Taunted by Waters…

Most fly fishermen who watched the movie, “A River Runs Through It”, or better still, who read the novella of the same title, know the intriguing sentence that ends the story; I am haunted by waters.”

That sentence came to mind several months ago when the Madre announced that we’d be attending our niece’s baptism in Pittsburgh on the very weekend of the much celebrated, always anticipated, blues / striper fishing trip out of Barnegat Light, NJ. For reference, this blog had not yet breathed words into the blogosphere when the first trip took place, but it was a BEAUTY – one of the best days of saltwater fishing I’ve ever experienced, to wit; over 20 bluefish in the 10 – 14 lb. range, including a few real gators, and numerous stripers, one of which was the pool-winning fish of a lifetime…

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I'm in the back row, under "For info" on the sign...

Shrugging those fond memories, I tried to act enthusiastically supportive about the weekend plans, but as reality set in, made the mistake of letting my true underlying feelings fly from my mouth like bats out of a cave:  “But that’s my striper trip weekend!”  The conversation went way downhill from there…

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The route through flyfishing heaven...

Roll time forward to this past unseasonably warm and sunny Saturday, and Madre, Padre, and Sadre #2 are happily driving along Rt 14 through the “pennsyltucky” countryside, following STFF Staff Hydrologist Dan’s directions and a fine travel guide of notes he provided for the trip that read like the National Park pamphlet you’d pick up at Gettysburg or Yellowstone: “You’ll travel on Rt 14 south of Canton through the towns of Roaring Branch, Ralston, Bodines, and Trout Run, paralleling the famous freestone trout stream named Lycoming Creek…”

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Looking upstream to a nice riffle on Lycoming Creek in Ralston...

Naturally, I had negotiated conditions for this trip.  I’d be allowed a few photo-op stops along the way, one such stop being Ralston.  Two springs ago Dan and I fished a pleasant riffle on that section of Lycoming Creek and had caught a number of nice rainbow trout, when amidst the creek-side tranquility of that cool spring day, an older lady sporting rubber hip boots and plaid lumberjack shirt and wielding a spinning rod that could have been used for surfcasting, waded bow-legged down below us.  With a Camel dangling from her yap, she most politely and eloquently asked; “they ‘bitin’?”.  Needless to say, we moved not long after she made her first cast with a bait rig that consisted of a bank sinker and a gob of nightcrawlers that could choke a 14″ trout…

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Ralston's world-famous historical marker...

Photo’s complete, we drove on down Rt 14, past Bodines and Trout Run, yours truly at the helm, driving with one eye searching that beautiful roadside creek.  Eventually we entered Williamsport and from there headed west, past the thriving metropolis of Jersey Shore – famous birthplace of, you guessed it, our very own STFF Staff Hydrologist Dan.

Not long after driving by Jersey Shore, Dan’s travel notes alerted us that we’d be over-passing the longest “creek” in the world – Pine Creek – pronounced “pine crick” in those parts – a major trib to the West Branch of the Susquehanna.  I was expecting some middling water, rife with riffles and brush-lined pools, but in fact, this “crick” is a wide river – a clone of the upper Susquehanna.  Dan noted this section is full of smallmouth, and that farther upstream the creek turns very trouty, looking more like a great western trout river than a central Pennsylvania limestone stream.

We soon entered the hallowed Nittany Valley, famous, in Dan’s words, for its class “A” wild trout waters.  Here we’d find the state’s two most noteworthy coldwater fisheries; Fishing Creek and Spring Creek.  Dan suggested a stop in the town of Bellefonte, and waxed poetic in his little guide; “If you get a chance, stop in Bellefonte and park downtown, walk by Spring Creek and witness mammoth rainbows feeding leisurely on sowbugs and midges.”

I was able to convince the Madre to make the detour – a minor diversion in our 6 hour trip – and have to agree with Dan that Bellefonte is, indeed, well worth a look-see…

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Rainbow city...

The town, architecturally speaking, was beautiful, but my eyes were drawn to Spring Creek – an absolute urban fly fishing paradise…

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Those long dark shapes below the ducks are not weeds...

Rainbow trout were everywhere, holding in the current, along with a few huge Palomino trout.  For those not familiar with this “swimming billboard” of fish, the Palomino is a golden-orange rainbow trout raised under artificial fish culture conditions and stocked as a state novelty.  The golden rainbow was developed from one fish, a single female trout with a genetic mutation that gave her a mixed golden and normal rainbow trout coloration.  She was found in a West Virginia hatchery in 1954, and through selective breeding with regularly-marked rainbow trout, a golden rainbow trout was developed.

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That long orange-yellow shape is a Palomino trout - advertising itself...

Moving along the creek wall, I quickly observed that mallards and black ducks would immediately position themselves below anyone standing along the creek, anticipating a feeding.  The trout would then hold just under and below the ducks, knowing what was coming.  Armed with handfuls of trout pellets, Sadre #2 and I had a ball “feeding the fishes”, in godfather-speak…

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Padre and Sadre #2 - sight feeding...

The throwing of pellets was great fun.  Those big Spring Creek rainbows knew the game and in some cases beat the ducks to the bait, streaking downstream to intercept the drift.

After a nice afternoon lunch break in Bellefonte, we got back on the road, passing Beaver Stadium which was already swelling with fans for a Ohio State – Penn State football game.  We sped westward, beyond trout country, to our destination just east of Pittsburgh.  The air continued to warm, the sun shined bright, and I thought of all the fishing I was missing.

I survived the family gathering of in-laws and out-laws.  In all actuality, our stay went far batter than I imagined.  But driving home on Sunday evening, I listened to the splat of mayflies and caddis at every river and creek crossing.  Worse still, upon arriving home, I made the mistake of jumping on the internet and learned that the striper opener on the Miss Barnegat Light was an apparent slaughter.  I am taunted by waters…

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5 Responses to “Taunted by Waters…”

  1. Welcome to my world of fishing in PA! I have fished the exact same riffle in Ralston. (just upstream from your pic is the confluence of Rock Run which in my humble opinion is prime waters) Thinking about getting a PA license now? Why don’t you? We make plenty of trips to Spring Creek in Bellefonte during the winter months and nab many beautiful wild browns. You should come on a DPF trip. It will enlighten you!

    • stflyfisher Says:

      Thanks for the comment Dave! Yes, I’m waiting for the year to roll over to 2010, and I’m getting my license. Sign me up for a DPF trip…

  2. I think the DFP boys would love to read this post on TTA. Could you post a link to it on the site?

  3. Nice story .. I grew up along Lycoming Crick .. ’52-’70, til I left home for the Coast Guard.

    My Dad was an avid fisherman, many styles, but I never got into Fly-fishing myself. Most of the time as a kid, when I would be tagging along with my dad, if I didn’t ‘get a bite’ within a few minutes, I’d go hiking & exploring the country side!

    But Dad would be at home whether Fly-Fishin’ – trolling for Lake Trout in Seneca Lake, NY – or over at Little Pine Dam, where I got to ‘row the boat’ !!.

    Our house was along Lycoming by a convenient fishin & swimmin hole. When I would pay attention, he’d show me the tricks of using different bait – where to stand along a stream, how to let a minny drift into position – almost always to catch a Bass. How to un-hook a catfish – or a Perch or Blue-Gill without getting myself wounded..
    How to handle a Water-Dog !!

    Yes, loved your story – Thanks !!

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