With the official Opening Day of trout season just a few days away here in Blair County, on Tuesday, April 11, I decided it was time for a little preseason outing on a non-stocked creek. The prior night was expected to be warmer than seasonably warm, so I chose a little mountain stream.
At 7:00 a.m. I made my first cast with one of my White Bead Gold spinners and surprisingly hooked and landed a 9” wild brown trout. I thought this was a good sign but I still expected the action to be rather slow. Both the air and water temperatures were 46-degrees. The water was flowing nicely. The air was still and the sky was blue.
Eleven minutes later a 9” native brook trout nailed my lure.
Eight minutes after that I duped a 14.5” wild brown that clearly must have been on the move since it was in a riffle nowhere near any pools.
It was much thinner than a 14.5” wild brown that I caught on a limestone stream back in March.
And not nearly as colorful as that limestone brown either.
But overall not many trout were out feeding. At one point I watched three deer mosey down a hollow on my left and cross the stream in front of me in the morning sunlight.
After one hour just seven trout had been caught, but I had kept my expectations low and was pretty much committed for the day unless the action petered out completely.
Around 10:30 a.m. I spotted a little bat flying over the stream. It landed on the side of a tree that hung over the water. Then it took off and flew back through the woods.
The air temperature increased rapidly so at one point I took off one of my two flannel shirts and my camo sweatshirt and stashed them along the stream. The chamois shirt that I continued to wear was brown camouflage, so I still blended in well with the surroundings, a very important thing when fishing for wild trout.
By 11:00 a.m. I had already fished over 1.5 miles of water and had logged just 32 trout in my little tablet. Most of the trout were native brookies. This 10”er was the biggest one.
By now I had resolved myself into believing that if I caught 50 or so trout that I’d consider it a decent day. For whatever reason, many pools were troutless. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the creek nearly went dry last summer and early autumn.
In the early afternoon I surprised a large raccoon as it meandered downstream on the left side. When it spotted me it high-tailed it back upstream, a good sign that it was healthy. I don’t like to run into raccoons during the day since this is not normal behavior and I always fear they might have rabies.
Hepatica bloomed here and there along the stream.
A couple times I stopped and looked around to see if a woman was nearby after smelling spice bush. Spice bush is one of the best smells in the early spring woods.
Occasionally a pretty wild brown trout was fooled.
I thought this one was particularly handsome.
After another slow period the action in the final couple hours picked up to a near feverish pace. I went from having caught 60-some to my final tally of 122 in just a little over three hours.
The most memorable event of the day occurred about fifteen minutes before I quit. I was wading in the water when something high up on the steep right bank caught my attention. I could just barely see over the top of the bank but could see a bear looking at me from about fifteen yards away. Behind it was another bear coming up from behind. They were going to cross the stream at exactly the spot I was standing. I yelled and waved my hands. The first bear, a yearling cub, turned and ran away, but the bigger bear just looked at me until I yelled and waved my hands a second time. It then turned and ran away to be joined shortly by a second cub.
I quit when the stream got pretty small. I was tired anyway.
In total I caught 11 wild brown trout and 111 native brookies in 9.50 hours. The largest brown trout was 14.5” and the largest brookie was 10”. Eight of the brook trout fell in the 9” to 10” range, while another twenty were in the 8” to 8.5” category. The smallest brookie was 3.5”, so since I didn’t catch any 3”ers I guess I didn’t catch any ego-inflating trout today. The water temperature was 50-degees when I quit and the air was 73-degrees.
The hike back to my SUV took two hours and six minutes. Of note, too, is that I saw two grouse today and heard several drumming in the morning. Overall it was an eventful day and I enjoyed seeing all of the wildlife as well as landing many wild trout.
- Frank Nale -