Drive-by Stream Adventure in the North-Central Region
I had driven over the stream many times on my way to Class A water. Heck, I didn’t even know its name. But I had decided that someday if there was still ample daylight left that I’d give it a try on my way home from north-central Pennsylvania just to sample it and see if it held trout.
On Tuesday, June 13th, 2017, after a six-hour, 101 trout outing on one of the better known creeks in the north-central region, I decided I’d stop there and give it a minimum of a fifteen minute try.
I walked over to the stream in the near 90-degree heat and was surprised by its size. It was about three times as wide as I thought it would be based on quick glances from the bridge I had crossed umpteen times. I stepped into the riffle and looked upstream only to see riffles as far as the eye could see.
But within one minute I had an 8” native brookie in hand, and after an hour 27 native brookies and one wild brown trout had been fooled by my White Bead Gold spinner. I was amazed by the naivetÚ of the trout, something that frankly I hadn’t seen in years. When I came to a pool I could usually see several trout out feeding and I’d catch most of them. The remaining trout didn’t seem to be bothered by seeing their fallen comrades. Clearly these fish had never seen a spinner before and perhaps not many anglers.
Then the action mysteriously died until old boot tracks in the gravel gave me an explanation. I fished another half hour and caught six trout. As I walked back to my SUV I knew I’d be returning to this stream to explore it further on another day.
On Thursday, June 29th, 2017, I decided to spend the day exploring this stream and perhaps one other similar creek if time permitted. At risk was my string of twenty-eight consecutive outings going back to mid-May where I had caught 100 or more trout. But I didn’t care. I had committed myself to a day of exploring regardless of the tally. I was looking for a different experience.
I arrived in the dark hollow a little before 6:00 a.m. and parked my SUV along the creek. Though this photo is from another visit to north-central Pennsylvania, every time I go there and get out of my vehicle to stretch my legs the scenery evokes a special, unexplainable feeling.
I walked over to the creek and began fishing. The water was much lower than on my prior visit. The water temperature was 56-degrees and the air temperature was 63-degrees.
It usually only takes a few casts with spinners to get a feel for how the fishing is going to be, and after several nice pools yielded no trout, I got the sinking feeling that the fishing wasn’t going to be much good despite my prior success.
I covered well over a half mile of water in the first hour and caught ten trout.
Despite action much slower than my perhaps unjustified high expectations, I continued upstream.
An attractive wild brown nailed my spinner.
To me there is something special about the beauty of a freestone wild brown. This was one of the prettier ones so it is worth a second look.
The action remained slow. Many pools showed no sign of holding trout and I quickly learned the smaller, shallower spots were not worth a cast. I figured they were probably dry or nearly dry during last year’s drought.
Some pools were nice though and held trout.
Some of the brookies were gorgeous which always inspires me to continue even despite slow action.
Probably my favorite photographic subject is a native brookie dressed in orange.
And this one was worth a few extra photos.
I explored the stream until it became nothing more than a pool-free trickle. My GPS unit showed that I had worked 3.74 miles of water in 5.25 hours. I caught 61 trout, all native brookies except for three wild browns, the biggest of which was 11.5”. Four of the native brookies were 9” long. Interestingly, there were very few native brook trout under 6”. Overall I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of trout, but that was offset by the excitement of seeing what the water would look like around the next bend. I also held onto the fantasy that a herd of wild elk would cross the stream in front of me, or perhaps a mythical cougar with a couple kits would sneak by.
While fishing I heard a number of birds, including at least one veery, wood thrush, catbird, phoebe, belted kingfisher, ovenbird, scarlet tanager, Acadian flycatcher, blue jay and red-eyed vireo. A few weeks ago I saw this young screech owl along a stream.
During the hike back to my SUV I saw a nice pool in a tiny feeder run and caught a 6” native brookie.
After slamming down a large bottle of water back at my vehicle and cracking open a cold Dr. Pepper, I got out my maps and decided that I had plenty of time to try a second drive-by stream that was about seven or eight miles farther north. I decided I’d park at the bridge where the stream crossed the highway like I had done on the first stream. I couldn’t remember exactly how far up the hollow the bridge was located though.
While driving slowly up the hollow along the creek another car got close behind me so I decided to ease into the first pull-off along the stream. Since I didn’t know the water I couldn’t see what difference it would make as to where I started.
When I got over to the stream I could see that, like the first stream, it was much bigger than I thought it would be. It was flowing much better, too. It appeared nearly featureless.
And as always, particularly on new streams in the wilderness, I kept an eye out for rattlesnakes.
Luckily, no rattlebugs were seen today.
But despite the lack of pools, every decent spot held a na´ve trout and I quickly began to rack up a score and think maybe I could actually hit one hundred trout for the day. Clearly, these trout hadn’t seen many anglers and probably no metal.
Most of the trout were native brookies.
The occasional nice pool would sometimes surrender a wild brown.
The farther I got upstream the fewer trout I caught. I was glad I hadn’t started where I had planned. Before long even the nice areas seemed void of trout.
I had no explanation but was pleased when I caught my 38th trout to give me 100 for the day. I quickly added one more for a total of 101 in 9.00 hours for the day. On this stream 32 of the trout were native brookies and 7 were wild browns. Like on the other stream, I saw few trout under 6”. My GPS unit showed I had walked 10.13 miles for the day.
June was a good month for me. Today was my 20th outing in June. In those days I fished 162.50 hours and tallied 2,347 trout. This averages out to 14.44 trout per hour and 117.35 trout per day. For the year I’m up to 5,524 trout in 55 fishing trips. I’ve crested 100 trout on 38 of those days. It has been a pretty good year thus far, though I’d have to say that the only thing consistent has been the inconsistency of the fishing. I’ve done as well as I have mostly by stream jumping more than normal.
- Frank Nale -