Spring Creek – Again

I paid a short visit to Spring Creek last evening. After all I was in the area for something else, and figured while nearby, why not? Turns out my friend Bill Shuck, a regular www.flymphforum.com tier, mentioning to me in an e-mail yesterday about the “cold front” putting the trout and bugs and fishing “off,” was right. There wasn’t much happening.

The high temperature for the day was barely sixty-five degrees, and the sun never even poked its head out, not even for a minute. I thought the sulfurs would be hatching gangbusters and trout would be up everywhere, but only in my dreams. I had driven down to State College to attend a visitation session for Gloria Humphreys, the wife of one of Pennsylvania’s celebrated fly fishing authors, Joe Humphreys. They were professional and personal friends. Gloria passed away on May 20th.

So after paying my respects I drove to Spring Creek, found a spot, geared up, and tied on my usual two-dry-fly tandem rig, a Sulfur Poly-wing Parachute Dun and my Floating “Sulfur” Emerger – which as noted in the article and links from my previous post, started its life in 2006 as a Floating Caddis Emerger. Orvis added it to their fly catalog in 2013, and have continued it for this year as well. http://www.orvis.com/store/product.aspx?pf_id=7R6A[/

I discovered two years ago that the same pattern, augmented for size and dubbing color, also does a “spot-on” mimic for emerging mayflies. At least that is the conclusion I have drawn, after hooking well over one hundred trout on that fly last season and this season, all while fishing the “sulfur” hatch.

I walked downstream to a slower, deeper section of water and watched for rising fish. Nothing was happening, there were no rises. I gave it all of one minute, which on Spring Creek at this time if year and time of day, if they are rising, I would have seen a dozen or more trout up. So I walked upstream, knowing what my next course of action would be, but for confirmation, I said aloud to myself, “If there are no trout rising, I’m going to fish the riffs and pocket water. No sense of fishing a pool with no rises.” Yes, I do talk to myself, sometimes it is the only way I can get expert advice. ;-)

I stepped into this spot:

I entered the water just below this spot, got some line iout, and when I was only about four feet from the bank, started feeding line downstream to a deeper section.

I entered the water just below this spot, got some line out, and when I was only about four feet from the bank, made a cast downstream and started feeding line to a deeper section. A trout rose to the Floating Sulfur Emerger on the first drift, but he missed the fly. I caught one trout in about eight inches of water maybe three feet from shore. When a lot of fishermen are about, they usually scatter the trout from these shallow sections…for a little while at least. Most anglers don’t bother with this water, they are “pool oriented.” Their mistake. The area between the two rocks, not twenty-five feet away, produced two hookups and three additional rises.

Next I worked my way up to the area in the above photo, standing in water about a foot deep, and by this time I had not moved more than fifteen feet from the bank. I blindly cast about to the pockets, seams, and into the riffles, relying on experience as to where might be a good spot for a trout to be. None of this water was more than a foot or so in depth. Right away I caught this fish:

This first trout took the Floating Sulfur Emerger.

This first trout took the Floating Sulfur Emerger. He hit the fly when it was about eight feet from my rod tip. You can see the front end of the fly in his mouth. I hooked two more right after this one on the same fly, but they wanted no part of having their picture taken, so they rather rudely excused themselves by making my line go limp.

I rose and missed more than a dozen trout in the course of the evening, and it is important here to note; why I chose to fish the shallower water, pockets, seams, and riffs. There were no trout rising in the pools. I did not want to waste my limited time by “looking for rising trout.” The fish in shallower water are generally always more prone to impulsive feeding when something presents itself, even on the surface. These fish are accustomed by now to looking for sulfur duns and spinners, and also Baetis, or BWO’s, so that was my logic behind the choice to fish dry flies in the shallow water. Plus, I could get close to the trout with out spooking them, able to make accurate presentations, short drifts through targeted zones, repetitive if necessary, all while making pretty short casts. Also a factor besides this, there were trees hugging both banks and extended limbs so I had to keep it short. Managing your drift is easier when casting to close range target areas; most of the time I had about six to ten feet of fly line beyond the rod tip. My leader was about eleven or twelve feet long, including the typical George Harvey front-section formula of about six feet of 3x, 4x, and 5x. In this type of water, and in most dry fly scenarios, one does not want the leader to straighten out, but rather remain somewhat coiled and snaked about on the water’s surface in S-curves. This promotes drag-free drifts. George Harvey’s leader designs are from the 1940’s, when gut leaders were still used, and his formulas predate the present “Czech”, “French,” “Euro,” whatever you choose to call it, leader designs, that are being touted these days as “new.” In fact, one of these days, I’ll write a piece on the reality of every single aspect of this “new” method of nymphing – rods, leaders, flies, technique, all being as old as the hills. It’s all hype and marketing.

I saw just a handful of trout rise, and I did not have a great evening on the water, but I had a good evening on the water. Most of the trout that rose took, or tried to take, the Floating Sulfur Emerger, but a number did come up after the dun as well. Another thing I noticed; there were more Baetis in the air than anything else. This is typical – chilly, all-cloudy day, that is what they like. I saw duns on the water and in the air, but perhaps Bill was correct; the cold front had put the trout “off.”

Here is a pic of the first trout to take the sulfur dun:

First trout of the evening on the Sulfur Poly-wing Thorax Dun.

First trout of the evening on the Sulfur Poly-wing Thorax Dun. This fly is a modified design of Vince Marinaro’s Thorax Dun; the poly-wing version was created by Barry Beck. I made further material composition modifications, particularly the use of the Sexi-Super-Dyna-Flexi Floss for the “quill body” abdomen, and I generally use poly yarn for the wings rather than the old “Poly-Fluff” or Hi-Vis” – now called E.P. Fibers he used to use.

Here is an upstream shot of the section I fished:

Section of riffles, pockets, seams 0- shallow, but the trout are here.

Section of Spring Creek riffles, pockets, seams – shallow, but the trout are here. Note the larger exposed and submerged boulders – structure – these create breaks in the stream flow, “seams” where currents of two different speed intersect – creating holding areas for trout, allowing them comfort while having the ease of opportunity to intercept drifting food items. Work these areas properly, either with a nymph or a dry fly, and it’s Game On!

Here is another important point I want to make: In the comment thread from the previous article, Bill Shuck mentioned about how more than once he had been on Spring Creek and spooked the largest trout in the stream just by stepping into the water, because sometimes big trout are near the bank, even in shallow water.” Most of us look for the trout where we expect them to be. Happened to me last night. We all probably spook more trout like this, because while we think we’re pretty good angler / predators, we really don’t pay attention enough of the time. If I had been looking, I would have seen a brown trout about nineteen inches long, up ahead of me, on the right, in just eight inches of water, so close to the bank that the long grass slightly overhung his position. When I was about twelve feet off, of course looking and casting out into the stream, his take-off made a resounding splash, a plume of silt, and a large wake as I watched him scoot off.

Right then, I gave myself a little more “expert” advice; by saying aloud, “Expletive. If I had been looking for that fish, I would have seen him first and been able to make a couple casts.” Here is one more pic of a trout that liked my Sulfur Dun:

Spring Creek 5-29-14 006Enjoyable evening on the water. I learned a few new things, got more affirmation of some of the things I already knew, even entertained myself by singing a little bit while fishing, and had a good time. This is about catching fish though. Don’t let anyone fool you by summing up a poor day or few hours on the water, saying, “It’s just good to get out.” That is, in fact, true. But realistically, how many of those people would continue to fish if they got skunked, again, and again, and again, and again…hardly any of us would go out if we couldn’t hook up now and then.

Hopefully you found a few informative and educational things here and among the other articles on my blog to help you get “tight lines” on future trips.

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16 comments on “Spring Creek – Again

  1. Kelly L. says:

    Great lessons Donnie. Gorgeous fish. You definitely have a wealth of info to fall back on, when fishing seems bleak. Congratulations!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Kelly!
      Thanks for your comments and compliments! Experience does help, but sometimes we still don’t learn or remember it all at the exact moment we need to…human nature I guess. ;-)
      I’ll be back on that water tomorrow afternoon and evening. :-) Have a great weekend!

    • Chief says:

      I fished at Stackhouse last night and murdered ‘em on a #14 Cream Stimulator and #16 Flashback Pheasant Tail in the roughest water I could find. Only a few risers until the spinner fall. Switched to a #16 RBF Cream Half & Half & Half (half dun, half spinner and half emerger) and a big, balsa suspender. Go ahead and laugh! Fished the rough water and caught nine before I needed a beer.

      • Don Bastian says:

        Hey Ed;
        I didn’t stay until it was dark, when there might have been spinners.

        If by Stackhouse, you mean in the Paradise Section near those buildings, then I ought to let you know, “Chief,” the regs in the “Paradise” proper section are still single fly, barbless only. For future reference. Wouldn’t want you to get “pinched.” ;-) Glad you got some fish, even if you were a little unorthodox. :-) I think sometimes when there are lots of risers on that creek, in the rough water, the trout get a little gung-ho! ;-) Spring Creek can also have lots of bug activity in one area, somewhere else, no so much, even a half-mile away. Thanks for your comments!
        PS: I took a quick assumption when you mentioned the two flies together that you were fishing tandem. If not, please forgive my “assumption.” ;-)

  2. Terry Chapman says:

    Don, enjoyed your evening on Spring Creek. Especially the “here’s what happened next” stuff joined with a photo; kind of felt like we were fishing it together! Give us more of those, ok?!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Terry;
      Glad you like the story-line with photo caption to go along with it. :-) That is a good idea…if I’d had my wits about me I would have taken a photo of the spot that big trout was lying near the bank, and where I stood when he spooked. That would have been another good little object lesson… Thanks for your comment! Glad you like the story!

  3. Bill says:

    Another great report, DB. If anyone can get fish to take in Spring Creek under conditions like that, it would be you. I did notice, however, that you had to resort to using the “Old Farts Access” area ;-)

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thanks Bill!
      Glad you enjoyed it! The only reason I went to the “Old Farts Fishing Access Area,” is because there was only one / car guy there, there were anglers in my other favorite places. The guy there left when I was just about to start, he hadn’t been doing anything…besides it’s good to step out of your Comfort Zone on occasion…
      Thanks for the compliment on my fishing tactical ability…! ;-)
      I did think of you and Jack while I was there, and the “Old Fart’s” notion…that’s you two though, I’m not there…yet…! :-D

  4. metiefly says:

    Wonderful post Don! I too felt like I was fishing the riffles with you… Pretty fish in the pictures – keep on sharing these beautiful nuggets and let us see how you tie the various patterns when you get the chance. Best regards – metiefly

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thanks metiefly!
      I’ll be heading out there again today, teaching a lady friend / fiancee’ of another friend, how to get ‘r’ done. ;-) I’ll be taking a lot more pics…hopefully of her and her boyfriend with some trout! Gonna be a fun day! Thanks for your comments!

  5. Chief says:

    Don – I believe that the regulations were changed regarding barbless hooks. Barbless hooks are no longer required anywhere in PA. The single hook requirement refers to “tandems” not fishing more than one fly. The only regulation that I may circumvent every once in awhile is the length of my leader, i.e., more than 18 feet. Stimulators work well in SC. Small black ones do well all summer. When the water is up and discolored, Flashbacks can make for a good day. Not all the time, but more often that not, I believe that the trout in SC do not favor upright duns. I’ve watched them take every cripple, stillborn or emerger that passed and skip the good duns. Hence, the RBF Half, Half & Half with canted, spent poly wings and Zelon shuck. It usually rides with one wing sticking up. If you see an Old Fart fishing with a walker in Paradise it’s me. I won’t be there until Tuesday. Tight lines.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Ed;
      It’s great that you have discovered some fly-tricks that work for you!
      I’m heading to the Paradise this afternoon with a couple friends, going to teach the female fiancee’ how to fly fish. This will be a hoot! ;-) I’ll check the regs while there; as I noted, I always figured that single fly meant you could legally fish only one fly, no tandem fly rigs; and I fish barbless 100% of the time anyway. Impaled my hand on the May 25th trip – a fish I was releasing took off before the hook was out and the trailer nailed my hand. Good thing it was barbless, it came right out, and even so, it hurt more coming out than going in. So far, I’ve been fortunate all my life to never sink a barbed hook in my flesh. Thanks for your comment and following the blog!

  6. Bob Margulis says:

    Don–Great piece with some good pointers/reminders. In summer steelheading–which is mostly an early morning and late afternoon/evening affair–it’s true that for many anglers the answer to the question “where are the fish?” is “well, they had been behind you!” When fishing wets I see little reason not to start while on the bank and make a series of swings adding a pull of line with each new cast until the near water has been covered.
    I noted that your first cast was downstream. I suspect that most anglers throwing dries are thinking up and across–which typically means stepping into the river well off the bank, to not line the fish, and casting back to it. After reading John Judy’s excellent book Slack Line Strategies for Fly Fishing I typically begin blind casting by starting on the bank and slack lining downstream through a few lanes with a series of extended drifts. This then allows me to later step into the water and either continue fishing downstream or turn my attention upstream without worrying about spooking fish off the bank (other than those I’ve already do so to with a lousy presentation).
    I enjoy reading your blog and learn something every time. Pisces vobiscum

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Bob;
      Thanks for your comment and compliments on the article! Also appreciate your insights and shared experience for your fishing as well.
      Your comment about my first cast being downstream, I was barely off the bank, and I just figured I’d cover (with at least a few token casts) the deeper holding area near cover and downstream, in case a trout might take the fly, since I decided not to enter the water below there. I would have had to be down more than 100 feet farther, and didn’t want to fight my way up through that deeper water where there were no rising fish, choosing instead to concentrate on the shallow riffs and pockets.
      Your steelhead observations are spot-on. Fish are oftentimes in surprising areas where we least expect them. Thanks again for your comment!

  7. Rick says:

    Don,
    Excellent description of you outing on the creek. I love the idea of two dry flies. It makes so much sense.!!!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Rick!
      Thanks for your comment and compliment on the two drys idea…can’t say for sure where I got that, but I did it in 2006 when on the Madison River, using my flush-floating, at times, hard-to-see Floating Caddis Emerger. I paired it up with a #10 Grizzly Wulff. Out there I was in a drift boat and at times making 45 – 55 foot casts. It does make sense … and … it works! Good to hear from you!

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