Archive for March, 2010

Breaking the Ice – South Branch of Tunkhannock Creek

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Writing with tags , , on March 21, 2010 by stflyfisher

Fly fishermen are sure to be getting antsy about now. For one, it’s the weekend of the Vernal Equinox – the true start of Spring – when day and night are equal in duration. The associated change in light must awaken some primal instinct that makes us fly-guys (and gals) want to break out the gear and hit the creeks and streams.

Though last week featured the mother of all snow-melts, followed by steady rain for good measure, the weather at the start of the work week dawned unseasonably warm and dry, and set the stage for stream conditions that might just make for a good weekend a-stream.

The STFF staff watched the developing conditions with an eagle’s eye. Staff Hydrologist Dan bemoaned the fact that Saturday had been previously reserved for an all-day girl’s basketball tournament. Staff Canoeist and Ace Swimming Coach, Kelly, was locked in to another swim meet somewhere up Buffalo-way. And then there was this email from none other than TTA Staff member Dave. It read something along these lines: “me and the boys are heading down to the DH / ALO section of the South Branch of the Tunkhannock – disregard this email at your own peril.” Dave went on to mention the fact that some of the TTA boys had scored big a few weeks ago on this same creek.

Those who follow this blog will be aware of the fact that I take my fly fishing seriously and set some goals this year (for more on goal-setting for you slackers, click here), one of which just happens to involve exploring the abundant trout waters of Pennsylvania (pronounced Pee-Ayh, in these here parts). So, at 11 am on Saturday, I was southbound on I-81, with hope swelling big in my heart, and my yap chewing gleefully on one-helluva ham “samitch”, hand crafted by none other than the STFF madre.

The Delayed Harvest / Artificial Lures Only (DH / ALO) sections of Pennsylvania trout waters are great spots to tune up for the regular open of the season. Much of the South Branch of the Tunkhannock is classified “Approved Trout Waters” by the state, and receives regular trout stockings but it is also open to all fishermen, meat-fishermen included. The DH / ALO section of the creek has reduced allowable limits for killing fish, but most fishermen who fish this stretch practice catch and release.

I arrived at the South Branch around noon time, and met Dave and his friend Todd, already busy stringing up their rods (another member of the TTA posse, Tom, would arrive later). I was not disappointed with what I saw, once we ambled down to the creek. The .7 mile long DH / ALO section has some truly beautiful stretches and collegiate park-like ambiance as it rambles through the manicured campus of Keystone College. Access is almost too good: not long after arriving, Dave informed me it might be a tough day due to the number of fishermen. The bigger challenge, however, turned out to be the fish.

A beautiful stretch of water, but note the stain...

I have found it to be a curse on fishing when anyone tells me “they were killing them last week”. I’m not sure if it was that or the milky stain to the 44 degree water, but no one seemed to be murdering them on this day. Dave advised using a dark nymph to imitate the black stone flies that were sure to be coming off later in the afternoon. I tried a number of different patterns, starting off with a prince nymph, and changing often as I fished. I used weight above my lead nymph but finally started hooking up on my trailing fly, first with a soft hackle pheasant tail and then twice more using a #12 picket pin.

The hatch of what appeared to be size 12 – 14 black stoneflies started not long after we were on the water, and with the sun out in full and the air temps into the sixties, it continued well into the afternoon.  Perhaps the picket pin imitated a drowned stone fly, or maybe it was just the “confidence factor”: whatever it was, this old pattern saved the day for this fly fisherman.

This beautiful rainbow took a #12 picket pin...

Dave and the rest of the TTA gang left early that afternoon, but I decided to continue fishing, if for no other reason than to fully fish the DH / ALO section and enjoy the sound of the rushing water and solitude. While the morning saw a decent amount of fly and spin fishermen, by 3 pm, I had most of the creek to myself.

I definitely plan on visiting the South Branch again this year, and would heartily recommend it to any of my esteemed readership. If you go, chest waders are fine, but as flows recede, hip waders will work just fine too. Most of the fly fishermen I saw on the creek had long rods, but I fished my 7 foot 4 weight JP Ross Beaver Meadow and found it to help in the tight spots.

I took Route 11 on the way back home, and happened on quite the marvel of engineering:

The Tunkhannock Viaduct...

This monstrous viaduct, used by the railroads, was the largest in the world back in 1915. I guess you just never know what you’re going to find in them thar Pennsyltucky hills: a nice trout stream, a beautiful day, the company of TTA anglers, and a colossus of concrete – what more could you want!

Tight lines…


Spring thaw

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Gear, Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 13, 2010 by stflyfisher

The spring thaw is in overtime mode and that’s fitting given the health of the STFF Overlord (that’s me). The stuff I’m blowing out of my head looks a lot like the stuff hanging over the northeast at the moment…

Get your arc ready...

Forget about fishing this weekend. And with this heavy rain combining with rapid snowmelt, who knows what the story will be even next weekend. So, in an attempt to put a Ned Flanderesque spin on the whole dreary state of affairs, I’ll blog on what we can do while we watch the rebirth of the movie Waterworld all around us…

The future STFF headquarters?

For one (admittedly a shameless plug), we can hop on over to my website and check out an article I published on getting ready for spring fly fishing. Make lemons out of lemonade and make sure you purchase the appropriate licenses, get your boots refurbished by the local cobbler, and start breaking out the gear for spring cleaning. I’ll be posting some specific articles on gear prep during the week.

Other things to do include:

1) Reorganizing and re-stocking your fly boxes.

2) Making sure you have all your accessories in order.

3) Checking your inventory of terminal tackle, such as leaders, tippet, shot, and strike indicators.

4) Reviewing last year’s journal and getting a 2010 journal if you don’t already have one.

Obviously, if you are a tyer like STFF’s very own Staff Hydrologist Dan, you’re more than busy whipping up the patterns that worked so well last year. Hopefully Dan is doing that very thing as I write – I asked him just last week to tie up some picket pins for another upcoming Local Favorites post and to supplement my own meager stash.

Killing machine...

Tight lines…

Local Favorites – The Adams Dry Fly

Posted in Flies - Local Favorites, Uncategorized with tags , , on March 8, 2010 by stflyfisher

Note: this post was first written several weeks ago. As I put the finishing touches on it, we still have a decent snow pack, but spring does not seem so far off after all.

I have to admit that it’s a struggle to put words to, errr, “blogpaper”, this snowy cold morning.  Spring seems so far off as I look out my study window.  Nonetheless, herein lies the first of a series of posts on local favorite fly patterns – STFF’s attempt to catalog the patterns that work well in Southern Tier NY waters.

We’re starting off nice and easy with one of the classic dry fly patterns of all time.   The Adams dry fly pattern was designed by Len Halladay of Michigan in 1922 at the request of his close friend Charles Adams.  Interestingly enough, the original pattern was believed to have been a down wing style to more closely imitate a caddis.  Halladay apparently came up with the pattern to fool the finicky German brown trout that were stocked in the Boardman River to compensate for the loss of native grayling and brook trout.  He gave one of his new flies to his friend, Mr. Adams, who fished it and returned to Hallady, declaring the new fly “a knock-out.”  By 1934, the Adams fly was patented by William Avery Bush of Detroit, Michigan and sold commercially.

Sr. STFF Staff member Dan is a very skilled fly tyer and recently “loaned” me a fine example of this classic dry fly (good luck getting it back Dan).  Dan’s description of the fly follows:

This ‘catch-all’ attractor dry fly works extremely well on freestone trout streams during the mayfly hatches seen in April through early May.  It can be very effective during dark hendrickson hatches.  It can be fished in fast or slow water, upstream dead drift or quartered.  Don’t forget to try it as a ‘wet fly’ (drowned dry); in many instances this technique can trigger aggressive strikes.

Dan’s secret recipe is unique in its use of muskrat fur:

Adams Dry – Traditional

Hook size 12, 14, or 16 (1x of 2x shank)

Tail – mixed fire brown and grizzly hackle fibers

Body – dark muskrat underbelly fur

Wing – grizzly hackle tips, tied spent wing stile

Hackle – combined fire brown and grizzly hackle

And, the result:

The Adams Dry Fly - a buggy fish-catching pattern if there ever was one...

Been a while…

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on March 7, 2010 by stflyfisher

I can hear the cacophony now: “where the hell have you been“? Well, I feel really bad about a post-dry February and promise to make up for it now that son #2’s hockey season is over. Some of my readership hopefully can relate; travel hockey is a very time-consuming commitment. And there are parents I know who have not one, but THREE travel players to shuttle all over kingdom-come.

Address your discord to #25 white, taking the face-off. Pic courtesy of family friend / part-time hockey mom, Kathryn Murtha.

Hockey, familial duties, and work deserve most of the blame for the blogging drought, but starting a new website, focused more on local fly-fishing events and nuts and bolts “how-to” certainly didn’t help.

This weekend was going to be the first that I could dedicate to blogging and preparing for the 2010 fly fishing season. In fact, I had the green light from the madre to attend the 2010 Fly Tying Fishing Symposium in Utica on Saturday. But then travel hockey once again intruded: my son was nominated to be one of several players to represent the Binghamton Junior Senators in a Snowbelt League exhibition game to be held in nearby Clinton. So what was sure to be a day-long fly fishing extravaganza, with the possibility of a tour of the Matt brewing Company, turned into an abbreviated visit with my favorite (pronounced fay-voor-iiiite) kind of people in the whole wide world and only a whiff of the brewery as I drove past on the way to hockeyville.

The pearly gates... (Pic courtesy of Utica Club on Facebook)

I made it down to the Clinton Arena, an old-time hockey rink that had all the ambience of the hockey movie “Slapshot” and there the madre and I enjoyed 3 periods of “All-Star” hockey featuring the best players in the Bantam Snowbelt League. The play was fast and technical, much unlike the normal games that are more physical (i.e., hard checking and sometimes “chippy” play). My son even scored a goal with seconds remaining on the clock, a great end to a good but long season.

Driving home we just had to stop at a landmark old-time burger place – another throwback to the good old Utica Club days.

Gilligan's island in Sherburne, NY. (Ginger doesn't work there...)

Gilligan’s Island has some great burgers, each one unique and named after the colorful characters of the epic TV series. My fave is the Mary-Anne – a culinary delight consisting of 1/2 pound ground sirloin, a slice of jalapeno cheese, bacon, and BBQ sauce – all served on a real Kaiser roll. Gilligan’s also features monster onion rings and the best home-made ice cream you’ll ever shove into your salivating yap. And better yet – a great little trout fishery called Handsome Brook is just up the road. More on that, getting ready for the upcoming season, and other ramblings, in a future post (sooner, rather than later, I promise).

Tight Lines…