Archive for picket pin

Shaking Off the Dust on Cayuta Creek

Posted in Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , on May 20, 2013 by stflyfisher

Cayuta Creek has become an old friend. With the coming of each early spring I find myself drawn to her. Part of that attraction is her beauty. Sweet and petite, her waters bring out the best of early spring, before wildflowers and green leaves fill the woods around her banks.

Cayuta Creek's beauty shines even before the forests come alive...

Cayuta Creek’s beauty shines even before the forests come alive…

And part of that attraction is her ability to help me shake off the dust and lose the rust after a winter spent indoors. Her trout, some stocked, some holdover, and some wild, are always there waiting and often times willing.

Early season fly fishing on Cayuta is largely a stonefly game – little black stones – though traditional nymph patterns and streamers can also work well. Some years, like last year, the unusual early season weather brought caddis and mayflies in abundance leading to some very good dry fly fishing.

I usually fish Cayuta Creek at least once before the opener with fly angling friend Dan, profiled here before. We’ll meet up at a pull-off, rig up with nymphs or wet flies, and fish down or up – more or less walking the length of the special regs section above the Wyncoop Creek Road bridge – catching up, commiserating, celebrating the new season, and conjecturing on what the year might bring.

We met up the weekend before the opener and Cayuta Creek did not disappoint. It was Good Friday in more ways than one! I fished my standard early season pattern – the venerable picket pin – but this time it was one of my own. I fished it as the tail fly to a weighted prince nymph and to my delight, caught a feisty brown on my third cast.

First fish on one of my own flies...

First fish on one of my own flies…

Dan and I fished the lower stretch of the creek that day and found one particular section that was loaded with hatchery browns. We caught them dead drift and on the swing with our nymphs and wet flies. Sometimes they’d even jump a fly stripped in for another cast.

I fished Cayuta the next day, this time on my own, and I did nearly as well. The sun was out and later in the day little black stoneflies were hatching with abundance. They fell like heavy snow, on and off it seemed, and would float and skitter clumsily downstream. The trout did not ignore them, rising aggressively as they sailed down the creek. Unfortunately, I was ill-equipped. I did not have anything that matched those stoneflies, though a black caddis seemed to draw the trout up for a look. A picket pin fished weightless on the swing worked pretty well, though greasing one up to make it float would most likely have been better (again, ill-equipped – no floatant on hand!).

I returned to Cayuta Creek the Friday after Opening Day. I found a very different creek on that overcast and cold day. The water was up and had a dark green stain to it, no doubt the result of snow-melt and recent rains.

A brooding looking Cayuta Creek...

A brooding looking Cayuta Creek…

I fished a nymph with a picket pin tail fly and found little success and I wondered at one point if this disturbing finding on a section of the creek that allows artificial lure use only had anything to do with it…

What fly or lure angler would use a 'Y' stick...

What fly or lure angler would use a ‘Y’ stick…

Later I decided to switch up to a streamer – a picket pin streamer tied by Dave Pelachik of JJ’s Jigs. I fished it upstream dead drift, then stripped it on the swing. Wading downstream, I swung the weighted streamer through a deep run and felt a solid whack and then the head-shakes of a good trout – one bigger than the stockie fare. After a good tussle I landed a brown in excellent condition, heavy-bodied, silvery colored, and quite possibly a wild trout from what I could tell.

A nice Cayuta brown caught on a picket pin streamer...

A nice Cayuta brown caught on a picket pin streamer…

I fished a little more, lost another decent trout and had a few more swipes from what seemed to be stockies. At one point, a nice older gentleman stopped by to check things out. He spoke to me from roadside, across the creek and I could tell from our conversation that he was an experienced fly angler. He was new to the area, having moved from Pennsylvania and thought he’d check out Cayuta Creek. I fed him with all sorts of good information on this favorite little creek. After a while of pleasant chat, he bade me good luck and told me he’d leave a glass bead midge larva pattern he’d recently had luck with on Kettle Creek. In a way I suppose, it was my ‘little gem’ thanking me for all the praise…

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Serendipity on Cayuta Creek

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on April 12, 2012 by stflyfisher

I’m a believer in serendipity, which I quote, as follows, from Wikipedia:

Serendipity means a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. The word has been voted one of the ten English words hardest to translate in June 2004 by a British translation company.

Just so happens I found it along Cayuta Creek, a favorite trout fishery of mine and one that has been profiled here before. I had stopped by on a recent Friday evening for a bit of after-work fly fishing and as usual, the “little gem” did not disappoint…

One of many Cayuta browns that couldn't resist a picket pin streamer...

Fishing one particular stretch that evening, I quickly got into quite a few brown trout – a mix of stocked fish and holdovers. My peaceful 2 hour interlude was interrupted only once by a spin fisherman whose pick-up came to an abrupt stop, with a roar of its exhaust, near where I was fishing. He climbed out of his burly red truck, rappelled down the creek bank, simply outfitted with spinning rod, sunglasses and cigarette, and briefly stopped to ask how I’d done. He then walked downstream, casting his spinner from the bank in rapid-fire fashion. After just a half-dozen casts, he dashed upstream and out of sight.

I found the trout willing to dance with a Picket Pin streamer that had been sent a few weeks earlier, gratis, courtesy of Dave Pelachik of JJ’s Jigs. All it took to produce that magical buttery brown flash of a trout from the greenish depths of the pool was a cast across and upstream followed by a mend to get the fly deep and a few short strips on the swing. There were more short takes than I could count, but for a good while, this tactic produced a number of stockies along with several nice fish. Later, clouds of midges or tiny olives – I’m not sure which –  started hatching, with a few caddis interspersed, and the game changed. On went a Picket Pin wet and Godfather (pheasant tail) emerger. One out of every three or four casts was followed by classic staccato grabs on the swing that every wet fly fisherman dreams of in the depths of winter.

The fishing that evening was so enjoyable, I couldn’t resist another shot the following day. With my wife up in Rochester tending to my collegiate daughter, I figure I’d enjoy another day of the relative solitude that pre-opener fishing brings. I drove west from my home that Saturday and then north in the mid-morning overcast, belly full with the contents of the oh-so-good / oh-so-unhealthy Sausage Egg McMuffin I’d picked up along the way. It was another cool and damp day with spritzes of rain thrown in for good measure.

Driving along the length of Cayuta Creek, I saw only a few cars parked bank-side. But once I reached the special regs section above Van Etten, I noticed a somewhat familiar car in the exact spot I had parked the evening before. The tall gangly figure walking upstream along the road quickly confirmed my suspicions; it was none other than my long-lost fishing pal and former coworker, Dan…

I caught up to him in my car, practically squeezed him off the road, and extended a hearty hello. After parking, Dan patiently waited while I strung up – something I pointed out to him with emphasis since most times he’d be thigh deep in the creek before I’d barely donned my waders.

We fished the same run I’d fished the night before, then walked upstream to a favorite riffle below the bridge pool and fished the creek back down to where we parked, all the while catching up on goings on, re-telling old war stories, and enjoying the willing participation of the creek’s enthusiastic browns. I asked Dan why he hadn’t sent more flies to me, good tyer that he is, and he countered back about not getting him a ticket to the Al Hazzard TU banquet. Through it all, we both seemed at a loss to pinpoint exactly how long it had been since we last shared a day on the water.

Looking downstream on the "Little Gem".

I came that day not looking for anything but some quiet time fly fishing a special little creek, but as happens every once in a while in life, I found something else. As we worked one particularly deep hole, Dan mentioned the sudden passing of some former coworkers, and I could tell it was really bothering him. Interestingly, I too had just gotten word of a colleague from my past who had died at a still relatively young age. We talked about it and continued to fish, but maybe in the silence of each cast, we pondered our own tentative place on this good earth. Our banter picked up after that, as did the sharing of more good memories and the promise of more time on the water in each others company.

We fished every part of the creek on our way to where we parked. After climbing out of the creek and breaking down my gear at the car, all I could think of was a passage from T.S. Elliot’s poem, Little Gidding:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

It’s one thing to call up a friend and arrange a day of fly fishing, but quite another to arrive at the same place and pick up as if it had been thoroughly planned in advance. Serendipity is a good friend, indeed, and one I will cherish as long as I can wade a beautiful piece of water and cast a fly…

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 examiner.com 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…

Cayuta Creek

Posted in Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing with tags , , , , on October 6, 2009 by stflyfisher

Cayuta Creek is a wonderful little creek, 40 miles in length, running parallel for much of its length with Route 34 as it meanders to its terminus with the North Branch of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.  Indian legend has it that its source, Cayuta Lake, is named after a beautiful Seneca princess who was kidnapped by another tribe, causing her mother’s tears to form the lake.  An older spelling of the creek’s name, still sometimes used, is “Kayutah”.  The name translates to “little gem”, and that is exactly what this creek is to the fly fishers who frequent it.

Little Gem...

Little Gem...

Cayuta receives healthy stockings of brown trout every year, but is also known for its holdovers and natives.  This is classic upstate fly fishing – fast riffles, slow runs, brush-lined pools, and deep, snag-infested holes abound.  Every year at least a few large browns are taken; indeed, a coworker once told me his son pulled a 6 lb brown out of the lower section.  I had my doubts about this until one bright spring day when my Hendrickson nymph stopped dead as it swept under a downfall.  I set the hook and saw the golden flash of a big brown in the murky green depths.  The weight of the fish in combination with some heavy current did their thing, but suddenly I was a believer, as they say.

Open all year, Cayuta offers solitude, gorgeous upstate surroundings, and the chance for good trout fishing.  While there are only two DEC angler parking areas in the upper section, finding a place to park along most of the creek is not difficult.  Wading and navigating the creek, however, can be tricky.  The best places to do well are going to be the ones the lazy fishermen pass up.

Riffle water...

Riffle water...

Staff Hydrologist Dan and I usually hit Cayuta before the traditional NY opener as a warm-up for the season.  We fish the special regs section, from the Rt. 223 bridge downstream to the Wyncoop Creek Rd bridge, as this is open to artificial lures only.  I’ve fished above this stretch once before and did well.  The section below the special regs stretch I’ve yet to explore, but I’ve been told this area can produce some real slabs, if you’re willing to work for them.

I arrived at the special regs section on Sunday afternoon around 2 pm.  After stringing up my 7′ 4 wt JP Ross Beaver Meadow rod and getting down to the creek I noticed a few caddis about, and as these patterns typically do well here, I tied on a tan caddis dry to see if the fish were looking up.  I worked over a nice riffle, run, pool and another combination of the same and all I could come up with were creek chubs that hurled themselves at the fly.  As I fished, I noticed the water had a slight “snowmelt” color to it.  The temp was a very cool 52 degrees F.  I re-rigged to fish wet, and tied on one of my favorite search patterns – the infamous Picket Pin.

Old Faithful...

Old Faithful...

I hiked down the road about a quarter mile to a place Dan likes to fish – a nice brush-lined riffle that spills into a long run and meandering pool.  I fished the picket pin upstream dead drift, then let the line belly out with the current, swing down, and hang for a moment.  I fished the fly weightless, but let the upstream cast and mend give the fly some depth.  A few casts at this spot and I was tight to a fish – a nice 2 year old.  He came up slow, head-shaking, then ran upstream.  I worked him across into the slack water and quickly released him.

I moved upstream to another good spot – broader in width, shallower in depth, but with good cover.

Looking upstream - a nice pool with good cover...

Looking upstream - a nice pool with good cover...

After much ducking and grappling through those nasty thorn-covered crabapple trees, I was able to position myself across a pool that cut into the bank and had great cover.  I watched the water and a flash of butter yellow and silver caught my eye.  Looking more closely, I could see a brown trout picking off nymphs.  I cast upstream, giving my unweighted fly time to sink as it reached the deep middle of the pool, then I’d let my line tighten and swing the fly through.  I did this 3 times before the fly stopped, my line tightened, and I strip set the hook into another nice brown.  This fish came to the surface, thrashing the water to a froth, and settled back in the pool to slug it out.  I worked the fish out upstream, and released it after a quick photo op…

Cayuta Creek brown...

Cayuta Creek brown...

Pool by pool I worked my way upstream.  I fished the riffles, pools, holes, and downfalls, one by one.

Downfall - deep hole...

Downfall - deep hole...

I picked up 2 more browns, smaller in size, but just as big in their fighting spirit.  Around 5 pm I reached the point upstream where I had parked and decided I had been blessed enough.  I stowed my gear, broke out a cigar, and enjoyed the warmth of the late afternoon.  Across the creek was a cornfield, partially harvested and mowed, and beyond it, hills turning scarlet, copper, gold, and brown.  I felt lucky to be alive…

Autumn afternoon...

Autumn afternoon...

Tight lines…