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:



15 comments on “Spring Creek – First Trip 2014

  1. Bruce says:

    Hi Don. Glad you guys had a good time. What exactly is the pattern for the sulphur emerger? I read ginger body, and orange thread. What color is the foam and the dubbing used as the collar? Is the foam grey?

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Bruce;
      I use Haretron dubbing on all those emergers. Ginger for body, brown for the head, tan foam, pearlescent krystalflash rib, and White EP Fibers for the trailing shuck and side shuck. There is also side-lashed legs beside the side shuck material, or as on the original version, you can wind a hackle (dark brown mottled hen back), one turn. I like side-lashing the fibers because you get so much more “legs” from one feather. That recipe and how to tie them step-by-step was on the blog a year ago…thanks for your comment!

      • Bruce says:

        Thanks, Don. Yep, I have the instructions. I just wasn’t sure what color foam you use.

  2. mammaflybox says:

    I’ve never used 2 dry flies- very interesting! I enjoy learning from your posts! Thanks!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thank you for your comment and compliment! Glad I could provide something new for you to try. One of the earlier times I fioshed two drys was in ’06 on the Madison River, fishing the same fly, the Floating Caddis Emerger. Out there I was making some long casts and to track the fly in the rough water, I used a #10 Grizzly Wulff as a “sighter.” That works very well also.

  3. flydressersguild says:

    Great advice on C & R handling there Don, I have seen some atrocious handing of fish here in the UK – especially on C & R waters – and the WORST example of how wrong it can be done was when a supposed “reservoir expert” came to our branch for a talk.

    When he was asked how he would handle a trout for C & R I nearly walked out when he said “I’d put two fingers through the gills…” and that is what gives us a bad name…


    • Don Bastian says:

      I watched a guy on the Magalloway river take way too long to unhook a landlocked salmon. The fish was about 17″ and after about the first ten seconds of him holding the fish at his waist out of the water, I checked my watch and timed him. Two minutes and fifteen seconds! I was right on the verge or yelling to him to kill that fish because “you already did.” I don’t think that fish survived after he “released” it.
      Fly Tyer magazine, for one, a couple years ago, on the facebook page, posted a “hero shot” of an angler with a cutthroat trout and the guy holding the fish had his fingers right in the trout’s gills. Two others and myself commented on that “bad fish hold” and rather than take the photo down, the editor deleted our comments. That pic was posted by the editor, not by someone else. People ought to freakin’ know better! Thanks for your comment and sharing your experience.

  4. Bill says:

    Very nice write-up, DB — full of helpful hints and suggestions on how to approach, attract, and handle fish. Your comment about fish holding in unlikely spots is especially true for Spring Creek, where it is not uncommon to spook large browns as you first step into the water if one is not both careful and observant.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thanks Bill, glad you found the piece informative and enjoyable. And as you well know, some of those big trout will hold along the bank in inches of water. There are a few sections now, that whenever I move upstream, I always do so slowly and look for trout. A few times I’ve had the rewarding experience of not being seen by them, and actually catching some of them, from a distance of as little as twelve feet behind them. In some cases, I’ve had to backtrack away from the fish so I could “cast.” 😉 Fun stuff!

  5. Doug Daufel says:

    Thanks for the report Donnie! Dan and I will be heading to PA in a few weeks for a buddy’s retirement party. Looking forward to fishing PA again. It’s been 13 years!!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hey Doug, well you better let me know when you’re gonna be here, cause if you fish Spring Creek without me you’ll be gettin’ a butt kickin’! 😉 Thanks for your comment!

  6. dlomasney says:

    Hi Don,

    Good to see you enjoying some fishing time…that floating caddis is a Killer fly!
    It’s put alot of fish in the net for me in the short time I have used it.

    Anyway thanks for posting some fishing again…love reading about your adventures!
    Keep’em come’n!


    PS….striper are here!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Dave;

      Nice to hear from you! I’m happy to hear that you are having success with the Floating Caddis / Mayfly Emerger! Sweet! Yeah it was about time I got to go fishing. Need more of that right there… 😉 And I heard the stripers were moving up the coast…have to tell my brother. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Tom Mann says:

    Good to read your story about fishing Spring Creek, Don, which reminded me of fishing there with you, Dave Rothrock, Tom Baltz, my brother, and others “a few years” ago. I am in France, where we just had a big hatch of hexagenia-sized whitish-yellow ephemerae imaginatively called “mayflies” (“mouche de mai”), which they have in silty areas of European streams. I’ve seen them in the UK, Scotland, Wales, too. I caught a trout last week on the emerger version of that fly. I spotted the trout while sneaking up to the stream, floating there about 10 feet off the bank. As you noted, it is true that you should always look before you step in the water–there may be a trout sitting there right in front of your nose.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Tom;

      Glad you read this article and I remember you fishing up there with us! Great times! I tie extended body mayfly duns, my own design that between the body and fly, only takes about 4-1/2 minutes. They work great! Yellow drakes were heavy on a private pond in Vermont, that reminded me very much of the ponds in Maine. Good to hear from you!


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