Archive for rainbow trout

Memorial Day Weekend Report

Posted in Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , on June 12, 2010 by stflyfisher

The holiday weekend provided ample time for two major outdoor activities; landscaping, which consisted of laying down 2 big truckloads of mulch, planting numerous shrubs, trees, and flowers, and, fly fishing. I’ll skip the report on shoveling the equivalent of 2 truckloads of mulch and get to the good stuff, for the local fishing scene is really coming into its own…

Depending first on snowpack and then rain levels, fishing the bigger warmwater rivers can be an iffy thing this part of the year if you wade and fly fish. Last year, for example, I did not get out onto the Susquehanna until September. The bigger the river, the greater the watershed, and the big rivers just take time to settle down when the weather is persistently wet. This year is quite different so far, with “the big 4”, the Tioughnioga, the Chenango, the Chemung, and the Susquehanna, all flowing at wade-able levels (the Susky is a little full yet, but fishable). I fished the Tioughnioga, the lower Susquehanna (Vestal), and the West Branch of the Delaware and found all to be in good to great shape.

Looking upstream on the Tioughnioga...

The Tioughnioga had nice flows and water temps in the low-to-mid 70’s. Clarity was excellent and I was just amazed, while wading, at the sheer number of crayfish the scooted from rock to rock. Some of these crustaceans were small, but there was a good mix of 3″ to 4″ crayfish that were present as well. I fished the Schoolhouse Pool first, swinging a Murray’s #6 Half-breed Marauder down the pool. I worked the far shore down into the deep water and while casting, saw what looked like a plume of mud directly downstream of me. I cast that way, and while stripping my fly back, had a solid thump and raised the rod on a throbbing mass of power that soon took off downstream. This was no bass, though I sensed some head shakes, but there was no jump in this fish’s fight. I tightened my drag down and the fish then ran across the pool and up the other side. Close to the backing, I started regaining line, but then the hook pulled. This was no doubt a big hungry carp. I’ve had a number of hookups with these big brawlers, but have only actually ever landed one, a 15 lber, upstream on this very same river.

I then worked upstream and picked up a small bass, returned back to the schoolhouse pool as the sun set and switched flies to a #6 Murray’s Brown Marauder. I worked downstream swinging my fly on a sink-tip line and soon picked up 2 more small but chunky bass. Then further down the pool I finally hit pay dirt as I swam my fly around a large (pool table-sized) boulder. I picked up 2 very nice bass around the rock and both fought with typical smallmouth bravado.

On Sunday afternoon, I decided to give the lower Susquehanna a try. The river was flowing just slightly on the high side, but clarity was good. Wading downstream, I saw evidence of many bass beds as well as quite a few fallfish nests.

A fallfish spawning bed...

Fallfish scoop out the bottom much like most fish do to make their spawning bed, but after spawning, cover and protect the eggs with a large pile of stones. Their unique spawning beds can be extreme in size – as wide as 3 – 4 feet, and as in the case of the one in the pic above, a foot or more in height above the river bottom.

I worked a #6 Brown Murray’s Marauder once again as my fly of choice on a sink tip line and picked up a fallfish and then a walleye.

Walleyes will eat a fly fished deep...

As I left that evening I did notice smallmouth bass chasing bait in the very shallow area of pool I was fishing and I also kicked a few up from the shallow edges of the river on the trek back to the access.

On Monday, Memorial Day, I visited the West Branch of the Delaware, for a change of venue. The West was flowing on the low side at roughly 300 cfs and had a water temp of 59 degrees. There was some algae in the water which made cleaning flies essential on every other cast.

Balls Eddy

I nymphed the run below the pool and had my best success with a #18 beadhead sulphur nymph and a #16 sulphur emerger as the trailing fly. Hatch activity was as sporadic as the fishing but I did manage to first lose a very nice rainbow, catch two small rainbows, roll a nice brown, and finally land a rainbow towards the early afternoon.

West Branch Rainbow

To summarize the weekend’s fishing, I’d have to say the smallmouth bass post-spawn funk is over and fishing should be good from here on as long as the rivers behave themselves. Crayfish and minnow imitations always work well in the early in the morning or late in the evening. Nymphing with large dark nymphs such as a Murray’s #6 Hellgrammite is also a good way to go once the sun is up and full.

If trout fishing the bigger Catskill waters is your thing, sulphurs are in full swing but do not forget the large slate drake, also known as Isonychia. BWO’s (Blue Wing Olives) are another good choice, particularly if it is overcast or rainy. Last but not least, the ubiquitous caddis is always a good choice. These guys haunt the local streams all year long.

Tight lines…

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Big Rocks

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on May 23, 2010 by stflyfisher

Stephen Covey, the noted personal development author, has a philosophy on time management that classifies all activities into 4 quadrants – Urgent but Important, Urgent but Not Important, Not Urgent but Important, and Not Urgent but Not Important. Covey preaches that the second quadrant (“Q2”), or those things in life that are not urgent but important, are the tasks we should truly prioritize above all others. They are often preventive in nature, much like regular exercise, which is not urgent, but when delayed or worse yet, ignored, can have significant negative consequences on our health over the long term. They may also be an important aspect of personal development, like the earning of an advanced degree. They are the key to a life well-lived.

Covey illustrates the importance of “Q2” with a demonstration where students are asked to fill a jar with a set amount of sand, pebbles, and rocks. Most students err when faced with this challenge by filling the jar first with the sand and pebbles and find to their dismay, there is no room for the rocks. Covey uses the demonstration as a metaphor for life, placing the big rocks in first, adding the pebbles, and finally pouring in the sand. The big rocks, of course, are the important, not urgent things in life. By placing them first, all of the smaller things fit in around them, leading to a full life of few regrets. By not placing the big rocks first, they never fit in because of all of the little things in life.

I was reminded of this demonstration this last weekend. On Saturday, my sister called and in the course of talking about all of the small stuff in our lives, she mentioned that someone she knew had just lost her husband. The couple had gone to bed the night before and when the morning dawned, this woman woke to the tragic realization that her 40 year old husband had passed on in the night. We talked about what matters most, how short our time in this world can be, and how dearly we must approach our time.

So early on Sunday morning I decided to start my day, in the words of a very close soul, reinvigorating, rejuvenating, and recreating – a definite Q2 activity by Covey’s definition – and a priority. The smallmouth bass spawn was winding down on the rivers and I figured the fish would not be such willing takers after participating in their own “Q2” work over the last few weeks! The river gauge for the West Branch of the Delaware was looking very attractive with flows of 500 cfs and the weather forecast was fine.

I got up early that morning and drove Rt 17 East through that good country of Windsor, crossing a somewhat murky Susquehanna and the West Branch at the Deposit “quickway” bridge. Looking downstream from the bridge, I quickly ascertained that the Westie was flowing like a trout river should; beautifully blue and dotted with whitened riffle water. Best yet was the fact that not a soul was fishing the expansive glassy water of the Gentleman’s Pool.

I made my obligatory stop at the West Branch Angler, which, oh-by-the-way, was sporting a new addition and lots more gear. Larry Finley, the Fly Shop manager, was able to suggest some nymph patterns, including a caddis emerger, that would end up being the ticket. After my stop, I drove downriver on the hard pan river road and by 9:30, I was knee deep in the 48 degree West Branch at Balls Eddy.

The beautiful West Branch of the Delaware River...

The river level, flow rate and water clarity of the river were all perfect. Early on, there were a few caddis coming off, but little else. I rigged up with a small beadhead caddis larvae and a March Brown spider soft hackle and began a slow methodical search for fish. At the head of my favorite pool is a fast riffle with an interesting pocket where rainbows love to hang. In a previous post I referred to this spot as “the rainbow’s den”, but working my 2 fly rig through this wonderful hold did not elicit a strike. I kept moving down the pool, changing flies, adjusting weight, then working back upstream, each time changing my pattern selection a bit.

Around 10:30, the caddis began coming off more steadily. The hatch was certainly no snowstorm, as it can be later in the day, but it signaled that things were warming up and that the trout might be moving a bit. It was at this point that I tied on the WBA-recommended caddis emerger pattern as my trailing fly, behind my beadhead brassie attractor.

After more dredging of the pool, I finally hooked up with a nice brown. This fish did the normal “brown” thing – holding like a rock in the current, then getting pissed off and suddenly reversing downstream to the safety of deeper water. There he slugged it out a while, finally coming up but still swinging like a punched out boxer.

Nice Westie brown...

Getting the first fish to the net is always a confidence booster and I quickly got back to business after releasing this beautiful wild brown.

I have found I’ll often pick up rainbows on the swing when nymph fishing so I never end a drift until I’ve let my flies tail out, occasionally noodling the rod a bit as they hang in the current below me. On one such swing I felt a strong tug and set the hook on my second fish of the day. The initial response was as predictable as hooking a smallmouth; this rainbow launched out of the water like it had JATO (jet-fuel assisted take off) rockets strapped to it and threw another leap into its repertoire halfway through its electrifying fight.

The rainbow with JATO...

I fished a little while longer and had another, much smaller brown, somehow pull off a short distance release (SDR) as it shot downstream between my legs. The stunt left me bent over in the middle of that majestic river, searching my wader crotch for a very hard-to-find #16 caddis emerger! Score one angler-humiliation for the trout…

After extricating myself from that situation, I decided to call it a short but pleasant day on the river and head back to the parking access. When I got back to my car, I lit up a cigar and took time to actually enjoy the end of my trip – breaking down my rod, pulling off my waders, stowing my gear, watching other fisherman pull in and rig up with all the hope in the world plain as the day on their determined faces.

Then I drove home, windows open, puffing away, thinking of the little rocks waiting for me – the lawn to mow, the weeding to do, the breakfast dishes, the dead tree to take down. None of that really mattered, however; the big rocks were already in place.

Loyalsock Creek

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing with tags , , on April 29, 2010 by stflyfisher

At least a few of my loyal readers are familiar with one of my goals for 2010: to fly fish PA waters. This latest of adventures begins with a previous fishing visit – some 2 years ago – before I’d ever explored the PA fishing wilderness. Back then, Sr. Staff Hydrologist Dan and I were barely acquainted fly fishing buddies and his choice for my first fly fishing experience in PA waters was a pre-season visit to the Delayed Harvest / Artificial Lures Only (DH / ALO) section of the Loyalsock.

Loyalsock Creek, known to keystone flyfishers as “the sock”, is bigger water than many might expect. It is more a river than a creek and those visiting it should be sure to pack chest waders and a 9 foot 4 weight or 5 weight outfit. That first visit, though beautiful in both the weather and the picturesque surroundings, was fishless, and Dan was discouraged, to say the least. But what I brought back was a very much heightened awareness to the fly fishing possibilities “down south” in Pee-Ay” as they say…

Fast forward to just 2 weeks ago. Color the day with similar weather and add more water. Both Dan and I arrived in the parking section, encouraged by the presence of a few other anglers. We hiked upstream, since all of the other anglers were fishing just below the access.

Dan found the long run we had fished 2 years before, and though it was flowing beautiful and clear, there was nothing doing there. We saw not a fish and had no strikes on a variety of nymphs. So we headed upstream further, taking a logging road, and arriving at a location that Dan swore would change our luck.

Dan was right about the luck, but wrong about the riffle. “What the hell…” were the words he uttered as we descended the bank and looked over long flat water with only a hint of current. It’s a little cliche, but nonetheless true, that the only thing one can depend on with creeks, streams, and rivers, is that they change.

On the other side of the “island” that separates the Loyalsock at this spot was some nice water, and it was here that “our”, or I should say, Dan’s luck changed for the better.

Dan playing the "icebreaker" rainbow...

The beadhead hare’s ear nymph he was using seemed to entice one gorgeous holdover rainbow…

This picture doesn't do this rainbow justice.

We continued to fish this upper stretch of the DH / ALO stretch of the Loyalsock without any more luck. Around noon, we returned to the parking area where we chatted with an older gentleman, named Tom, who theorized that the stocking truck was unable to access the upper stretches of the creek, and dumped most of the fish below us, where the rest of the anglers had been fishing. Tom seemed like a knowledgeable angler, a guy from PA who fished the Loyalsock every year around this time, and often did well. Somehow our conversation drifted off to his past as an Air Force F4 pilot. The effusive Tom told a story of flying low over a turkey farm in Alabama, and the roar of his Phantom’s twin GE J79 engines and their combined 35,000 lbf of thrust in full afterburner made such a hellacious roar that $80,000 dollars worth of commercial turkeys stampeded to one end of their barn and trampled each other to death! Needless to say, pilot Tom got a talking to over that mission.

After finishing lunch and bidding Tom a good day, Dan and I headed downstream from the access. Tom had portrayed this water as West Branch Delaware-like – meaning big, deep, and relatively flat water – and he was not far off the mark. Not long after wading in chest deep, a tan caddis hatch took off and trout started showing themselves with random rises. Stoneflies joined in the festivities, and eventually mayflies also took flight. Fishing was frustrating to say the least. Dan landed another nice rainbow and I missed two fish, but the fish were extremely selective. By around 3 pm that 44 – 46 degree water and cold wind had taken its toll and we gave up the ghost.

Was the Loyalsock “loyal” to Dan’s original claims? Well, not really, but this last trip at least showed promise. As we pulled away from the parking access, Dan, himself, said it seemed we did better when we fished apart. So, I’ll have my sights set on a return to this pretty river, but maybe this time, I’ll go it alone, to truly test “the sock”…

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…