I fished three times recently, all on vacation days. In mid-November, I headed to a stream that I had fished once previously this year. That stream is a large freestone stream and has a lot of big trout. Unfortunately, it is highly unpredictable. The forecast called for cloudy skies giving way to sunny skies in the late morning. As that stream usually fishes terribly when it’s sunny, I figured to move to a nearby small freestoner when the full sun hit the water. The forecast was completely wrong, and it was very sunny from the start. I decided to try my target stream and see what would happen.
I waded in and after a few minutes, I worked up to a small split in the stream. I flipped a cast into the right channel next to the bank. I felt a slight tap and set the hook. A lively brown bounded out of the water and dashed around the channel. After a few minutes, I released the 14 ½ inch wild brown. About five minutes passed before I dropped my cast under a tree right against the bank. A trout struck aggressively, and I set the hook. The heavy brown zoomed downstream as my drag squealed. Following a few minutes of give and take, I led the big trout to my feet. I made a quick measurement (17 ¼ inches), took a quick picture (which didn't turn out well), and made the release. I was encouraged by my quick start and hoped that my luck would continue. It did not, as I didn’t catch any more trout the rest of the hour.
I fished through some excellent looking water without any action. Finally, a large brown followed my spinner back to me. Unfortunately, following is all it did. I only caught one trout in the second hour, a nice 15 ½ inch brown.
Continuing upstream, I tried a plug and had one hit, but that’s all, so I switched back to spinners. I thought about leaving but needed to go further upstream to reach a convenient walk out point. I made a cast to the head of a pool and as I brought my spinner in, a fat brown materialized out of the depths and hit my spinner when I had about two feet of line out. I set the hook and the behemoth tail danced across the water away from me. I knew it wasn’t hooked well and I had that sickening feeling that the fight was going to end badly. Sure enough, the spinner popped loose a few seconds later. I didn’t see how long the fish was, but it was a very heavy male with a large hook jaw.
I fished both sides of a split, getting a follow in the right split and a 13 ¾ inch brown in the left. I lost a nice brown and then landed a 9 incher before I reached the walk out point. I waded out and walked back to my car with only five trout in 3 1/2 hours to show for my efforts. I considered going to a lower section of the stream but decided to head to the small freestoner instead. I didn’t have enough daylight left to fish both places.
I had fished the small freestoner once earlier in the year as well and had done well. I hurried down the trail to get as much fishing in as possible before it got dark. The stream was very low, and I wondered if I wouldn’t have been better off to stay on the larger stream. I waded in and after a few minutes, hooked and landed my first trout there, a 9 ½ inch native brook trout. About ten minutes later, a 12 ¾ inch brown came to hand, followed by a 7 ½ inch brookie. The remainder of the hour produced browns of 9, 8 ½, 13, 9 ½, 11 and 8 ½ inches. In addition, I lost two trout.
The action slowed way down for some reason after that. I caught only a ten inch brown in the first 15 minutes of the next hour. As I reached a sharp bend, a trout followed my spinner in without hitting. I tried a follow up cast, to no avail. I flipped a cast to a different pocket before trying one more cast to the sharp bend. This time, a heavy trout darted in and drilled my spinner on a short line. This time I got a good hookset and landed the nice brown in short order. At exactly 16 inches, it was my second big trout of the day. I fished upstream in the gathering darkness and had only one more hit.
The second stream produced 12 trout in 1.75 hours; 9 browns and 3 brook trout. For the day, I caught 17 trout, including two trout of at least 16 inches and one of 15 ½ inches. I caught everything on spinners. I covered 4.7 miles on the day.
My goal was to fish another stream that has produced a lot of big trout the next day, but the forecast for that area was terrible; rainy and cold with heavy wind. The forecast wind chills were in the upper 20s and low 30s, so I decided to try one of my favorite streams to fish in the fall. It’s extremely popular but since the weather was supposed to be raw, I figured I might have the stream to myself.
Shortly after wading in, heavy winds and rain pelted me for several minutes. I seriously questioned why I had taken the day off. Even though the weather improved, the action did not. I only had one trout follow a spinner, so I switched to a plug. A heavy trout blasted the plug, but the fight was short lived after the brown took to the air and rid himself of my lure. I caught an 11 inch brown before I ran into a fly fisherman in a large pool. He told me he had only caught one trout to that point. I walked upstream a long way before wading back in. I lost a nice trout before landing two 9 inch browns. Apart from another follow, that was all the action I got before I decided to abandon the stream, which I should have done much earlier than I did. Every year, I have at least one truly bad outing on that stream, and this was it.
I considered trying another well known stream, but decided to try one of its tribs instead, a small meadow limestone stream. Shortly after starting, a nice brown in the 15-16 inch range hit and tossed my spinner after it jumped. I fished the second stream for 2.25 hours and caught 16 wild browns to salvage the day, with the largest being 14 ½ inches. Two different hog browns followed without hitting. I caught 19 trout; all were wild browns. Between the two streams, I walked 5.1 miles during the day.
The following week, I took another vacation day, but wasn’t too excited about my prospects for success. The weather forecast was again poor, with heavy wind and rain. I decided to try one of my go to streams for big trout.
It was very windy while driving there, but fortunately the wind let up by the time I arrived. I parked my vehicle and walked downstream a long way. When I waded in, I didn’t like the look of the stream. It was very low. Normally I wouldn’t fish it at that level, but sometimes lower stream levels produce better in the fall.
I waded in and had no interest in my spinner. I often use large spinners there but had a smaller one on due to the low flow. I have found that sometimes trout will respond to a bigger spinner in cold water, so I switched to a larger spinner. Within ten minutes of switching, I felt a light tap and set the hook. At first it didn’t feel like much of a fish, but then it zoomed downstream, and I felt the power of a heavy fish. The brown made several determined runs, but finally tired. My first trout of the day was 17 inches long. I took the water temperature, which was a chilly 41 degrees. A few minutes later, I felt a similar strike. I set the hook and the brown took to the air before making several line peeling runs. I led the fish to my feet, measured and released the beauty. It was 19 inches. Two trout, two hogs; maybe the day would turn out much better than I hoped. After that, the action died for about the next half hour. I hooked a nice brown, which turned out to be 15 ¾ inches.
As is often the case there, the action was very slow for the next hour. I had some nice trout follow but only caught one trout during the hour. If you’re only going to catch one trout in an hour though, why not make it count? The only trout of the second hour was 17 ¾ inches.
I thought about trying a plug, but caught an 11 inch brown, then had a hog brown follow without hitting, so I put off switching. Good thing, because a heavy brown pounded my spinner. The heavy fish tried everything, including one jump, but my double hooked spinner held. The brown measured 20 inches.
As I moved upstream, wading through a shallow stretch, I saw a deep spot along the bank, so I dropped a cast against the bank. A dandy brown rolled up and grabbed my spinner. A few minutes later, I released the 18 ¼ incher, which was my fifth hog of the day. I had already exceeded my expectations for the day, and I wasn’t nearly finished.
The next hour opened with another heavy trout, a 16 ½ inch brown. 20 minutes passed before I landed a 10 ¾ incher, my smallest trout of the day to that point. Two casts later, I made a long cast to deep pocket next to a heavy riffle. The big brown was on the spinner instantly. I set the hook and battled the heavy fish for several minutes before it gave. I knew it was the biggest fish of the day but as is often the case, it wasn’t as big as I first thought. The tape read 21 inches, tied for my largest trout of the year.
In the next stretch of pocket water, another big brown charged my spinner and piled into it. That trout cleared the water twice before I eased my net under it. The tape registered 18 inches. The amazing action continued as only a few minutes passed before I landed an 18 ½ inch brown. A large shape followed my spinner in the next stretch of water but saw me and hastily withdrew.
After that, I had about a half hour of no action when I came to a deep pocket next to a large boulder. As I brought my spinner toward me, a big brown suddenly appeared and engulfed my spinner. As was the case the previous week, I had only a couple feet of line out and feared history would repeat itself. This time, I managed to land the behemoth, which was 19 ¼ inches long.
Unexpectedly, the action ceased for almost an hour. Again, I considered switching to a plug. I decided to make one more cast before switching. A solid strike told me I had made the right choice, and I set the hook. The rod throbbed with the weight of a heavy trout. It was 17 ¾ inches. I decided to stay with the spinner. A short time later, a very large deeply yellow brown appeared in front of me and grabbed my spinner. I should be used to what expert ambush predators big browns are by now, but they still surprise me on occasion. I set the hook, but the heavy fish got off almost immediately.
I reached a deep pool where I had caught quite a few big trout in the past. In previous trips this year, I barely got to fish it because it was loaded with kayakers. This time, predictably, it wasn’t. I had one strike but that was it. I continued up a little further without any action. I considered going further upstream but made the long walk back to my car.
I drove several miles downstream where I rarely fish and saw several hunters in the area. Typically, I catch more bass than trout there, so I decided to head back upstream from where I was, but downstream from where I had started. By then, the heavy wind had arrived, and fishing was very difficult. I had two small trout follow but not hit. I tried a plug for the first time all day and it produced a 17 inch brown. Unfortunately, nothing else showed any interest, so I switched back to the spinner to end the day. I lost a trout in the 15-16 inch range. The howling wind and approaching darkness made me decide to call it a very successful day.
My total for the day was 15 trout, all browns, which is not a lot of six hours of fishing, but the story of the day was catching 12 hogs, a new personal daily total of big trout in Pennsylvania. It’s a record I hope stands until my next outing. [IMG class=inlineimg]/forums/images/smilies/biggrin.gif[/IMG] My previous highest big trout total in a day in PA was 10. Two of the trout were at least 20 inches with the largest at 21 inches. I walked 3.1 miles on the day.
Even though the wind was pummeling me unmercifully, I enjoyed every step of my walk back to the car.