Tricos and Baetis on Spring Creek

Yesterday my neighbor, Jim, and I went fishing on Spring Creek, Centre County, Pennsylvania. This was a prearranged trip through a customer who lives near Altoona. His name is Bruce; he’s bought my DVD’s, commented here on the blog, and recently bought a set of seven color variations of samples of my Floating Caddis / Mayfly Emerger, along with the recipes and instructions. Bruce and I have been in e-mail contact for the past seven or eight years. We started planning this trip about three weeks ago.

I have not yet received my new camera, and I could just simply forget about this, but I wanted to write a review of the trip yesterday, so I’ll make an effort to paint pictures with words.

A fourth companion, Ed, who used to own a rod making company in Beech Creek, also joined us. I’ve known Ed since the 1980’s; he used to display and sell at the Susquehanna Chapter Trout Unlimited Annual Outdoor Show. We’ve seen each other on occasion in recent years at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey. Unfortunately Ed has some health issues that prevent him from fishing, but he wanted to come along and offered to cook lunch for everyone. About that, “Such a deal!” my wife Lou Anne, would always say. We met at the bridge at the park in Milesburg at 9:30.

The Fishing:

There was heavy fog in the area, though I had worn my sunglasses for the drive down. The water flow was low, but the stream is larger in that section, so there was plenty of water. We rigged up and dispersed, staying relatively close together. I wanted to fish the section below the bridge that is normally rough and tumble riffs and white water, and pretty difficult to fish and wade in early season. I had tied a #20 Flashback Pheasant Tail nymph on a twelve or so foot leader, to a 5x tippet, one #4 split shot, and to start, about two feet under an indicator. Second cast, “Fish on!” Fifth cast, after lowering the fly another foot to fish the slightly deeper water beyond where I took the first trout, “Fish on!” With nymphing, most anglers would simply keep casting. I learned and have always believed and taught my students over the years that an indicator should be one that is easily moveable, because a cast with set rigging in one place may not be correctly set up for making another cast even two feet away from the previously fished drift lane. Effective nymph fishing is all about versatility and constant observation, making necessary adjustments to your rig so that your presentation is correct for every location you fish. Rigging adjustments of the indicator placement also includes adding or removing split shot. I constantly make adjustments in my rig, changing patterns far less frequently than making other adjustments of weight and indicator placement.

Jim fished the junction pool with Bald Eagle Creek and took one fish swinging a #16 winged wet fly, not sure of the pattern; it was basically a Ginger Quill, but had a brown hackle and dark quill body. After two trout in the first three minutes, I over-confidently thought I was going to kill ’em. Wrong. I fished hard, thoroughly working the seams, riffs, and runs all the way to the mouth, for more than an hour, with nary another strike. I motioned to Jim that I was going to head back upstream. I entered and fished first pool below the bridge with the same nymph.

After a little while, Jim came up and I commented that I was starting to see a few small bugs in the air. The number of these insects steadily increased in minutes. I thought they were Tricos, but I couldn’t see the tails. Guess it was just the lighting, or perhaps my need for new glasses. Jim finally caught one and positively identified them as Trico spinners. No trout were rising, and it was about eleven-thirty. I decided since the nymphing had been fruitless, that I would prepare for the hoped-for trico spinner fall and rise of trout. So I added 6x tippet, rummaged through my fly boxes and tied on a #22 Trico Spinner in anticipation of some surface action. That paid off. The heaviest part of the rise probably occurred after we departed for lunch, but I managed to take two trout that I saw rising, stung a third, and had three more rise and miss the fly. When Jim arrived, having hooked a couple fish, we gathered Bruce, who had landed six, from upstream and headed for our lunch rendezvous with Ed at Fisherman’s Paradise.

Lunch:

When we pulled in, Ed had the grill smoking. Nice! This was indeed, such a deal! Ed had thick, juicy elk burgers sizzling away, with the addition of hickory chips to the fire. Added to this were sliced whole wheat buns, a jar of Ed’s home-canned hot peppers, sliced, garden-fresh tomatoes, big, but nice and thin, sweet onion slices, a bag of chips that Bruce brought, plus a batch of home-made potato salad from yours truly. I included the recipe at the end of this post, for anyone interested. It’s pretty good.

Our picnic table was right beside the stream. As we enjoyed our lunch, we saw a mature bald eagle soaring high overhead. We also saw a huge congregation of Trico spinners in the air, thirty to forty feet above the water. I started watching for rises as we concluded our meal. When we were done eating, we put a few things away, and then I saw it: a rise! When I saw another, I said, “I’m gonna make a few casts; heck I still have that Trico spinner on my leader.” This particular Trico Spinner pattern is simple:

Trico Spinner

Hook: Straight-eye dry, #20 – #24.

Tail: Three fibers of light dun Microfibetts, divided with thread

Abdomen: White Uni-thread 8/0, started at thorax, wound back, divide the tail, then forward so the body is two layers

Wing: Sparse white E. P. Fibers

Thorax: Black Rabbit dubbing

Retrieving my rod from the car, which by the way, was a nine-foot, five-weight with a six weight line – way too heavy for low-water fall fishing in most people’s minds – more on that later; I walked over, stood at the water’s edge, since wading is prohibited in this area, and started casting and observing. I had a small audience by now, another fellow had joined Ed, Jim, and Bruce. Working the first trout I saw rising, he came up with a nice swirl, but missed the fly. A minute or so later, I hooked the first one. I landed and released that one, and I rose and stung a second trout in short order. Even though there really was not a major rise in process, Jim commented, “These fish must be looking for those spinners.” Surely, Jim was correct; the trout have had Trico spinners on the daily menu for a few weeks already. Trico hatch number two in the fall begins fifty-nine days following the emergence and mating of the first Tricos in July.

A few minutes after my first trout, I hooked and landed another. I rose two more, then Bruce asked, “Where are we gonna fish this afternoon?”

“We can go below Bellefonte if you want to,” I replied. We made arrangements to go downstream, below town, just below the entry of a small tributary named Buffalo Run.

The Afternoon Fishing:

We parked our vehicles and got out. I spent the first half-hour sitting and talking with Ed on a convenient stream-side bench, catching up on things, watching the water for rises. Saw none. Bruce hooked a couple trout on nymphs at the head of the pool. After a while, I started fishing with that Trico spinner anyway, thinking I might interest a fish or two. I know, using a Trico as an attractor or search pattern isn’t high on most angler’s list of regular tactics, but that’s what I did. To no avail. Jim hooked a trout or two on nymphs.

After about an hour, Ed departed and the three of us walked downstream to the old bridge abutment near the sewage treatment plant. By then I figured if I was going to catch any more fish, I better rig up with nymphs again. So I did. I tried a pink San Juan Worm, but in a few minutes lost the whole rig on brush that hung out from the bridge abutment. When I re-rigged, I put the same fly on, but in wine color. Hooked a nice, acrobatic rainbow about thirteen inches in length, who stayed on long enough to give me some action, complete with a couple jumps. Then he got off, saving me the trouble of getting my hands wet. About 4:40 PM Jim and I decided to head upstream, to catch up with Bruce who had started fishing his way upstream a half-hour or so earlier. He had not done a thing. The three of us were ready to call it a day.

The Finale:

When we got below the long, flat pool above an island, we saw rises. Quite a few of them, stretched out over a couple hundred feet of the length of the pool. Bruce asked, “What do you think they’re takin’?”

“My best guess is blue-wing olives,” I replied. “The light is less intense, we’ve had a bit of cloud cover this afternoon, and they’re the bug in season,” I added. We decided we could not walk away from this potentially entertaining opportunity. We went along the railroad tracks some distance, to a spot just below the middle of the pool, and I sat down to detach my nymph rig. Removing shot, indicator, and nymph, I tied on a section of 6x tippet, and then knotted a dark-bodied BWO Thorax Dun pattern, #20 to the tippet. The wing was gray E. P Fibers with a dark dun hackle, clipped on the bottom.

Bruce entered the water below some rising fish. I chose to stay on the bank, kneeling or sitting as I targeted some rising trout close to shore. After some futile attempts at these fish, which were in very shallow water, I decided to move upstream, above Bruce, where the water was deeper, hoping for better luck. Here’s where my nine-foot, five-weight rod with six-weight line came in handy again. Some of the trout were rising against the far side. The railroad tracks were behind us, so there was unlimited back casting room. Unlike Jim and Bruce, I stayed on the bank. Working a few trout, soon I hooked and landed one in the middle of the stream. Eventually I was targeting the trout rising along the far side. The nice thing about the heavier rod and line: I could pick up the entire line, make one back cast, and one stroke forward – and be right back on target. No stripping, no unnecessary false casting, no having to reset my accuracy and distance to the target. This tactic makes for more effective and more efficient fishing, simply because your fly spends more time on the water and less time in the air. And this was possible with the heavier rod and line, despite the fact that I was making fifty-to-sixty foot casts. I learned that earlier last year one day on Spring Creek in the Paradise, when the wind was gusty and brisk. My companions (all using three and four weights) wondered how I could cast so easily in the wind, even to rising trout against the opposite bank. Remember too, that with the addition of a couple feet of 6x tippet, my leader was probably fourteen feet long. I hooked and landed two fish, lost another one, and had four more miss the fly. Bruce and Jim each took fish as well, we were all using various BWO dry patterns. What a great way to close the day of a fine fishing trip!

When we returned to our cars, as we were taking our boots and waders off, Bruce got a cellphone call from Ed. He had gone to Fly Fisher’s Paradise Fly Shop in State College. The fishing report from every angler coming into the shop was: everyone was skunked. And Bruce questioned again Ed to make sure, there were no reports of other anglers taking any trout that day. That made us all feel even better. It’s especially rewarding to be able to catch trout under adverse conditions and circumstances. The best part of the day was not the fishing, it was the camaraderie, the great lunch, and the promise among us all to do it again.

Potato Salad Recipe:

My wife, Lou Anne, made potato salad from a recipe. And it was really good, heavily spiced with crushed dill. But I seldom use a recipe for most of my cooking, unless I’m preparing a dish where exacting recipe components and quantities are necessary. When I make potato salad, macaroni salad, pasta salad, etc., depending on how much I make, I always estimate or “eyeball” the amount of the spices, seasonings, and dressing.

This can be made in as small or as large of a batch as you desire, from a few servings, or perhaps where some leftovers are desired, to a large casserole dish for a family or church picnic.

Use any kind of potato. It’s even OK to mix varieties, a few red skinned taters add color. Three to ten potatoes will make a small to a large batch, depending on the size of your taters. Wash them of course, but I do not peel them. Dice into bite-size pieces. Cook 10 to 11 minutes. You can taste if you like. They’ve got to be done, but not Al dente, nor do you want them mushy. Drain. Use two to four hard-boiled eggs.

1/2 to a whole white or sweet onion (more for a larger batch), diced, red onion may also be used

Two to three stalks celery (more for a larger batch), diced

I like to saute` my onions and celery in butter or light olive oil until they begin to caramelize. These are added to the cooked potatoes. If you want to skip this step, simply pour the hot potatoes on top of the diced celery and onion in a dish and leave at room temperature. The heat from the potatoes will soften the onions and celery somewhat, but I prefer the added flavor from the caramelized vegetables.

Seasonings to taste:

Primarily you’ll need mayonnaise, 1/2 to 1-1/2 cups, depending on the size of your batch. It’s best to add some gradually and mix it in, then you can usually see if more is needed. I don’t like soppy potato salad.

Additionally you’ll need: Salt, pepper, crushed dill, garlic powder (not garlic salt which is mostly salt!), or garlic and rosemary ground mix, and paprika. A little rosemary by itself is also good. I also add one to three tablespoons of vinegar, sometimes adding and mixing it to a small bit of Italian dressing, like when the bottle is about empty. Pout the whole blend over the salad, I generally do this before adding the mayo. Also, a little mustard can be added, either yellow, Djion, spicy brown, or a horseradish mustard. Another nice variation is to add some blue cheese crumbles to the potato salad. I dice my eggs and mix them throughout, but one could also slice them and arrange them on top. Paprika sprinkled on the finished salad is a nice touch. The same basic recipe can be used for macaroni salad. You can eat it fresh made, but it’s always better after it has had time to steep in the fridge. Enjoy!

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22 comments on “Tricos and Baetis on Spring Creek

  1. flydressersguild says:

    Fantastic description of what sounds like a great days fishing – I can’t wait to get out there myself!
    Only trouble I’d have is that I can’t even SEE a #20 (and as for a #22!!!!) let alone tie on on my leader!!!!

    Darrell

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Darrell;
      I’m lucky, my tri-focals allow me to see and tie flies on, even small ones. Plus I’m near-sighted. And the rule is, when I cast, if I can’t see the fly, but see any rise that might be to my fly, strike!
      If you try that potato salad recipe you won’t be disappointed. Do they have potato salad in England? BTW, it goes really good with a pint! :mrgreen:

      • flydressersguild says:

        Don

        Yes we have Potato Salad here in the UK, but it’s normally quite bland, yours sounds nice ‘n spicy! and talking of Pints – there’s a cold cider calling my name this evening! 🙂

  2. flydressersguild says:

    … and I MUST try that Potato Salad recipe:)

  3. Don Bastian says:

    Darrell;

    Make that and take it to a picnic or party gathering. Then sit back and listen to the nice comments!
    About tonight, just one pint? 😉

  4. Don Bastian says:

    Understood…but there will be another time for a second pint…and a third. Like when you come to the US and you’re buying! :mrgreen: Ha, ha, ha! That’s funny right there!

  5. Don Bastian says:

    No fair then, because I’ll be too easy of a target. I’ll buy a round or two or three while I can still make rational decisions. :mrgreen:

  6. Bruce says:

    Hey Don. Your report of the day on the water is excellent. After reading it I feel so blessed to be one of the players in such a great day. God truly gave us a gift yesterday.
    Bruce

  7. Don Bastian says:

    Thanks Bruce!
    It was really special! Just relaxing, a great time, beautiful weather, good company, and some pretty decent fishing under adverse conditions!
    Memories were definitely made. Thanks for being part of it! Tight threads til next time…

  8. Terry Chapman says:

    Hey Don, hard to tell which I liked more: the fishing report or the recipe! Lunch at Fisherman’s Paradise had me recalling the tasty lunch you prepared for us when we fished there in 2006. I never thought I’d arrive in Penn State area driving up from D.C. as each new road got more rural than the last, hah! Tight lines!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hello Terry;
      I don’t recall a thing about the lunch I made for us that day you were here in ’06, but I do remember the fishing! That was pretty much the debut day for my Floating Caddis Emerger.
      Glad you liked both the fishing report and the “tater salad” recipe.
      No kidding about the roads in central PA, though there have been some serious upgrades since you were here in 2006, most notably the bypass around State College.
      Thanks for your comment!

  9. novacode says:

    Sounds like a great day on the water Don. It’s hard to beat a day like that.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Novacode;
      Thank very much for your comment! We didn’t slay ’em like we would have in the spring, but it’s not always all about the fish, it was still a great day! Now if we had been skunked, it might not have been so great. 😉 Thanks again!

      • Bob Stanton says:

        Don, you’ve done a fine job, sans pictures, of illustrating a perfect day of fishing. The lunch alone sounds like it was worth the trip. And the addition of bleu cheese to potato salad: sublime, my man, sublime!

  10. Don Bastian says:

    Hi Bob;
    Thank you so much for your compliment on my writing! It’s nice to know that I had some success painting a “word picture.”
    And the addition of crumbled blue cheese to potato salad – that started off by me using up a tiny bit of blue cheese dressing in a bottle, diluted with vinegar to help rinse it out, just because I hate to waste any. Guess that’s a habit I got from my mom. Then I thought of adding the blue cheese crumbles – oh yeah. That’s makes it superb! :mrgreen: Thank you again for your comments!

  11. Ed the Rod Maker says:

    Would like to use the recipe in my cookbook RBF Pro Staff Cookbook: Recipes for a Good Day. What a Good Day we had; I just wish I could have fished.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Ed;
      Nice of you to drop by! I really enjoyed the day, and it was great seeing you again. And I agree, it would have been even better if you had been able to fish. Sure, Ed, go ahead and use the tater salad recipe! Thanks again for the great lunch!

  12. Ed the Rod Maker says:

    Missed that comment about fishing in the wind. I use a 10′ 4 wt. out west. Sometimes stringing it with a 3 wt WF. I never had problems with the wind. The smaller diameter line catches less air. A well designed leader can be 14′ and still be used in the wind. Casting 3 quarter arm works wonders, too. In a drift boat, I will fit a 5 wt. though.

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