through the leafy trees it warmed and brightened up the forest to incomparable beauty. 


  After fishing downstream for hours we weren’t finished yet. We traveled above the falls and fished the creek as it narrowed the higher we went on. We continued to catch these wild brookies making them rise to our dry fly selections.


  After the long hours we spent hiking and fishing it had to come to an end. We had our fun, father and son, enjoying what we love to do in our free time.

  Though the path leading us out was all uphill, and kind of demanding, it was still scenic and turned out to be a gratifying day with my #2 son! 















Thursday, June 9, 2022

Bright Eyes


Bright Eyes


  “I’ve been smallmouth fishing the Clarion River the past few days. I’m just having trouble hooking the smallmouth with my poppers and the few I do hook get off before I get them onto my float tube apron. Maybe because I’m a trout bum and like catching trout on the dry fly that my reactions on the take are too quick for bass? Maybe I don’t give them enough time to close their mouth on a hook set? When they explode out of the water at my popper unexpectedly my trout instincts take over and I rear back for the hook set immediately. The bass fishermen I know tell me to wait a second or two before setting the hook.”

  Friday morning was a chilly morn with fog rising from the warmer water. I was excited to get out in the float tube but I tried to be calm and wait till it warmed up a bit. I made a good breakfast in the camper and had a couple of cups of French Roast.

  The water was near 60° the other day when I floated the river. I wore a short sleeve shirt and no waders and I was chilly the whole day. This morning I wore fleece wading pants, a short sleeve under a long sleeve shirt and my chest waders. Fishing with my 6 weight for smallmouth the past 3-4 days put a strain in my casting shoulder and arm. By the end of the day I felt like I pitched 9 innings plus extra innings. This morning I decided to use my 5 weight Icon fly rod and load it with my 6 weight line. It did make a big difference casting poppers though heavy streamers weren’t ideal.

  I drove up river a little over a mile. It was about 9:30 am when I got in the float tube and ready to start my float back to the camper. Before putting on my one flipper I tried to make sure I had everything I needed before pushing off. (I lost the other flipper the day before somewhere, somehow while floating). It wasn’t until I was out on the water that I forgot my finger cot for stripping poppers. I found another use for my cigar cellophane wrapper. The bigger gauge cigar wrapper fit just fine around my fat stripping finger.


  It took some time before I had my first smallie come up for a popper. Maybe I was late for their breakfast that the smallmouth had already eaten. This one might have missed breakfast and was ready for brunch.

  He exploded out of the water for my bright eyes frog popper. I waited a couple of cigar puffs before I set the hook. He took the popper under and when I yanked back hard on the 5 weight to set the hook, the line tightened and the rod bowed. He pulled away into the current. I had 8lb fluorocarbon on as a tippet knotted on to a stiffer 12lb bass tapered leader so I figured he wasn’t going to snap my line. I held the rod steady with the shaft held up. Across from me he dashed down river and I gave him a little line. He turned up river and held in the current. Playing him towards me was like a stubborn mule that didn’t want to come along and I wasn’t going to horse him much. I had him coming my way eventually but I suppose it was when he saw me in the float tube he took off up river towards mid-stream. I was able to take in line when he was coming towards me but I only let half the amount of line out when he took off. I suppose when he realized I wasn’t giving him any more line he turned with the current and when he did he rose just below the surface and jolted the line sharply as hard as pulling the rope to start a troublesome chain saw. The rod flexed quickly and rebounded in a quarter arc as he fled. I was glad I had good footing below my fin and boot. He seemed to calm down a bit down river with the tugging match so I figured I would start to bring him towards the float tube. Upon trying to bring him towards me, as I pulled in line, it felt like trying to bring in an old rubber boot against the current. Next to the float tube I lipped him up to the apron. A nice fat size smallmouth!


 Later on I had casted towards the shady bank in a slow flowing kind of back eddy cove. The smallie kind of loped at my popper as I was stripping it in. The splash surprised me but I calmly waited before yanking the rod upward to set the hook. The slacked line shot off the water and the top rod section bowed towards the churning surface water. I let him take some line to test his strength and weightiness before playing him towards me. He didn’t feel like a real big smallie but put up a good fight. We played the pulling match like two men on the opposite sides of a two man saw cutting down a thick oak tree. Near the apron I lipped him and he swatted his tail harshly. The bright eyed frog popper was stuck to his bottom lip. 


  I was slowly drifting with the current about a few yards from the bank being able to cast along the shady brush and overhanging tree limbs as well as casting out into the main body of the river. A gray cloud moved in and partially blocked the sun. It started to sprinkle and the raindrops dotted the water surface like thrown rock salt on an icy driveway. I didn’t bring a rain jacket and if it rained any harder I’d look for cover.

  I made a cast into the open river and it was slowly drifting down river before I started to strip it towards me. I would strip it twice, let it rest, and strip it towards me again as if a frog was casually swimming upon the surface. It was in between the strips that a smallmouth burst out of the water at my popper and the water splashed mushrooming above the take. I reared back a little too soon I thought but the line tightened and I felt the resistance in my grasp. He went deep with an angry tug and forcefully swam down river taking line. I clicked the drag a little tighter and the more resistance had him turning. Without giving him any more line he headed straight out into the open water. We had a good hand to mouth battle going on before I finally got him on the apron. He had the popper well inhaled into his mouth so I guess I didn’t set the hook too soon after all.


  I was floating towards a cove of calm water with boulders cresting 1/3 of it against the bank and other boulders before the water swirled and flowed back into the main stem of the river. I remember hooking bass years ago in this particular cove so I was well prepared for a take. I made a long cast towards the right row of boulders and watched my popper drift before casually stripping it down with the current and in front of me a ways out. A bass just about flew out of the water and porpoised at the popper completely missing it. I let the popper sit there on the water swirl he caused. I made a short strip to tease him. He porpoised again at it and I reared back the rod but he must have missed it again because a never felt any resistance on the line. I was steady on the river bed and took a few more puffs of my cigar I held between my lips before casting out again. He porpoised two more times at two more consecutive casts and looked like he missed the popper both times. After that he refused to try again like finally giving up not getting the basketball in the hoop, for a prize, at a carnival booth after missing it 4 times.

  I remember last year I caught a one eyed smallmouth. I’m not sure the exact location but this might have been the same spot. This bass missed the popper 4 times always porpoising from the side and never from behind. I wonder if it was the same one?

  My next hook up was another nice smallie. He surprised me when he took my popper in a deep pool only about 12 feet in front of me. I had just finished stripping the popper towards me and had fly line on the apron getting ready to make my next cast. I had the rod level with the water surface and holding line in my left hand before I lifted the rod for my back cast. As my popper was slowly drifting towards me, in the back eddy, a smallie rose and gulped down my popper right off the surface right in front of me. He surprised the heck out of me! I was already starting my back cast so I quickly raised the rod high and held the line tight with no time to wait those 2 seconds. On the hook set he tugged down deep, swam out of the eddy and rocketed out of the water into the air. I saw the popper dangling from his lips. He splashed down like a Labrador Retriever into the water over the side of a row boat after a downed duck. We tussled a bit and I got him to the float tube and onto the apron before the lipped popper became undone.


  My next catch was kind of a surprise also. I have caught a couple of trout on a small silver bait fish looking popper a couple of days ago. I was drifting slowly and casted my frog popper onto some riffling water. I felt cooler water around my float tube where I was so I knew there had to be a spring or small cold mountain creek flowing into the river near by. I let the popper drift with the riffling current and was waiting for it to flow into the slower outflow when a fish jumped at the chance for my frog popper. I reared back quickly since I had some slack line out. The line tightened and I felt this frisky catch carrying on, scurrying about more than any smallmouth I had caught. When I got it near I had hooked a nice brook trout. He must have been pretty hungry to grab the bigger frog popper I was using.


 By then I was pretty close to the camper and didn’t catch any more fish before calling it quits. Back at the campsite I was disassembling the rod and when I was taking my bright eye frog popper off I noticed an eye missing. I have to say it had a good work out throughout the day so I decided to retire him for the rest of the trip.He looked pretty worn out anyhow.


 That evening I got a nice campfire going and enjoyed a jug of brew and a fine H. Upmann Vintage Cameroon. 


Even Freddy and Headlee the weatherman joined me.




Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Dry Flies Thursday


Dry Flies Thursday



  I was tired of nymph fishing and streamer fishing most of the days so far. I threw out dry flies occasionally but it felt like practice as there were very few risers to cast to. I had a short run of casting to risers Wednesday but as the rain fell and the wind picked up it wasn’t reasonable to cast to nothing. It would be like throwing a baseball to a pitchback. You’re not really accomplishing much. It’s not like you’re fooling a batter or really know if you’re in someones rightful strike zone. All it would be is practice and how much can you really do that before you get bored and quit? Thursday I woke up and decided to dry fly fish the same section.

  It was sprinkling rain Thursday morning so I decided to tie some flies. I invited the guy camping next door over to see if he was interested in learning since he told me he was beginning to start tying his own flies being retired. He came over and watched, learned and thanked me for the fly tying tutorial. Around 9:30 he left and I got ready to go fishing. It was still overcast with sprinkles as if the wind was blowing water droplets off wet leaves.

  There were no cars parked where I wanted to fish along Kettle Creek so I parked, put on my gear and set up my 9’ 4 weight custom fly rod. I walked down to the creek and up to the riffles. The day before most of the trout were hugging the far bank under the tree limbs and shade picking off whatever drifted down to them. I knotted on a caddis and figured I would fish as I waded downstream casting towards the far bank. After I’d get so far down creek I’d walk upstream and repeat. I lit a stogie and started my adventure.


 When I started there wasn’t a trout rising anywhere I looked. They rose the day before so they had to be still there. Well, it didn’t take long at all for the first one to rise to my caddis. He slapped at my caddis drifting on the surface like the splash of Tabasco in a Bloody Mary. I reared back the length of line, the line tightened and I had my first trout of the morning fighting against his will towards me.


  I took my time slowly wading down creek and concentrating towards the far bank. Throughout the 20 yard stretch I hooked and made quite a few trout rise to my caddis. 


 Most sipped in my dry imitation in the slower current as easy as licking sprinkles off ice cream. In the little faster current the trout would slap at my caddis and in a snap of a candy bar I had them tight lined carrying on, scurrying about like a scared bird you try getting out of the bird cage. Once hooked they tried to spit it out like old stored honey that lost its flavor.


  When I got down stream so far I waded out and back up to the riffles and started all over again. None of the trout were huge but the 9” to 12” brown and rainbows gave me a satisfying struggle to the net.


  After fishing the 20 yard stretch twice through I called it quits and headed to my truck.

  It was enjoyable finally catching trout only on the dry fly. 



Tuesday, June 7, 2022

A PA. Triple and a DH


A PA. Triple and a DH


  Having fished the Clarion River the past week or so I got a good inkling the difference between when a smallmouth takes a popper or a trout does. Maybe not always but I would say most of the time now.

  It was the last day before going home on Monday. I went out one more time in the late afternoon in the river for fish. I took my 6 weight rod but made sure I had some dry flies for trout.

  I walked up the road before walking down to the river and waded in. I was casting a frog popper for smallies across river as far as I could cast as it was too deep to wade any further. I made a cast near the far side boulders across the water when a fish tried to grab the popper. By the looks of the miss I had a feeling it was a trout. I brought my line in and decided to offer the fish a dry fly.

  Earlier in the past week there was a half decent hatch of Sulfurs but I haven’t seen any since. While float fishing the last couple days I had seen big drakes that I believe were Brown Drakes which I know hatch along the Clarion. I looked through my fly box and picked out a long #10 Brown Drake. I had 8lb fluorocarbon as a tippet but for the heck of it I knotted the pattern on to it. While I was knotting the drake pattern on a couple of other fish rose down river some. I rosined up the Drake with dry fly dope and made a few false casts before getting enough line out to reach the fish that tried for my frog popper. My first cast to the boulders was just where I wanted it. I watched my Brown Drake drifting and bobbing on the subtle waves against the boulders. The fish grabbed it with a splash like it hadn’t eaten in days. I reared back the rod and the long length of line straight lined to the fish as my 6 weight rod bowed. The fish scurried about trying to shake the hook off all the way to the net. Sure enough my first single was a nice brook trout that took the Drake.


 I dried the fly off with dry fly powder and started to blind cast it towards the boulders again as I slowly waded down river. The wavy current flowed into a slow deeper pool of water just down river from the outcropping of boulders. I made another long cast into the calmer current and watch the Drake patiently waiting for a strike. A fish rose to it with a gulp. I reared back the line and tight lined another fish. It didn’t scurry about like the brookie but put up a heavy pulling battle. I got it coming my way and was surprised it was a smallmouth this time. I just considered him as the Designated Hitter.


  Now, I’ve been float tubing concentrating on smallmouth using poppers most of the week. I hooked a few but lost or missed more than I secured. It wasn’t like the smallmouth were eager to take a popper during the long hours and days I’ve tried for them. If they want dry flies instead and there are possibly trout rising to them I figured I’d just keep casting big dries.

  I clipped off the 8 lb fluoro and knotted on a strip of 4X tippet. I checked my fly box to make sure I had enough Brown Drakes in the bullpen to go around in case the others got soaked and out of control. After I caught one more small brook trout with my starter it got pretty soaked and even the dry fly powder didn’t help. As I was retying it, with knotting on another, I heard a splash down river some. I looked up quickly and saw an expanding swirl. I made a mental note of the spot and finished with the Drake reliever.

  I waded down river some to get within casting distance to the noted swirl. With another long cast the Drake fell and looked like it was headed for the strike zone. The fish swung at the Drake with little more than just a sip. I reared back the rod and once again tight lined the fish. This trout wasn’t as heavy as the brook trout or smallmouth but still gave me a good fight beneath the surface. He carried on like a kid that ate to much artificial flavored candy. This fish that entered my net was a brown trout I caught red handed with the Brown Drake in its mouth for the double.


 As I continued down river, casting the Drake, I saw a rise mid-river. I made a couple short casts to get line out when another trout tried to steal my Drake. I almost got it to the net when it rose to the surface and by chance became unhooked. It was an error on my part. The Drake looked pretty beat up so I decided to knot on and pitch another.

  I made a couple of false casts like a pitcher warming up his arm before the ump says play ball. I threw a fast cast that I was aiming directly for the fish that I saw rise beforehand. My dry drifted into the strike zone and he swiped at my pitch. When I tightened on the fish the trout jetted out of the water 3 times before swiftly trying to get away. He took off like a dog that sat on a ground bee nest and was getting bitten while trying to flee a swarm of bees. In his haste he pulled and tugged the line frantically. He used up quite a bit of energy quickly so I got him to net him quicker than the others. When I saw him it was a frisky rainbow.


  My PA triple was complete with three different species of trout and a DH smallmouth all caught on a dry fly in an area no bigger than the size of an infield. It was getting darker and late so I called it quits for the day.

  Later that evening I sat by a campfire and enjoyed a stogie and a couple of beers. You would think the story ends but another day brought a surprise a day late.

  On the next day I planned to pack up and leave I decided I would go out and fish till noon. After breakfast I started packing up some while the chilly morning air warmed up a bit. I donned on my chest waders and walked up the road again to start where I left off the day before. There was no flies of any kind on the water and I didn’t see any rises. I knotted on a popper but that didn’t appear to make anything rise either. It looked like a no hit, and no run innings that may end up without a hit. I clipped on a heavy brown bugger and fished my way down river to a faster current of water that was caused by exposed boulders. I made a couple casts into the swirling and fluctuating current just behind the boulders. I slowly waded down river and continued casting and letting the bugger drift down in the tail out trying to cover as much water as possible. One longer cast got my bugger into the second set of wavy riffles. I let some slacked line out to let the bugger drop deeper before being carried downstream. As the fly line arced on the surface I felt a strike and I pulled the rod back while pulling the line in. The fish swam down with the current till the line straightened down river. As I was playing the fish and getting him closer I saw this yellowing golden trout, under the bright sunlight, just below the surface heading up river with my line attached. I played him out of the faster current and closer to me. I netted this one without any major antics. 


 After letting him go I thought to myself. "I got a triple the day before called because of darkness. This trout came a day late that could have completed a PA grand slam for me in one game." Where I caught him wasn’t as near the others but close enough to be within the outfield of the ballpark!!




Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The Sipper


The Sipper


 Brian and I were smallmouth fishing top water up river from the campers. He was using top water lures with his spin rod and I was using poppers with my 6 weight fly rod. We came to an area of the river where quite a few fish were rising. The thinnest tippet I had was 4x with a 2x tapered bass leader. I did have a few caddis and nymphs on my fly patch and I gave it a try. They didn’t want anything to do with my caddis but I did catch one smallmouth on the sulfur nymph before I got snagged up. We both did catch a smallmouth or two before returning to camp for lunch. One of my last casts, before wading out, I casted a popper and was gurgling it back to me. A fish pounced on the popper from behind like a cat on a field mouse scampering across pavement. I played the fish to the net and was surprised it was a brook trout.


  After lunch and a nap in late afternoon I was ready to go try for the risers upriver. I happened to walk to the river to see if there was a hatch going on before gearing up. I saw one swirl midstream. There wasn’t a Mayfly in sight. When I saw the same fish in the same place sip something on top I just figured it was a small lonesome trout sipping the many midges hovering around.

  Back at camp I told Brian about the one lonesome sipper. I got my trout gear on and flies. I assembled my G2 Scott 5 weight and was deciding to go for the sipper before going upstream. I though maybe using him as an indication others might be rising up river. Kinda like when I saw the neighborhood ground hog out milling around. I would go ground hog hunting figuring other would be out.

  I knotted on a #18 para-dun sulfur because sulfurs have been coming off throughout the past few days. I told Brian I was going to get the sipper. He told me if I hook him to yell out “Got’em.” As I was crossing the road he told me to make’m rise.

  I waded through the shallow water just far enough to reach the sipper and far enough away from the bank behind me to avoid the tree line. I false casted to get line out and casted up steam from the last known rise. After 2 tries and no takes I casted elsewhere not to spook the sipper. Within a minute he rose again so I changed my course and tried for him again. I watched my para-dun drift towards the sipper and he rose and sucked it in like he had no doubt it was another tasty bug on the surface. I’m sure when I yanked back the rod and the line tightened he was in a surprised shock! With a couple of head shakes he took off, taking line, across and down river to get away cause I think he knew he was in a heap of trouble. I can tell by the bent rod and force I didn’t have THAT little sipper. I chuckled, holding a stogie between my teeth and yelled out “Got’em!” The fish swam upstream and into the current. The sun was bright and it gave me the vision of this long fish I knew was a trout. He quickly turned away and went deep taking tensioned line out again. I could feel the G2 flexing into the mid section the whole time I fought the line tugging trout.

  During the battling action I had him close enough to net but the angle wasn’t the best. From behind I got his tail and up to his gill in the net, and feeling the net I suppose, he splashed water with his tail and shot forward out of the net. Instead of continuing upstream, to my left in which I was facing, he swung around me towards the bank. I only knew this is because all of a sudden I saw the leader right before my eyes. I immediately spun around with him with the rod high in the air not wanting to get caught up. After the pirouette act he swan down river once more but not as aggressive or heavily. Once again I played him to the net and this time I was going to make pretty sure he was going in head first. He gave up a good effort not to be netted, splashing, twisting and carrying on but I finally netted him. In the meantime Brian was on the bank capturing the last minute or so on video. The trout didn’t have the deepest colors of a wild brown but I’m sure it’s been in the river for quite some years.

 I still wonder, by the way he fought never wanting to give up, if he was ever caught before?

  After a couple of quick pics, and knowing all the energy he exerted, I just clipped the tippet and let him take the sulfur with him. I dropped the net and watched him swim free. He settled to the bottom with gills pulsating. After 10 seconds or more I slowly moved my foot towards him and he swam off never looking back.

  After that escapade I walked up the road and down into the river where Brian and I had saw the risers earlier. There weren’t many and the ones I saw weren’t feeding heavily. Though I didn’t see any mayflies drifting the few fish evidently were sipping something off the surface at will. There were two across river coming up quite often. I tried for them quite a few times but they were not to be fooled. In the meantime I got a few to rise on a sulfur and caught two brown trout on a #12 March Brown. One lengthy brown put up a good tugging match with me.

  By then it was around 5:30. I made a few more casts and called it a day. Time for dinner and a campfire.