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.

Spring Creek – First Trip 2014

Yesterday afternoon a friend, his son, and me went to Pennsylvania’s Spring Creek with hopes of catching some sulfur mayfly activity. We did. This article is a brief report on that trip.

The day was bright and sunny, and we selected a section of the stream to fish from the west bank, allowing for the sun to be at our backs. This gave us the advantage by reducing glare and minimizing eye strain, and also hid us from the fish because they have the glare in their right eye. We fished a section flowing from right to left. I always consider that whenever possible.

I started the first twenty minutes or so by giving my friend’s son, Sam, a lesson on nymph fishing. This was a refresher course on a demo that I had given him a few years earlier. As I narrated the approach, casting, targeting, drift management, striking, moving the indicator depending on the depth and current speed of the target area, and hook-setting, I had a couple strikes, and then, the one fish I did manage to hook, was lying in a most unlikely location, which added significantly to the learning impact of the lesson. The trout was holding in just a riffle, shallow, barely fifteen inches deep. Object lesson learned: “Don’t pass up any potential spot, even it you think it is too shallow, at least not on this crick.”

We hooked a few trout on nymphs, then adjourned stream-side for an early dinner of baloney and cheese sandwiches with mustard, before the hoped-for evening hatching and feeding activity. We started fishing again about five PM. Only an occasional trout rose, so I stayed with the nymphs and worked my way upstream through some riffles and pocket-water. I hooked a few trout, but nothing to write home about. For a change of pace I decided to start tossing a dry, or rather, my two-dry fly rig that I started using last year. This set-up is a sulfur dun of various styles with my Floating “Sulfur” (Caddis) Emerger trailing off this fly with about ten inches of 5x tippet. I tie it to the hook bend. After I made about three casts, I hooked a trout on the Floating Emerger. Took his photo as he reluctantly posed for me. The very next cast another trout took the emerger. I thought, whoa, this is gonna be great! Well, it was, almost, but not right away.

My first Spring Creek trout of 2014

My first Spring Creek trout of 2014, taken on my Floating Caddis – Mayfly “Sulfur” Emerger, a #14.

I walked downstream to a pool where my companions were, checked in with them, and since they had a few risers, and caught a few trout, I decided to move below them and try some riffles and pockets. I caught this guy on a #14 Sulfur Poly-wing Thorax Dun:

First trout that took the sulfur dun

First trout that took the sulfur dun in my two-dry fly rig.

I keep both these drys close together because they never alight with the tippet stretched out. The intent is to prevent the two flies from getting into current lanes with different speeds. If I have twelve inches of tippet between the two flies, the two patterns are often only a few inches apart. Trout can see both of them, I believe, and make their choice. The Floating Emerger was rising more trout in the afternoon, but as the hatch intensified, they seemed to prefer the dun, though all along trout continued to hit both flies.

We did not have a heavy hatch, and not a lot of trout were actively rising; it seemed sporadic at best. Still we caught trout. After hooking and raising several trout in the water below the pool where my companions fished, I started back up through the same section of riffles and pocket water I had fished previously, and decided to tie on a #12 Sulfur Parachute Dun. Why a size twelve, you ask? Well, some of Spring Creeks sulfurs are nearly that big, I’ve seen enough of ’em over the last twenty-five to make the assessment with certainty. The other reason, and there are a few are: It was about seven PM, and a larger fly would be easier to see on the rough water I was fishing, and also easier to see as daylight faded into dusk. A larger fly would float better. A larger fly would be easier for the trout to see as well.

So that’s what I did, and trout took the large sulfur dun with no hesitation. The first trout I rose was in a fast riffle, and he smashed the fly; he was about fourteen inches. Every fish that took that fly, whacked it, but then again I was fishing faster, rather turbulent riffle and pocket water and they don’t have a lot of time to think about it. I like the challenge of fishing like this because it is very difficult to get the fly to drift naturally in many of the likely-looking spots. The heavy water allows me to get close enough to almost “dap” the flies on the water, very similar to close-range high-stick nymphing, because often I had only a few feet of fly line extending past the rod tip.

This trout was the fish of the day for me:

Sixten-inch Spring Crek brown taken on a #12 Sulphur Poly-wing parachute Dun.

Sixteen-inch Spring Creek brown taken on a #12 Sulphur Poly-wing Parachute Dun.

And since he, or rather, “she” was a nice trout, she warranted a few more pics:

head out of water, in the net. I always try to keep larger fish in the water, and always do when I'm photographing the fish by myself. And with a net.

Head out of water, in the net. I always try to keep larger fish in the water, and always do when I’m photographing the fish by myself. And with a net. You can see my fingers underneath her. To those unaware, the absence of a kype or hooked jaw, indicates this trout is a female.

And here she is posing in a lovely full-body image:

16" Spring Creek Brown, taken ion a #12 Sulfur Poly-wing  Parachute Dun.

16″ Spring Creek Brown, taken on a #12 Sulfur Poly-wing Parachute Dun.

I took another smaller trout later on:

Smaller trout, about ten inches,

Smaller trout, about ten inches, you can clearly see the parachute dun. When I want to photograph trout like this, I actually bring the trout in close, then before I touch the fish, I turn on my camera and hit the macro button. Sometimes after doing this the trout gets away, but I don’t care, I’m releasing it anyway. Once the camera is readied and “on,” I grab the fish, snap a pic, unhook the fly, and they’re quickly back in the water. I wet my hands first. When doing this I have the fish out of the water for about 5 – 6 seconds.

At this point I want to say, anyone keeping fish out of the water for photographs for more than ten seconds after you have played them into submission, presents the risk of harming the fish through lack of oxygen. Speed it up, preferably, respect the fish, and keep them out of the water as little as possible. Imagine someone holding your head under a bucket of water to take photos of you immediately after you just ran the 200-yard dash. That is the position the trout are in when we bring them to hand. And don’t get them on shore where you can drop them and have them slip and flop out of your grasp and die from trauma after being released. I recently read a study on steelhead trout, tagged with radio collars in the Pacific Northwest, where a significant number were dying after being caught and released. The data discovered that most of these fish died of head trauma, caused by thrashing about or being dropped onto the rocks on shore, and not from being hooked with rod and reel.

And here is the intact rig with the actual flies that did the deeds:

Size #12 Sulfur Poly-wing Parachute Dun

Size #12 Sulfur Poly-wing Parachute Dun with a #14 Floating “Sulfur” Emerger, patterned exactly after my Floating “Caddis” Emerger – the only change is the body dubbing color to ginger and I use orange thread. There was only eight inches of 5x tippet separating the two flies. Both flies are treated frequently with floatant.

This two-dry system works. I plan to try a Sulfur Dun and Sulfur Spinner together, that way the trout won’t treat me with disrespect like they did last year one evening, when the dun hatch fizzled out, and there were tons of spinners in the air, I thought I knew better and tied on a spinner. I ended up casting the spinner to about fifty rising trout, only to hook a handful of them. Turned out the dun hatch reignited and went gangbusters from about 8:15 until dusk, and the trout took the duns to my dismay, but I learned that lesson. I should have recognized that sooner. In the type of pocket and riffle water I was fishing, a Dun / Spinner two-dry fly rig will work. I’m about to test that out. 😉

Here are two links to articles on the Sulfur Emerger I wrote last May 2013, including the recipe and tying instructions:



Two Quickies

I want to post these two tidbits on landing fish, or not landing them. Here are two examples of what not to do.

On May 12th I was at the Wayne Harpster property on Spruce Creek for the annual On-The-Fly event. It’s a fund-raiser for Center County Youth Services Bureau. I’ve been invited a number of times over the years, to do some demo tying, and make a donation of flies, and I always enjoy it. I have a few pics I took that I will post in a few days. I’m still busy tying flies.

When I got there it was nearly lunch time, so I went through the fine food catered chow line and sat at an outdoor picnic table. Several anglers on one of the teams came and sat down. One talked how he’d lost several large trout on one of the morning beats. One of his teammates asked, “What were you using?”

“A Wooly Bugger,” was the reply.

What size tippet were you using?” his friend inquired.

“5x,” came the reply.

“5x!” His friend exclaimed. My sentiments exactly. I already knew why he lost the fish.

“Well, it was a small bugger,” he answered in defense. And I thought to myself immediately, a “small” wooly bugger would be a #12, and even with that size hook, you don’t fish a bugger on 5x. Remember to apply the ‘Rule of Threes,’ “Hook size divided by three equals tippet size.” On a #12 bugger that would equal out to 4x, but with buggers and they way fish strike them, better drop to 3x. And on that private section of Spruce Creek where stocked trout sometimes are four and five pounders, yeah…go with 3x.

The other story took place last year on Big Pine Creek, right of the bank of the Hotel Manor in Slate Run. It was a warm, very bright day, and I was waiting for some friends who managed to elude me up there, not intentionally, there’s no cell signal anywhere, so that explains that. The middle of the day, nothing was going on, so I decided to go to the Manor and enjoy myself. I ordered a Bloody Mary, then another…and later on…another. Then I smoked a cigar. And had another Bloody Mary. And an other cigar. I mean, hey, like four hours had passed. In the evening several anglers lined up fishing, wading in from the west bank. Still nothing was rising but one angler managed to hook a large trout right behind the hotel. And then here’s his mistake. He was in the water, and instead of heading immediately to the bank, he stayed in the water and followed the fish downstream. His drag was probably set too light, but I told my waitress who had come by to chat, “That’s guy is gonna lose that fish.”

“How can you tell?” she asked.

I explained why. He should have moved to the bank to follow the fish, which he could have done, and faster, if necessary, and at least keep even with the trout. But also from shore he could have applied pressure to bring that trout out of the middle of the creek into slower water nearer the shore. The ending might have been different. And referring to story No. 1, I don’t know what size tippet / fly he was using. He lost the fish. So there you are…

Classic Fly Tier Turns to Salt

That would be me, not turning to salt, but tying some saltwater flies, specifically a palolo worm pattern for tarpon in the Florida Keys. Going back twenty years, and off and on since then, I have tied Clouser Minnows, Deceivers, and some original squid-type patterns for stripers and cold saltwater fish, and once did an order of some bonefish flies. But I have never tied tarpon flies, except for a handful of Stu Apte’s Tarpon Fly that was on the 1991 United States postage fishing fly stamp series. These all went into frames with the stamp.

This palolo worm pattern came about in a strange way. It seems a customer found the site www.MyFlies.com, and saw my Floating Inchworm pattern; here’s a pic of that for those of you who have not seen it:

My original design, Floating Inchworm pattern.

My original design, Floating Inchworm pattern. The hook is a #16 TMC 2488. This fly is a great late spring, all-summer, and into fall dry fly search pattern. When the hatches taper off trout turn to terrestrials, and this fly fits that need nicely.

So my customer saw this fly, and somehow thought I could perhaps adapt this design to a tarpon fly. Say what? I think of tarpon as these large, predatory fish that can bust up your tackle, not to mention wearing you out in the process of trying to land one.

The palolo worm is tropical and various species of them live in coral reefs around the world. In researching them I discovered the Samoans covet them as a delicacy. And they breed once a year, a night-time spectacle that lasts only a few hours. The annual spawn and harvest of these things is a ritual celebration in some places. I never thought that tarpon would eat something so small, yet I know big trout eat tiny midges, and grizzly bears eat little moths, and a two-hundred pound human will eat a single peanut, raisin, or one M&M, though the latter is hard to do. The reason why trout, tarpon, and grizzly bears eat small food items is that they can occur in large numbers, making the caloric intake worth the effort.

My customer explained to me that the palolo worm larva hatch in abundance, and they are about 2-1/2 to 2-5/8 inches long, and they do not undulate, but rather look like a stick moving in the water. They have small legs, sort of like those on a centipede, that move, but you can’t see these until you get close. My customer also explained that if the projected pattern would float or at least, sink slower than any other palolo worm patterns that it would work to his advantage.

I used closed-cell foam, 2mm, and doubled the cut section up to make the body. This image shows a finished worm body on a tube fly jig:

Original design, a palolo worm body on a tube fly jig. I later used a large-sized paper

Original design, a palolo worm body on a tube fly jig. I later used a large-sized straighten-out paper clip because it had a uniform size diameter for the entire length of the body. I was initially working onto the tapered part of the jig.

I was using Wapsi Ultra-Thread brown in 6/0, but only because I had some. I really don’t care for that thread, it seems to flatten out and fray too easily. When that spool was used up I went to Danville 3/0 brown monocord. To illustrate how much thread these things used, I went through a full 50-yard spool of the monocord in a few hours, which reminded me of my commercial tying days, when I did the same thing, using an entire spool of monocord in a day, tying Wooly Buggers. Most tiers have no clue as to what that volume of tying is like. I also put a huge dent into the second spool of monocord until these were finished.

Here is a macro of the finished worm:

Don Bastian's original design Palolo Worm pattern, the hook is an Owner

Don Bastian’s original design Palolo Worm pattern, the hook is an Owner 1/0 Mosquito Hook, #5377-111 Black Chrome. Bass Pro Shops carry these hooks, so I was fortunate to be able to order them from my local Bass Pro Outlet which is also Winner Hardware in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. If you have never tied on these hooks, let me tell you, they are excellent quality. And sharp as a needle.

The body section on the hook has a strip of foam pulled over the top like a nymph case; the ribbing is the tying thread made with my reverse-dubbing process, and the “legs” are the rabbit fur picked out and clipped just like when making a cress bug pattern. The color is a custom blended mix of brown rabbit that I have in a large ziploc bag; I can’t remember what is in it because I made it up about fifteen years ago and labeled it “Dark Sulfur Nymph.” Finding that when looking for the right color of dubbing to use on these worm, I thought, “perfect.”

The entire lot in the order, fifty-four in all.

The entire lot in the order, fifty-four in all.

Each fly took me about six minutes to make, start to finish, of course I made all the bodies first, then began the process of lashing the abdomen to the hook, dubbing, and finishing the top segment with the tying thread ribbing.

I think they will work…but I’m relying on my customer who will soon be putting them to the test. I’m hoping for a Grand Slam with this design!

Samantha Fish – Black Cat Bone

OK, I know it’s not fly tying, but a love of good music, and I like almost all kinds, is part of what makes me who I am; fly tier, drummer, singer, audiophile, etc., etc., etc. I went with a good friend to see Samantha Fish, young girl about 29 ears old, a rockin’ very talented, blues guitarist / singer, from Kansas City, live on stage at a small venue, Bridge Street Live, in Collinsville, Connecticut, on March 20th, 2014.

Here is a video that I made of one song while at that show. I love screaming guitars, as fellow fly tier / friend, Tom Baltz, from Mt. Holly Springs, Pennsylvania is fond of saying; among all the other kinds of music I enjoy. And this gal from Kansas City, which has its own Blues Scene and great musicians, is damn good at it.

Here is her rendition of “Black Cat Bone” featuring a great intro bass guitar solo, by bassist Scott Sutherland. Samantha Fish plays electric and acoustic guitar, and also oil can guitar, and cigar box guitar. She’s made two CD’s, Runaway, and Black Wind Howling, and also toured Europe with Girls With Guitars along with Dani Wilde and Cassie Taylor. Their drummer, Go-Go Ray, is one of the best I’ve seen. He has an amazing signature act, a non-stop, drumstick stick twirling, arm-crossing, cymbal crashing routine that will amaze anyone.

My camera card expired ten seconds before the song ended. Dang. Otherwise, check this video out if you like groovin’ – jammin’ blues played by talented musicians.