Native Brook Trout Adventure
On Wednesday morning, June 14th, I didn’t need to get up as early as I usually do in order to get to my fishing destination at daybreak because my choice on this humid morning was a little stream that flows through a deep, dark ravine where daybreak comes later rather than sooner. There was no need to get up at 2:50 a.m. like I had on the prior day for a trip to the northwoods.
Because I like to get a lot of liquid into my system before beginning a long outing on a hot day, I drank a beer or two during the drive.
I arrived at the final streamside pull-off at 6:05 a.m. and leisurely booted up since it was still kind of dark in the hollow. Two 24-ounce bottles of water and my raincoat filled the back pocket of my fishing vest. I stuffed a dark green towel down my left hip boot so that I could dry my hands between trout and before taking photos.
I walked down a path and arrived streamside at 6:20 a.m. It was still darker than I expected and even with my clear goggles that I wear in dim light for safety from flying spinners it was difficult to see my homemade White Bead Gold spinner dangling from my rod tip.
The creek was much lower than I thought it would be, likely because it hadn’t rained much in over two weeks. The air temperature was a stifling 71-degrees and the water registered 58-degrees. The sky was cloudy and the air was still.
I consider the stream to be a native brook trout fishery, though there is a token population of wild brown trout here and I've caught some on other outings.
And since there are some wild brown trout, there’s always the chance of catching a wild tiger trout like I had on the prior day from a little mountain brook in the Susquehannock State Forest.
But I no illusion of catching another one of these rare fish on this day. My target was the gorgeous native brookies that own these waters.
Much to my dismay, the action was pretty much non-existent and I covered several hundred yards in twenty minutes before I landed my first trout of the day, a fine representative of our State Fish, the native brook trout.
After one full hour only six little gems had been brought to hand and I had covered a good half mile of water. The highlight of the first hour was having a wild brown trout of about 15” chase my spinner for about forty feet before deciding he didn’t want any part of my flashy attractant. Had Trout Traveler been there I’m sure he would have tied on a Rapala or other crankbait and may have been able to entice that king of the pool to bite. I know the trout had not seen me as I was wearing full camouflage and I saw no reaction from the trout to indicate that he had spotted me. But overall, after a slow hour I couldn’t help but think, as I often have this year, “Where are all of the trout?”
At this pace my stash of samoas Girl Scout cookies wasn’t going to last very long.
I decided to surge ahead despite the slow action. I knew this stream has a lot more angling pressure than it did years ago, when catching over 100 trout was nearly a given, with perhaps half of the trout being 8” long or better, including a half dozen or more in the 10”-to-12” category. I figured the farther I traversed up the ravine the fewer anglers the trout would have had to avoid to survive, assuming other anglers were creeling their catch.
Hour number two gave up ten trout but most pools showed no sign of holding trout. Most of the trout I caught were in secondary spots, a pretty good indicator someone was keeping the trout from the better pools.
But every once in a while one of those orange jewels would grab my spinner, and to me there is no trout prettier.
As a sidebar to this story, we’ve all seen the not-so-subtle destruction caused by the emerald ash borer (photo taken along another stream)…
…as well as the destruction to our State Tree, the Eastern hemlock, by hemlock woolly adelgids, but we spinner fishermen shouldn’t discount the destruction done by fly fishermen on their long back casts.
Look at this tree that was taken down by a fly angler.
While fishing today I came upon this spot where a fly angler must have been having a really bad day.
All joking aside, I continued upstream. The third hour yielded another ten trout.
This fat brookie was so pretty it deserved more than one photo.
Maybe even another shot.
Despite the rather slow action, I continued up the ravine.
At times the action was actually pretty good and when I reached what I consider the halfway point, and in recent times the ending point since the trout population drops dramatically above here, I had 65 trout written down in my little tablet. It was about noon.
Our State Flower, mountain laurel, grew on the slopes along the stream.
The question in my mind at this point was, should I cut my losses and head out or continue into what in recent years has been a section of stream seemingly void of more than a remnant population of native brookies.
I decided that since I was here I might as well continue fishing. I was glad I did. There were more trout in the next mile than I seen in many years. The final two hours yielded nearly 40 trout.
Some of the scenery was pretty nice too, at least from a micro point of view.
After 7.50 hours the action dried up and I knew it was time to hike out. My tablet showed 110 native brookies had been fooled. The air temperature was 73-degrees, though with the humidity it felt like about 85-degrees. The water temperature was still 58-degrees. My GPS unit showed I had covered 4.09 miles.
Since I didn’t prefer to walk out along the stream, where rattlesnakes could be under the ferns, I scaled the side of the rocky mountain to an old logging road and hiked out safely and uneventfully.
Overall, it was a very satisfying day chasing little natives. I enjoyed the day greatly, and it was my 20th 100-plus trout outing in a row. I look forward to many more great outings this year.
- Frank Nale -