Since the site changed formats a few years ago I never figured out how to insert photos at specific spots in posts. I do the drag and drop, but it just lumps them all together at the end of the post. Dragging them into the text portion seems to just create a link and not the picture. Sorry about the extra clicks, but please click on them to view the pics before reading on in the post so you don't spoil the surprise.
During my PA trout fishing vacation last year, I took a drive with my wife and dog to scout a few new streams about an hour from camp. A few of these were class A streams, and one had a few mile stretch of a catch and release only section. The catch and release section was running so high it was unfishable the first day I saw it, which was strange since the flows of everything else in the area was only slightly above average. I went back alone to fish it a few dry days later and the lower section was still surprisingly borderline fishable at best. I spent a couple of hours that day on one of its "class A" tributaries that wasn't even worth the time. I did have better luck a few miles upstream on the main branch catching a dozen or so in a couple of hours with several more misses. I was out of time and left it as a promising area to hopefully spend a little more time exploring next year.
I returned this year on Sunday over the holiday weekend. There are several camps along the dirt road that parallels the stream, so I knew I was probably rolling the dice on finding unpressured trout. I decided to start a few miles upstream where it forks with another branch that is also listed as a Class A. When I got there another SUV was there. There is a well kept long hiking trail that crosses the streams there, so there was some hope it could be an early morning hiker and not someone fishing. I decided to head up the Class A fork with a plan to back out if I saw boot tracks and head up the section of the main branch that was productive last year instead. I didn't run into any boot tracks, and had a couple of misses right at the start, so figured it was looking good. Unfortunately it got dead pretty fast. Being new water (and knowing there was a trail for an easy walk out), I decided to press on for a bit. After about 45 minutes I landed one 5 inch wild brown and decided it was time for plan B. I hiked back to the fork and spent about 30 minutes up the section I had good success on last year. I hooked one very nice brookie but in keeping with a theme this year he spit the hook a few feet from my boots. I headed back to the SUV disappointed and contemplating options.
On the drive back down the dirt road despite seeing several camps occupied, I didn't see any cars parked, but figured the chances were high the main branch had its share of holiday pressure already. I fully planned to head out to another stream when almost on a whim I pulled over at one of the last spots where I could see an unoccupied camp and had easy access to the stream. I decided to head in and give it 20 minutes or so to see if there was any action. Boy did that turn into a great decision.
The first couple of good looking holes and runs were unproductive leading me to think this would be a quick trip. I came to the next good looking spot near another camp and caught 2 small native brookies and one small wild brown in about 90 seconds, prompting me to press on. A few minutes later I came to a nice deep hole on a turn and after missing him the first time landed this very nice 11.5 in native brookie, which tied the mark for my largest native brook trout caught.
I caught another nice 9 in brook trout and one small brown in that hole. In the first hour I landed 8 trout and only a couple of misses, including one very special trout that I'll get back to in a minute. Unfortunately my catch/hit ratio dropped off pretty quickly, and at one point I missed at least 8-10 in a row. One of them I'm pretty sure was in the 16-18 inch range. Even after slow rolling him in some swift water, he aggressively chased my spinner again all the way behind me and when his mouth visibly engulfed my spinner my hookset attempt resulted in a line snap a few feet above the spinner. It snapped with almost no pressure on it, so I knew it was a knicked line and my fault for not stopping to retie periodically like I should. I was sure there were more big browns in this catch and release stream and I wasn't going to stop until I had one. It took a couple of hours, but I eventually came to a really deep hole in a straight run along a steep hillside with a huge boulder on the side that just screamed big trout. After having the patience to tie a fresh knot, I sent the spinner into the unseen depths. After a brief descent I felt a heavy snag-like resistance on my line. It was time to double down and "commit to the snag". After a few seconds of feeling like a log or rock that wasn't going to budge, I got a glimpse of a big trout rolling in the deep and it was game on. I got him into ankle deep water near my feet a first time when he made a run back into the hole. Fortunately my drag was set just about perfectly to give him some line while still keeping some control. I got him back to my feet and this time was able to get him into my undersized net that was barely up to the task, but did the job. He ended up measuring a fraction over the 20 inch mark.
So this stream had yielded a tie for my biggest native brook trout ever, and although not my biggest brown, a very nice hog that would make most days special. Neither one of those trout were anywhere close to the catch of the day that made this day so special though.
Going back to that productive first hour, after catching the first 7 trout I came to this nice looking swift run.
I missed a hard hit on the first cast, but fortunately it didn't deter him from hitting again on the next cast. It felt like a solid hookset and I figured I had an average 11-13 in brown on the line. I made a quick decision to pull him out of the water over the bank rather than taking a few extra seconds to grab my net and risk losing him in the swift water. Well he made it over the bank but before I could grab him spit the hook dropping into the weeds. But just before spitting the hook I got a glimpse of something that at first I attributed to wishful thinking. Nonetheless, he wasn't too far from the water and I made a dive into the weeds plunging my hand into what turned out to be a patch of stinging nettle, ouch. As I raised the trophy from the weeds though, any pain starting from the nettles was easily forgotten when I saw this...…..
After frantically retrieving my cell phone from the pocket under my waders to get a couple of better pictures than the GoPro can take, I lowered him to the water and for a second found it very hard to take my eyes off of him and release my gentle grip to see him dart off back to safety. I was literally shaking for the next 10 minutes after landing and releasing my first ever wild tiger trout. An amazing 12.5 inch tiger at that.
Last year, just about every time I fished a stream with a mixed population of native brookies and wild browns I was thinking about how awesome it would be to catch my first tiger. When I caught this fish this year, I honestly couldn't recall thinking about tiger trout even once in the nearly 2 weeks I had spent fishing. Funny how it happens when you least expect it.
I spent just under 4 hours on the main stream. Although I only landed 17 trout, I missed at least 20-30, about my average catch/strike ratio to slightly better than average for me, which is pretty poor this year. With a total of only 18 for the day, it was easily the best 18 trout day I have ever had, by far.